Muskingum County Speedway has found a niche market in running just a handful of races per season
Donnie Moran started racing in 1979. Back then, there was an Ohio dirt track known as Zanesville Speedway. Moran won the first heat race he was ever in, at that track.
It was originally built by Louie Morosco in 1940’s. Since then, the Zanesville, Ohio dirt track has been re-surface, re-modeled and re-named.
Muskingum County Speedway is now owned by the Moran family. Ronnie Moran, father of the Million Dollar Man, purchased the track in 1980. Now, the day-to-day operations have been passed down to the next generation, Donnie Moran.
As a family, they all share positions in track operations. In the days leading up to the race, Donnie himself claims residence inside the tractor. I say residence because I didn’t see Donnie leave the tractor once, all day, until the green flag was about to drop. When the gates open, Donnie and the kids go to work. Truly an inspiring family run operation.
Honestly, I had no idea this gem of a track existed. Yet, when I got there, I fell in love with the place. If you haven’t been, I suggest you make a trip in 2018. But, you’ll only have a handful of opportunities each year to do so.
Donnie Moran talks about Muskingum County Speedway
I caught up with Donnie at a recent dirt racing event. While on the dirt late model tour with his son Devin, we chatted about the gem of a racetrack.
“I don’t own it. I just run it, take care of it and work at it,” stated Donnie Moran.
“We just run special shows. Last year we had 3. We had 5 on the schedule, two got rained out. That was my first year promoting. I just had 4 on the schedule this year.”
“I go with the boys every weekend.” So, it’s just that you’re busy on tour? “Yeah, it’s busy.”
“And I feel for the economy and the way people do things nowadays, it’s more beneficial to do it that way than run every week.”
It’s a growing trend. The economy has rebounded, yet it’s still hard to run a weekly racetrack. However, many tracks across the country have found a similar solution.
Solution? Run only special shows. Pack the dirt track grandstands in just a handful of one-off events. Give the fans a special reason to get out of the house then send them home looking like a construction worker.
Plus, Muskingum County Speedway doubles as a driving school. Donnie Moran has run the driving school since 1992. While the track doesn’t run a weekly racing program, it’s still in regular use.
The family as a whole has a full-time time job. They run weekly with the World of Outlaws Craftsman Late Models. His son Devin is currently battling for Rookie of the year. There’s little time left to operate a weekly run race track operation, even if it would make financial sense to do so.
Do you think you’d be further in the black if you were able to run weekly?
I understand you can’t with the busy schedule. Hypothetically, let’s say you could run it week to week. Would you?
“I like doing the specials,” Donnie Moran declares. “You know, in 2012 my dad ran the track every week. The economy was doing ok but he complained about the weekly shows, especially later in the year. It just wasn’t as good as what it used to be. Even 10 years prior to that.”
“I said, ‘Well Dad, Why don’t you just run special shows? So, you’re not wearing the crowd out or the people out.’ ”
“Because, the cost of living for a normal person that’s working and making anywhere from $20,000-70,000 a year. They send their kids back to school. You know, the hustle and bustle of life.
“People don’t wanna go. It seams they don’t wanna do the same thing over and over and over, every week. I mean, some of us do. But, the average fan, might not do that.”
Tracks can’t make a living exclusively on the die-hard racers. There’s only a few of us. Dirt tracks need to grab the attention of the casual fan. If you can bring enough of them to the track, that’s how you stay a float. Special grab the attention of those fans.
“To get them there, I feel what I’m doing, is good for me.”
Author: Shane Walters