For Dresden, Ohio’s Donnie Moran, the two most important things in life are family and racing, and in the world of dirt-late-model racing, there is not much that this proud father of five has not accomplished.
Growing up in southeastern Ohio where dirt-track racing rules, Moran was introduced to the sport at a very young age. “My dad (Ronnie Moran) has had race cars since I was in diapers and I started going to the races then, and when I turned 16, he had and old car that he let me get in and drive,” said Moran. “I won the first heat race I was ever in and that hooked me right then.”
That was back in 1979 and the checkered flag from that first race has become one of many. By the mid-1980s Moran had become a name often seen in racing publications throughout the nation.
He was the first driver to win a dirt-late-model race with a $100,000 purse (Log Cabin Speedway in 1982), and in the mid-1980s he became a series regular with the All Star Circuit of Champions, winning the title in 1984, 1985 and 1986.
He followed those championships with STARS titles in 1991, 1992, 1995 and 1999, and his smooth, ever-calculating driving style has made him a constant threat at premier events.
He has won the World 100 four times, the Eldora Dream in 1996, the Dirt Track World Championship at Pennsboro (W. Va.), the Jim Dunn Memorial and in 2001 he made history by winning the Eldora Million.
For this 2002 Dirt Late Model Hall of Fame inductee, the wins and championships have been goals reached and missions accomplished, but what matters most in racing is what happens between the green and checkered flags.
“There are all sorts of memories and highlights through the years that stick out in my mind,” said Moran. “Winning the Million, the biggest race of any style of dirt racing of all-time is probably at the top of the list, but even in my younger days I got to go to Australia and race on the USA Dirt Team in 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1988, which was an honor.”
Moran’s ability to quietly move through a field and perfectly prepare a race car have made him an incredible threat no matter the speedway, but his passion for the sport and seeing others succeed has also made him one of the most well respected drivers in the sport.
In 1993, after seeing a need for a more hands-on approach for drivers to learn the techniques of properly preparing a dirt late model, Moran started the Donnie Moran Driving School, which hosts several clinics throughout the summer at the family-owned Muskingum County Speedway in Zanesville, Ohio.
Although Moran is not entertaining any thoughts of retirement, his focus in recent years has slowly been moving closer to home. Moran has been developing not only the driving school, but also assisting his son Devin with his racing career. The 15 year old had previously run a limited midget schedule, but in 2009 he made his late-model debut, starting 10 races and earning one victory.
“I’ve had a really good career and I can’t complain,” the proud father said. “Just being able to do it and be competitive for so long is great and now I’m cherishing these moments with my son, who will maybe do bigger, better and greater things.”
Between running Donnie Moran Racing and parenting five children, Donnie and wife Brenda keep a hectic schedule, but when the family does get some free time Donnie and sons Brodie, Devin, Tristin and Wylie enjoy soaking up the sun on the golf course, or watching 8-year-old Savanna compete in cheerleading competitions.
When it comes to racing Moran said with a smile, “I’ve really enjoyed what I’ve done, and now I’m staying closer to home, helping my dad with the track and my son with learning the car. I still enjoy racing a lot, but things and my outlook are a little different than they used to be.”