Roberto Moreno's 10th-place finish at Sunday's Molson Indy
Vancouver wasn't the result he was hoping for. Not only did it
leave him 11 points behind CART points leader Michael Andretti,
but it also allowed Adrian Fernandez, Gil de Ferran and race
winner Paul Tracy to slide between him and Andretti with five
races to go. Don't, however, expect something like that to get
the affable Brazilian down. Moreno has spent the better part of
20 years overcoming bigger obstacles. He's had to do some
serious hustling to get where he is, and sometimes he had to
resort to...well, fraud is such an ugly word, what with its
felonious connotations. Moreno prefers to say that he was merely
In February 1988, the Formula 1 seat Moreno thought he had nailed
down slipped away, so he went to England to try to land a Formula
3000 ride. The best he could do on such short notice was raise
enough money from Bromley Motorsports to cover operating costs
for three races, with one catch: He had to provide his own car.
Not the sweetest deal in the world, but it was that or no racing,
so Moreno, then 29, started knocking on factory doors, looking
for a set of wheels. Rick Gorne, a salesman at Reynard, told him,
"Sure, we've got a car for you."
"I said, 'Uh, Rick, the problem I have is I need it free. I need
to borrow it,'" says Moreno. "And I couldn't tell him it was for
only three races, or he never would have lent me the car."
Thinking Moreno was going to run the entire season, Gorne agreed
to let him use the car for 50,000[pounds] ($80,000 at the time),
payable after the season. Gorne also agreed to forgive the debt
if Moreno won the F3000 season title. How he was going to win
the championship of a 12-race series when he had enough money
for only three races was a good question. Where he was going to
find 50,000[pounds] was an even better one.
Scrambling along was nothing new to Moreno. Working his way up
through the open-wheel ranks, he often had slept in his car to
save money and had cleaned factories on weekends in exchange for
shop space. A little creative deal-making was nothing to him. "I
was desperate to race," says Moreno.
He got out of the pickle with Gorne by winning his third race and
a paycheck of $5,000, which gave him enough money to keep racing.
Three more wins landed him sponsorship money, and he won the
championship handily. If life were fair, that clutch performance
would have been the springboard to a terrific career. Instead it
launched Moreno on an 11-year odyssey in which he drove scores of
cars with nothing more in common than their number of wheels and
the fact that none was a winner.
Last year he finished 14th in the CART standings despite racing
only as a replacement driver. Pat Patrick was impressed enough to
offer him a full-time job in 2000, and Moreno wasted little time
taking advantage of the best opportunity of his career. He
finished second in the first race of the season, and another
second-place finish in Portland on June 25 put him atop the CART
standings, even though he hadn't won a race of any kind since
that other George Bush was running for president. Moreno's
drought ended on July 2 in Cleveland, and he cried so much that
his visor clouded up. When he finally reached the podium, the
tape of the Brazilian national anthem was missing, so he took the
mike and delivered a brief rendition that made Carl Lewis's
Star-Spangled Banner sound like Kate Smith doing God Bless
With three of the last five races on road courses, which are
Moreno's strength, he is a real threat to finish strong. Whether
or not he catches Andretti, Moreno has gained a measure of
security with his unlikely success. His scrambling days are over,
and he now has the means to go back to Reynard and buy the car he
drove to the F3000 title 12 years ago. He wants to display it
like a trophy. This time he's going to pay cash.
Steinbrenner's New Toy
The Boss is Going Drag
For about what it cost him to claim a brawny over-the-hill
slugger off waivers, George Steinbrenner bought himself one of
the fastest cars in the world. At the NHRA nationals last week,
the Yankees' owner announced that he would become the primary
sponsor of the top-fuel dragster driven by Mike Dunn next year.
The Steinbrenner family and businessman Darrell Gwynn will co-own
the car, which is, of course, navy blue with pinstripes.
The three-year sponsorship deal will cost Steinbrenner $3.3
million annually, which is significantly cheaper than the $10
million to $15 million required to sponsor a Winston Cup car, and
there's a chance Steinbrenner will get real bang for his buck.
Next year the NHRA will heavily promote its 50th anniversary.
The Boss is also getting something he treasures more than a
bargain: a chance to win a title. Dunn and Gwynn finished fourth
in the 1999 top-fuel points race, but their sponsor pulled out,
leaving them without a car in 2000. Along with Steinbrenner's
backing, which should give them the resources to compete for a
title, come expectations. "George gave Billy Martin five
chances," says Gwynn, who will oversee the team's day-to-day
operations. "I hope he gives us that many too."
COLOR PHOTO: DARRELL INGHAM/ALLSPORT With six top 5 finishes in CART's first 15 races this year, Moreno is enjoying his best season ever.
Laps led by 59-year-old Dave Marcis while finishing 23rd in
Sunday's Pepsi Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway, the most laps
he has led in a Winston Cup race since 1987.