An interview with Rocky Moran Jr Merrill Cain: We also want to welcome in now the latest winner in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series, Rocky Moran Jr. who took the checkered flag for Sigma Autosport in Saturday's race in Montreal. Congratulations...
An interview with Rocky Moran Jr
Merrill Cain: We also want to welcome in now the latest winner in the CART Toyota Atlantic Series, Rocky Moran Jr. who took the checkered flag for Sigma Autosport in Saturday's race in Montreal. Congratulations and thanks for being part of the call this afternoon.
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Thank you. I appreciate it.
Merrill Cain: This weekend's win was Rocky's second Atlantic victory following last year's triumph at Laguna Seca. The victory couldn't have come at a better time for you as it moved you into fifth in the points race with the final round of Atlantic competition this weekend in Denver. You still have a chance of grabbing third in the Championship this weekend as you are only seven points out the position now, correct?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: I think so. I think we're pretty close to third, and looks like (Luis) Diaz and (Alex) Gurney are ahead of us. They are definitely going to be tough. But I think if we can pull another win out, which is very possible, it my just be enough to elevate us up into that third position.
Merrill Cain: Talk about your effort over the weekend. It was a very exciting race for the fans to see on Saturday - pretty much the highlight race of the day. Again, great crowd support in Montreal all weekend long and I think they certainly enjoyed the race they saw on the Atlantic track. Talk about the approach of the race and really, a great win for you.
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Yeah, it was. The whole entire weekend was awesome. Montreal is always a great race. In the past we have been there with the Formula 1 cars. We ended up with the Champ Cars this year. And the fans are awesome. It is a huge event for Atlantic. It is a live race. We get a lot of exposure. When I was racing out there, you know, the fans were well on their feet at the end of the race. The stands were practically full for the Atlantic race. It is a real prestigious race. We were working hard all weekend. After Elkhart Lake we got punted off the track and we were leading the event and came up with a pretty disappointing weekend. We showed up at Montreal and all we wanted to do was just put our heads down and win and unloaded with a really good car, developed it throughout the weekend and ended up going through a really, really exciting race, and ended up winning it. It was just awesome.
Q: Tell me something about your career, your past career in leading up to the Atlantics. We know your dad raced for years. Just give us an outline how you came up to the Atlantics?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Yeah. I basically started out go-kart racing at age 10. Before that, I had been driving since I was two or three in go-karts. My dad bought me a little yard kart. Raced go-karts from the age of 10 to 14, moved up into the Russell Racing School at age 15 up at Laguna Seca and competed in that for a year. Then I went onto the Barber Dodge Pro Series. I was the youngest driver in the series' history in 1996. I was 16; ran the whole year and ended up staying at Barber Dodge from 1996 to mid-1999 upon where I got an opportunity to move up to the Toyota Atlantic Series and at the halfway point in the 1999 season and I've basically been in Atlantics ever since.
Q: How much of a role or influence did your dad have in your career or was he just supportive and let you do what you wanted to do?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: He obviously played a huge role. I don't think too many people get into racing unless they had someone help them out to get where they were. He put me in a go-kart at a young age. He definitely wanted to see me become a race car driver, but he never forced it on me. It was something that I always enjoyed and something that I always loved to do. He has been very, very supportive. He comes to all my races. He's kind of like my manager, my driver/coach. You know, just always a guy that's there helping me out. So it's been awesome.
Q: You are going to Denver and this being a new course for you, same question is what we asked to Michel, have you seen the course? What do you think of it? How are you going to approach it?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: I haven't really seen it. I got to drive around some of the streets before the track was up about seven or eight months ago. The only thing I really noticed is that it's a beautiful area; looks like a great place for a racetrack. I think it's going to be a really good circuit for the Atlantic car. It is a little bit bigger than Three Rivers. Seems like it's a pretty tight course. But I think it's going to be interesting for all the teams showing up. Everyone is on a level playing field. Everyone is going to be tested to their limits, engineers, the teams, the drivers they have all got to unload with a fast car and we're going to have to see who can figure it out the quickest.
Q: This year it happened again in Montreal, it seems you guys are racing so close; a lot of people are getting together and getting a little air under the cars. Is this just because you are so competitive or...
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Yeah, I think people get really, really close in the draft. Our cars draft really well because they are not the most aerodynamically efficient designed. So in the draft you can get up to 10 miles an hour going at some of the tracks that have longer straightaways so you've got to be careful about when you pop out. There has been a few instances where a couple of people have gotten a little too close; waited a little too long and like at the last race they had a huge accident on the front straight. So I think that can be avoided by being a bit more sensible.
