De Ferran, Moore Ink Penske Deal
DETROIT (AP) _ The decision to drive for Roger Penske, while emotional, was a no-brainer for both Gil de Ferran and Greg Moore.
Penske ended weeks of rumors this weekend by announcing he had signed both drivers to three-year contracts to begin with his CART Indy-car racing team in 2000. They will replace Al Unser Jr., who has driven for Penske since 1994.
``Obviously, it is some great news as far as my career is concerned,″ De Ferran said Saturday, prior to qualifying for the Tenneco Automotive Grand Prix of Detroit. ``I’m joining one of the legendary teams in the country.″
Penske Racing, founded in 1969, is the winningest team in FedEx Championship series history with 99 victories, including 10 Indianapolis 500 wins.
``No driver in his right mind would fail to take that into serious consideration,″ De Ferran said.
Which might explain why some of the most famous names in racing have driven for Penske. They include Gary Bettenhausen, Bobby Allison, Tom Sneva, Mario Andretti, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, Al Unser _ Little Al’s father _ Emerson Fittipaldi and Paul Tracy.
``It’s something you can tell your grandkids,″ De Ferran said. ``You can say, `I drove for Penske once.″
De Ferran and Moore were two of the hottest free-agents on the circuit because their contracts were about to expire with their current teams. De Ferran, a Brazilian born in France, is leaving Walker Racing while Moore, a Canadian, is leaving Players Forsythe Racing.
``Making the decision to leave the team was one of the most difficult decisions I’ve had to make in my life,″ Moore said. ``It was kind of like splitting up with a girlfriend that you’ve been with for five years.″
De Ferran, 32, has earned poles at Japan and Toronto this season, and won the race at Portland. He heads into Sunday’s race in seventh place in the driver standings. Since joining CART in 1995, he has six poles and three victories.
Moore, the 24-year-old Canadian who gained prominence with the Player’s Forsythe team, won from the pole at the season-opener at Homestead.
``It was a decision that me and my dad thought about and thought about,″ Moore said. ``We’re not parting enemies. We still have eight or nine races to go this year. I’m looking for a few more wins.″
Moore is eighth in the standings heading into Sunday’s race. Moore has five poles and five victories in four years of CART racing.
The parting between Penske and Unser also was amicable.
``Sure, it was tough, but we just decided a change of scenery is good,″ Unser said. ``De Ferran and Moore are both great race car drivers. The surprise wasn’t that Roger went with them, but that he went with a single car this year.″
Unser is rumored to be heading to the rival IRL, but declined to discuss his future until after his divorce proceedings are final, perhaps in October.
Unser, who has 31 victories in 266 career starts, hasn’t won in almost four years. In 10 races this season, his top finish is fifth at Cleveland. In his last start, he completed 206 of 250 laps before retiring with engine problems at Michigan Speedway, finishing 13th in the U.S. 500.
``We’ve had great success,″ Unser said. ``The last three years, we just haven’t been able to achieve this success and maintain it.″