In the racing world, September 11 also has a somber memory – each year annually marks the anniversary of the death of then-rising Uruguayan driver Gonzalo Rodriguez, who at 27 had untapped potential that never was fully exploited.
Today marks 15 years since his fatal accident, when his car’s stuck throttle launched him off course and over the wall at the Corkscrew, at what was then known as Laguna Seca Raceway (now Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca).
Rodriguez was in his second CART weekend, having made his debut at Detroit earlier in the year in Team Penske’s second car and scoring a point.
He’d arrived from Formula 3000; incidentally, he’d raced against, and occasionally beaten, current Penske driver Juan Pablo Montoya when the two were both in F3000 in 1998. Rodriguez finished third in the championship behind Montoya and Nick Heidfeld, and ahead of drivers such as Soheil Ayari, Stephane Sarrazin, Nicolas Minassian, Bruno Junqueira and Gaston Mazzacane.
Montoya came over to CART for the first time in 1999 and Rodriguez made it as well. Rodriguez was one of a number of young drivers who Roger Penske ran that season; Alex Barron and Tarso Marques also made appearances.
In many respects, Rodriguez’s passing was overlooked that year because of the accident that claimed Greg Moore little more than a month later. But it was no less of a loss.
Rodriguez is one of two drivers we remember on this September 11 – today also marks 36 years since Ronnie Peterson’s passing. We touched on that on this day last year, as well.