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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Rob Moroso #20 Crown Central Petroleum Oldsmobile

    I still get teary eyed when I think about Rob Moroso~ The 1989 Bush Series champion and 1990 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year, had his life cut tragically short only hours after finishing 21st in the Holly Farms 400 @ North Wilksboro~ Sadly, this wreck was caused by excessive speed, and alcohol, tarnishing Moroso's name forever~

    Moroso was born in Connecticut on September 26th, 1968~ His father, Richard (who owned and sponsored Rob's cars for much of his career) was a former drag racer who founded Moroso Performance the same year his son was born~ After graduating high school, Rob moved to North Carolina, where he attended Buck Baker Racing School @ Rockingham~

                                                             Rob Moroso having fun~
Rob Moroso #20 Crown Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog die 1990 Rookie ROY

    Two days after his 18th birthday, Moroso made his BGN series debut @ the Orange County Speedway~ Driving a #23 Old Milwaukee sponsored Chevrolet, he qualified 6th, but finished 21st after his car suffered suspension problems~ His second start of the season, Moroso drove for Rick Hendrick in the #15 Old Milwaukee Chevrolet, where he qualified 15th, and finished 18th, although 5 laps down~

    In 1987, Moroso began racing full time in the BGN series, driving his family owned and sponsored #25 Oldsmobile~ He ran 25 of the 27 races that season, finishing up with 8 top 10's, and was 15th in the final points standings~ He followed that up with a sensation season in 88, winning his first race in July @ Myrtle Beach Speedway, at 19 years of age~ He followed that up with a win @ Charlotte, and finished runner up to Tommy Ellis in the final points standings~

                                                              Rob Moroso promo card~
Rob Moroso #20 Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog

    In the final race of the 1989 season at Martinsville, Moroso was chasing Tommy Houston for the chamionship when Houston's engine failed~ Moroso finished in 3rd, and secured the championship (at the time, the youngest driver ever to win a championship) by 55 points over Houston~ He finished his BGN career with 86 starts, 6 wins, 42 top 10's, and 9 poles, as well as being voted 1989's BGN "Most Popular Driver"~

    Moroso would make is Winston Cup debut in 1988 @ the Oakwood Homes 500, driving for Rick Hendrick in the #47 Peak Antifreeze Chevrolet, where he would finish 14th~ He ran 3 more races as warm ups to his 1990 Rookie campaign~ There weren't many highlights from his first and only Cup season, his brightest moment being a 9th place finish in the Pepsi Firecracker 400 @ Daytona~

                                      Rob Moroso #20 Crown Central Petroleum Oldsmobile~
Rob Moroso #20 Crown Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog die 1990 Rookie ROY
                                                             Click pics to enlarge~
Rob Moroso #20 Crown Racing Champions 1/64 NASCAR diecast blog die 1990 Rookie ROY

     ***UPDATE*** (The review below is on the original Racing Champions car~ The newly updated pics are custom Photoshop images, and are not meant to represent what you would get out of the package)~

    From the pics, you can tell that this isn't one of Racing Champions "finest moments"~ Most Moroso cars you'll find will have cracks, or shotty paint~ Another problem I've noticed with a lot of the Moroso cars is where the bottom and top of the car are connected, a large gap will sometimes be visible around the bumpers~

    This happened with a lot of the Oldsmobile and Buick Racing Champions die-casts~ The one I have, is in pretty good shape all around~ I probably looked at close to 30 or 40 of them before I finally found one that was as close to perfect as possible~ I also have one that I kept in the packaging, but it's got cracks and the gap between the bumpers~ I just couldn't pass it up for $1.25~

    Four days after his 22nd birthday, and just hours after the Holly Farms 400, Rob was killed in a traffic accident~ He was over twice the legal drinking level, and lost control of his car in a curve~ He skidded more than 200 feet before being struck in the driver's side by oncoming traffic~ Moroso, and Tammy Williams (the driver of the other vehicle) were both killed~ Moroso's girlfriend survived the crash, along with a passenger in William's vehicle~

    Moroso had been convicted of speeding 4 times between 1987-1989, and had been involved in 2 previous highway accidents, including a rollover~ Judges decided against revoking his license, which would have put his NASCAR career on hold, and his charges were reduced~ He was awarded the 1990 Winston Cup Rookie of the Year honors posthumously, the only driver in NASCAR history to do so~

   I had the honor of meeting Rob at a Bristol race in 1990~ He was eating a hot dog, and talked with me and my family for a few minutes, before going out on the track again for practice~ He was a genuinely nice guy, who always had a huge smile on his face~ I can remember crying when I heard the news of his passing~

     At that age, I had never really dealt with someone dying before, so it was particularly hard on me~ I often sit around and think of what would have been, had he just not drank that night~ Surely he would have won a lot of races, and championships.. but instead, all we have left are distant, fading memories of what could have been~ I like to think that NASCAR fans remember Rob Moroso in a good way, and not for the way he died~ Below are some clips from his brief career~

                                                                 1990 Sears Point crash~

                                                          1990 Daytona 500 crash~

                                            1990 Valleydale Meats 500 (the race I met him)

                                      1995 Jiffy Lube Miami 300 (last Team Moroso race tribute)

                                                            Nascar Race Hub Segment~


  1. Do you know if Crown Central Petroleum is still sponsoring NASCAR? I have a Crown Racing (Coca-Cola ball hat) and trying to get some idea of date.

    1. As far as I know, they haven't sponsored anyone since 1990~ As of 2006, there were only about 20 Crown gas stations left, as most of them were and converted to Texacos, Chevrons, or Shells~ The last person to drive in NASCAR with Crown sponsorship, to my knowledge, was Chad Little in 1990, who was driving Rob Moroso's car after he died~ The first time they sponsored a car was in 1988, with Phil Parsons, and the other people to drive Crown cars were Jimmy Hensley, for 1 race, and Rob~