2004 "99" Schedule
|Racing community mourns death of popular
driver's son in speedway crash
Tragic fatality only second in 58 years at Stockton track
By Bill Poindexter and Jason Williams
STOCKTON -- The racing community mourned Sunday after learning about John Dexter Moore, the 15-year-old son of a popular Stockton 99 Speedway driver, who died Saturday after losing control of his 2003 Chevrolet Monte Carlo racer and crashing into a wall at the speedway.
The teenager was "just a superstar beyond his years," his father, Western Late Model division driver John Moore, said Sunday.
"There are thousands of people this is going to affect," Moore said in a sad, broken voice. He described his son, an honor-roll student and sophomore at Granite Bay High School, as "drug-free, bright-eyed and beautiful."
The younger Moore was a champion motocross racer who won titles throughout California and Texas, including several at Prairie City in Rancho Cordova. He was a veteran of more than 1,000 motorcycle races and picked up go-kart racing a couple of years ago.
The family rented the speedway for a testing session for Moore, who planned to compete in the Western Late Model class next year.
It was the second death in the 58-year history of Stockton 99 Speedway and the first in which a driver was behind the wheel when he was killed while on the quarter-mile track on Wilson Way.
Moore was driving a car his dad purchased from Eric Schmidt of Roseville, who dominated in the racer at Stockton 99 in 2003.
Phil Perry, a car builder and driver from Rocklin who competes occasionally at Stockton 99 and witnessed the accident, said Moore's car "got a little loose" as he drove out of turn four and into the front straightaway. Perry said the car "drifted sideways" but that Moore stayed on the throttle, "which is what you do."
The angle of the car then pointed toward the infield, and it appeared Moore let off the gas, "because the motor decelerated." Perry said the car "took off again, shot through the infield, straight through the grass and up the banking" into the wall between turns one and two.
He said the car went into the wall right-front-corner first but "pretty much straight in."
"It's just a bad, bad deal," said Perry, who said he wasn't doing "too good" and spoke softly when he talked about the youngster. "J.D. was a great kid."
Moore's parents and grandfather were at the speedway when the accident occurred, according to Nelida Stone, a spokeswoman for the San Joaquin County sheriff's office. The teenager's father and grandfather were burned pulling him from the wreckage, which caught on fire. The elder John Moore suffered burns on his face and arms, and the boy's grandfather was burned on his arms.
Race cars can reach up to 90 mph on the speedway's straightaway. Moore's speed could not be confirmed Sunday.
"It's the absolute worst tragedy for a father to lose his son," said Chris Hunefeld, the co-managing partner of the speedway. "We feel for his family, and it's absolutely just the worst thing that can happen for a father. ... His positive energy out at the speedway has been contagious, and for this to happen to the family is the most terrible thing that can happen."
The teenager's dad has become a fan favorite as a regular driver at Stockton 99. Moore finished third in points this season and scored his most recent main-event victory on Aug. 21. Moore also posted a career-best fifth-place finish in the NASCAR Grand National West Series race at the track on Aug. 14. Moore also has helped sponsor races at Stockton 99.
"I'm just devastated. John and I have become really good friends. I'm genuinely fond of him, so it hit twice as hard," Stockton 99 co-owner Ken Clapp said of the elder Moore.
Of Moore's son, Clapp said, "I can only say when I was his age, it was my passion, and all I wanted to do was race, and I understand."
Moore was strapped in with the required five-point harness, helmet and fire suit, witnesses said.
The only other death at the track occurred in September 1993.
Rene Bourgois, 34, of Modesto was killed and 21 people were injured when a car lost control and climbed the fence by the pits, where drivers and crew members stood and watched the races. Bourgois was a driver at the track but was watching that race. The car rode along the wall and ripped the chain-link fence, sliding along until it burst through the fence in front of the grandstand, according to press reports.
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