Q: It is nice to have an Atlantic race live. So we were able to watch it. Looked pretty interesting, a few yellows that looked like they were caused by some sudden errors, but I guess that's the Atlantic Series. Montreal with the Champ Cars; Montreal with the Formula 1 contingent, a little different with the way things are done?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Oh, yeah, yeah, I mean it's totally different. The whole pit lane deal is totally different. The Formula 1 cars tend to be a lot more quartered off and kind of protected from the public. But in the end I think that the Canadian fans are just really die-hard race fans and I think that Champ Car put on a great show for them. Atlantic has always put on a good show for them. And I think they just loved coming to races. You are driving out to the track real early in the morning, 7 o'clock, and they are all just walking in to see it. So it's really neat to see.
Q: Looking ahead, now you are in Atlantic now, doing well, you are certainly making a name for yourself. Are you going to be in Atlantics next year or are you looking to move on?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Yeah, I am really not sure about that yet. I have always been looking to move up. I have been in Atlantics for three and a half seasons now and I am totally qualified to move up. I'd love to get an opportunity to move up to the Champ Car Series. That's always been a place where I wanted to be. I have grown up on the track. I know a lot of the team owners and we have been developing stuff, but as usual, it's always going to come down to money. It is going to come down to finding sponsorship and having an opportunity open up. I wouldn't be opposed to coming back to the Atlantic Series at all. It's a really neat series and I think if we came back with a really strong effort, we would have a great shot at winning the Championship. We almost got through this year, so we'll just have to see what opens up.
Q: Do you see yourself staying in open-wheel cars?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: I do. I am not close minded to anything. I would definitely go race in the Busch Series or pursue a career in NASCAR if there was nothing else open. But, you know, open wheels are kind of where my heart is at right now. I have grown up in go-karts. I have learned all these tracks. I have always wanted to be a Champ Car driver, the IRL, Formula 1 obviously are also pretty interesting for me. But we'll just have to see what opens up. If there's no other way for me to go racing, then I would definitely pursue NASCAR.
Merrill Cain: As we head into the weekend, you have a lot to gain, as we said, you can move up to as high as third place in the Championship. It's got to be exciting for all the drivers as you head into the weekend with the Championship up for grabs, got to be exciting?
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Yeah, it is. Michael (Valiante) and Jon (Fogarty) are good friends of mine. I've grown up racing against both of them over the years. And I wish the best of both of them. I honestly don't know who is going to win it. It is going to be very, very exciting. We're going to a new circuit. It's a pretty level playing field for everyone. They are both very good drivers. They both have very very good teams and very good shock programs. I am sure at a street course that kind of stuff is going to be very important. We're just going to put our heads down and try and beat them, that's going to be our goal. I am sure it is going to be a great race for the fans and for anyone that follows Atlantic it is going to be a total barn burner.
Merrill Cain: You are one of the few people who have truly taken advantage of the CART ladder system, driver development, come up the Barber Dodge Pro Series and up to Atlantics and as you said, you were hoping to make that the next jump up to Champ Cars. Talk about the opportunities that are provided to you in the ladder system; what you have been able to do to take advantage of that; how you have had to prove yourself at each level and what you need to do to get at the next level.
Rocky Moran, Jr.: Basically as far as Toyota Atlantics go, I was offered a great opportunity mid-season, 1999, to move in with a P1 racing team. I spent a year and a half there, basically Dave Cutler, a Microsoft engineer, who is a good friend of ours, he wanted to put me in the car and give me an opportunity. He wanted to see an American do well. And that's kind of how I broke into it.
Atlantics is a tricky series. If you can land a ride in Atlantic without bringing more than like 100, 200 grand, that's really good. Because unfortunately a lot of drivers have to bring the budget which is the hardest part about breaking into the sport. I have been fortunate. Over the past few years we haven't had to bring very much money to any of the teams. We just kind of lucked into one opportunity after another. I have been really blessed. I have got to thank Tom (Wieringa) for giving me the opportunity this year. He started an Atlantic team in 2001 -- I am sorry, he started a Champ Car team in 2001 and Toyota Atlantics team this year in 2002 for his son and myself to compete in. It just seems like one opportunity after another has opened up. Results are the most important thing, I think. Results and finding sponsorships is what it is all about. We've proven that we can win in Atlantics. I just hope that we can carry that momentum into CART and we're definitely pursuing all the different avenues right now.
Merrill Cain: We're happy to be able to talk to you on the teleconference today. Thanks for taking a few minutes talking to us. We wish you the best of luck this weekend as the Atlantics wrap up the season this year in Denver.