Tri-City Motor Speedway
Weekend plans pay off for podium-rich Moran
By Joshua JoinerDirtonDirt.com staff writer
AUBURN, Mich. (Aug. 20) — Early in the week, Devin Moran had a decision to make. With both the DIRTcar Summer Nationals four-race Michigan swing and the four World of Outlaws Morton Buildings Late Models Series races in the Northeast offering lucrative racing trips roughly the same round-trip distance from his home in Dresden, Ohio, Moran and his Tye Twarog Racing team had two enticing options to choose from for the week’s racing plans. | Complete Summer Natonionals Coverage
Both trips had their pros and cons. The Summer Nationals trek would be slightly shorter mileage than the WoO swing, but all four WoO events paid $10,000 to the winner while two of the Summer Nationals races only paid $5,000. Ultimately, the team’s decision came down to weather, and thanks to a slightly better forecast in Michigan, the Summer Nationals races won out and Moran and Co. headed to the Wolverine State to make first-time visits to three of the four tracks on the weekend schedule.
“These are all decently close to home and the Summer Nationals payouts are a little better than they used to be. That kind of made it enticing,” the 26-year-old Moran said Friday afternoon before the start of the evening’s Summer Nationals race at Tri-City Motor Speedway. “We thought about going to run with the World of Outlaws this week because they weren’t far from us either. But the way the weather was looking up through there, I didn’t know how it’d go. But that’s just how we decide. If it’s good races with decent payouts, then we look at the weather and decide what makes the most sense.”
It appears as though Moran made a smart decision. Though neither the Summer Nationals Michigan races nor WoO’s Northeast events had been hampered by rain going into Saturday, with three podium finishes during the first three nights in Michigan, one of them a $5,000 victory in Thursday’s race at I-96 Speedway Lake Odessa, Mich., Moran’s trip had been fairly profitable going into the Summer Nationals finale Saturday at Merritt Speedway in Lake City, Mich.
“These places all looked like pretty good racetracks and I haven’t raced much up in Michigan, so we wanted to come try them out,” said Moran, who along with his victory at I-96 on Friday was third in Wednesday’s visit to Butler Motor Speedway in Quincy, Mich., and second Friday night at Tri-City. “I’ve been to Merritt back when I ran with the World of Outlaws, but I’ve never been to the other three. I like going to new tracks. One of my favorite things is going to a new track, especially when it’s a really good track. It makes it fun, and to win at them the first time you’re there makes it really fun.”
Decisions like the one he faced this week are common place for Moran this season thanks to the independent schedule he’s following for the first time since 2016. After four years of national touring, Moran started 2021 on the Lucas Oil tour before deciding in the spring to step back and follow a pick-and-choose campaign that includes a mixture of crown jewel events, national tour races and regional shows.
In his previous four seasons, Moran didn’t face those type of decisions often with the World of Outlaws dictating his travel plans in 2017 and 2018 before he switched to the Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series in 2019 and 2020. Not following a national tour this season has worked out well as he has nine victories already, making it the winningest season of his Late Model career.
But while Moran’s enjoying his independent schedule this season and finding it profitable, he ultimately hopes to return to national touring in the future.
“At the end of the day I think running a national tour is still the best option,” said Moran, who in his four years of national touring finished fourth in WoO points in both 2017 and 2018 and sixth and seventh respectively during his Lucas Oil Series runs in 2019 and 2020. “But our team just isn’t quite ready to do that. We tried running one last year and we were horrible all year. We started out this year kind of doing it (on the Lucas Oil Series) and we weren’t as good as we wanted to be.
“People don’t realize how hard it is and how much work it is and how much money you need to be able to do it. We’re just not to that point with our team yet. We’re working to get to that point, but we’re just not quite there. So we’re going to keep running this independent type schedule and eventually get ourselves in a spot where we can run Lucas or World of Outlaws in the future.”
While Moran has still frequented both national tours in 2021 — he has two wins and three top-fives in seven WoO races this season along with six top-fives in 16 Lucas Oil appearances — he’s relied heavily on regional events such as this week’s Summer Nationals races to cobble together a schedule that offers his team the chance to race for good money without incurring the same expenses of a national tour campaign.
“These regional races are kind of what makes it all flow together,” Moran said of his 2021 season that’s been highlighted by a $25,000 WoO win at dirt-covered Bristol (Tenn.) Motor Speedway and a $22,000 Castrol FloRacing Night in America payday at Atomic Speedway in Alma, Ohio. “We still go to a lot of big races, but if there’s not one of those, you have to find a race to go to. (Iron-Man Series promoter) Chris Tilley and them guys do a good job with their races and offering teams like us good options.
“There’s a lot of big-paying races for us to go to, but when there isn’t, there’s a lot of $5,000 and $10,000 races for us to go to try kind of fill in the gaps. I think the last five races I’ve ran other than (the July 30-31 Prairie Dirt Classic) at Fairbury have been $5,000- or $10,000-to-win races, and we’ve done pretty good running those races. As long as we’re running like we should be, then you can definitely kind of piece together a scheduled that works and make some money.”
Speaking of making money, Moran has one more chance to score a nice payday during his Michigan trip with Saturday’s Summer Nationals finale at Merritt Speedway paying $10,000 to the winner. After falling just short of victory in a dramatic last-lap duel with series regular Ashton Winger of Hampton, Ga., in Friday’s race at Tri-City, Moran hopes to make up for it at Merritt.
“This trip has been really good for us and we’ve got to race on some good tracks,” Moran said. “It’d be a lot better if I had three wins instead of just one. We were fast enough to do that, especially (at Tri-City), but the driver’s got to be a little better. Hopefully we get another good, racy track at Merritt and we get another win and really make it a good trip.”