The number 99

Posted by Iannucci | 4/23/2008 | 8 comments »
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A little while back this email showed up in my Inbox.

To start I am a huge IndyCar fan, been one since the start. But, when champ and the IRL merged I think it's only right that we bring in some of the commitments that Champ Car committed to. CART/ Champ Car retired the #99 in honor of Greg Moore, but if you notice Townsend Bell's car is #99 at Indy. There are plenty of other numbers to choose from in the array of numbers that are open. It would just hurt me to see something that the one open wheel community retired come back because of the closing of their series… We need to do this as a community so one league's honor is not forgotten. Is there anyway we can start a grass roots petition to have them change the number by May?

Now as a general rule your humble host doesn't try to start petition-type stuff because, well, I'm not a torch and pitchfork kind of guy. Being an IRL fan where there has been no number retired the official stance of My Name Is IRL is that of apathy, not for the legacy of Greg Moore but for the entire concept of number retiring. I'm just not big on that kind of thing in any sport so it's difficult for me to get all worked up about this.

As popular as Moore was in CART the fact is several teams have already used #99 at Indy since Moore’s tragic death in 1999, the most recent being 1996 Indy 500 champion Buddy Lazier last May. That being said this subject still deserves some attention because the entire “Champ Car did this but the IRL doesn’t” debate will likely occur more than once in the near future.

For his perspective I asked our buddy Oreo, who unlike many of us actually knew Moore, about this subject in his most recent chat.

That's a tough one and it pretty much depends on where your loyalties lie. Moore was on the way to a phenomenal career before he was killed. He was electrifying to watch, especially on ovals, and it's an absolute tragedy that he never competed at Indianapolis. But for that reason, he doesn't have much stock with the IRL or its post-1996 fans. Imagine Moore's record had he been in that #3 Penske car for the last eight years....

I have also inquired with Curt Cavin on his Q&A but he hasn’t yet responded.

The fact is it’s probably too late to change Townsend Bell’s number for this year, but I suppose if enough people speak out the number could eventually be re-retired. Consider this an open invitation to express your thoughts on which if any numbers should be retired in the newly unified world.


  1. Fred Hurley // April 23, 2008 10:15 AM  

    I'm uncomfortable retiring numbers for fallen drivers - was Tony Renna's death not tragic enough to make the cut, for example? At the same time, I can appreciate the impact guys like Brayton and Moore had on their series. I think it's reasonable to incorporate the Greg Moore Legacy Award, to join the Scott Brayton Trophy as the two memorial awards for the unified series - one at Indy, the other for the season. Incorporate both awards, and bring the Vanderbilt Cup on board as the championship trophy. That strikes me as respecting both series' legacies.

    I also think an unoffical understanding that a number should be unused for the season after a driver's death makes sense. No need to make a rule - just an understanding that for the following season, that number is quietly left unused. It can be assigned the year after that, with no fanfare.

    Otherwise, you run into weird situations where the 3 is never used again in NASCAR, but Fireball's 22 is just fine. How do you determine when a number is retired? How do you tell a family their kid didn't mean enough to the sport?

  2. Anonymous // April 23, 2008 10:43 AM  

    Number 99 has a Lo-o-o-n-g history in open wheel racing and the Indianapolis 500. Lee Wallard drove Car #99 to victory at IMS back in 1951, so there's a heritage that pre-dates Greg Moore's arrival in open wheel racing.

    I agree with you Jeff, I'm not much for retiring numbers in any sport, much less auto racing. If you argue that CART retired #99 to honor the memory of Greg Moore, why didn't they retire #25 when Jeff Krosnoff was killed at Toronto back in 1996?

    I don't want to sound like I'm insulting Greg Moore. I'm not. I was in the stands when he scored his first win at Milwaukee in 1997, and I remember being excited to hear he'd be driving for Penske Racing in 2000. I was also stunned and saddened to hear of his death at Fontana in 1999. Truly a life lost too soon.

    But there are other numbers out there that can be tied to the loss of popular drivers too: Swede Savage in his day-glo red STP #40 at Indianapolis in 1973, Eddie Sachs running car #25 in his last race at Indianapolis in 1964, Bill Vukovich in Lindsey Hopkins' blue #4 at Indianapolis in 1955. Even F1 allows teams to carry #2, even though one of their most popular drivers, Ayrton Senna, carried it on the day he died in Imola in 1994.

    No, in my opinion, retiring #99 is not the best way to honor Greg's legacy. Continue to award the Greg Moore Legacy Award to "a driver who best typifies Moore's legacy of outstanding talent on track, as well as displaying a dynamic personality with fans, media, and within the Indy Car community." Or name the Rookie of the Year award after him. Don't fear insulting him in death, celebrate who he was in life, and honor those who emulate what made him special.

  3. Anonymous // April 23, 2008 11:05 AM  

    many, many great drivers have perished, including my first favorite driver, Eddie Sachs. no offense intended, but you can't retire them all. maybe there is a way to pay tribute but retiring car numbers is not appropriate.

  4. Robert A. Black // April 23, 2008 11:12 AM  

    I thought the IRL had reserved the number 99 for Sam Schmidt. That's who Buddy drove for last year. But Townsend's not driving for Sam this year, is he...?

  5. Zappatista // April 23, 2008 11:17 AM  

    I would think it would be appropriate for NO one to use the use the number 99. Just a little respect towards the merged teams, and all motorsports fans. NOW, I don't believe that it is the ICS issue to thrust upon all, but I believe the teams should/can do this on their own.

    While were at it with numbers, they should have definetly banned "0" before a number...that is just asinine.

  6. Little Donald // April 24, 2008 5:59 PM  

    Thanks for posting my email. Though after awhile I thought of a better plan. The Greg Moore Award, for the best foreign rookie, and the Tony Renna award for the best American rookie.

  7. Anonymous // April 27, 2008 2:43 AM  

    the Vanderbilt Cup in in the Smithsonian Museum. The one CART came up with a a imitation or replica.

  8. Anonymous // April 27, 2008 2:45 AM  

    While were at it with numbers, they should have definetly banned "0" before a number...that is just asinine.

    I agree 1000%