2024 Dirt Late Model Dream at Eldora Speedway

'Jinxed' Devin Moran Treasures His Time To Shine At Eldora Speedway

'Jinxed' Devin Moran Treasures His Time To Shine At Eldora Speedway

Devin Moran broke his family's Million Dollar Curse at Eldora Speedway with a $25,000 Dirt Late Model Dream XXX preliminary victory

Jun 8, 2024 by Kevin Kovac

ROSSBURG, Ohio — When, at long last, Devin Moran’s dogged pursuit of a checkered flag at Eldora Speedway had ended, the first words he heard from his famous father, Donnie, upon meeting in victory lane came as little surprise.

“He told me, ‘It’s about damn time!’” Devin Moran said in the legendary track’s pit area more than an hour after he captured Friday night’s 50-lap Dream XXX preliminary feature to earn a $25,000 prize.

The younger Moran actually repeated that exact self-satisfying phrase at the start of his postrace interview with FloRacing pit reporter Ben Shelton while standing on Eldora’s winner’s stage, which seemed like a place Devin might never reach. He’s been competing in several events per season at the track for over a decade but couldn’t break through, keeping active the Moran family’s stretch of futility at their home state’s most well known speedway dating back to Donnie’s last win on June 9, 2001, in the inaugural Eldora Million.

While observers could point out that Devin, 29, of Dresden, Ohio, doesn’t have a long list of heartbreaking Eldora defeats on his ledger, it can’t be argued that something strange was afoot regarding the inability of both father and son to win a feature at the track in the wake of Donnie’s historic seven-figure triumph. Was it really a Million Dollar Curse? Probably not, but it sure seemed like it.

“Like somebody said, ‘He broke the jinx,’ ” Donnie said while standing in the middle of Eldora’s pit area — holding his son’s helmet and with his wife, Brenda, by his side — shortly after the postrace picture-taking ceremonies. “A lot of people said it was a jinx, but really, it just wasn’t his time yet. Now it might be his time for a little bit of time to come.”

The Big E moment that Devin had been waiting impatiently to experience certainly didn’t fail to meet, or even exceed, his expectations. He largely dominated the feature that topped the second Dream preliminary program, leading the entire distance off the pole and outdistancing 58-year-old runner-up Dale McDowell of Chickamauga, Ga., by 2.431 seconds.

If only there had been something recording Devin’s reaction inside the cockpit of his Roger Sellers-owned Double Down Motorsports Longhorn Chassis as he glimpsed the checkered flag waving over him for the first time. “Going across the finish line,” he said, was when his dream became real.

“Coming off of four,” Devin recounted, “I was screaming into my helmet a little bit.”


ON-BOARD: Ride with Devin Moran to his first Eldora victory Friday night.

Once Devin drove his No. 99 onto the winner’s stage — just like his father did with his own identically-numbered machine nearly 23 years ago to the day — the party truly began. He received a hearty home-grown ovation from his Buckeye State faithful and then engaged in a seemingly endless series of emotional embraces with his family members.

There was Devin’s wife, Lakia, whom he married in December some six years after they became a couple. And there was his parents Donnie and Brenda, his brothers Tristin, 28, and Brodie, 32, and his sister Savanna, the youngest of the Moran brood (she turns 23 next week) and also one of the Miss Eldora spokesmodels. The only Moran sibling missing from the celebration was his 26-year-old brother and former crew chief Wylie, who was unable to attend because of work commitments with his automobile detailing business.

This was like 2001 all over again, when Donnie’s Eldora Million triumph produced a joyous post-race scene that included Brenda, who was just four days away from giving birth to Savanna, and three of the four Moran boys (Tristin was the only one not at the track that night because he was left home to play with a similarly-aged cousin).

The weekend’s big prize — Saturday’s 100-lap, $100,030-to-win Dream finale — still sat ahead of him, but that looming crown jewel opportunity didn’t diminish the magical Moran victory in the slightest. 

“It was awesome,” Devin said after the throng of fans that engulfed his pit stall after the race had finally dissipated. “My favorite part’s when the crowd goes nuts. I hope tomorrow night we can figure out whatever we gotta do to scratch and claw to make it happen (for a Dream win), but it was pretty cool to finally experience that.”

Donnie and Brenda had arrived in the infield to greet Devin on the winner’s stage after rushing through the grandstand crowd and across the track from their viewing spot on the grassy hillside outside turning, “right where I was watching for the Million, right where we always sit,” Brenda said while clutching her son’s oversized $25,000 novelty check.

“I’ve been waiting since 2001 to get back on that stage,” Donnie said, his face beaming but a hint of tears welling up in his eyes. “And to get back on it … awesome.”

Both Donnie and Brenda sweated out the final moments of Devin’s drive to victory. Brenda said they were constantly checking the live-scoring app on their phone to gauge Devin’s late-race speed, and she acknowledged that she couldn’t sit still, prompting Donnie to continually tell her, “Stop rockin’!”

“I stayed pretty cool and stuff, but the thing that I notice most, and I’ll get a little bit edgy about, is when he starts following a lapped car like he did with that black car for three or four laps,” Donnie said. “I was like, ‘You gotta get by him! You gotta do a little bit of a slider and go a little bit out of your comfort zone to get by him and go on, because if you hesitate and wait, you’re gonna get beat.’ ”

Devin ultimately handled the lapped traffic with a flair reminiscent of his 61-year-old father, an Eldora master who won the World 100 four times (1989, ’92, ’96, ’97) and the Dream (1996) in addition to the Million. The performance drew praise from Donnie, who has watched his son become his own man.

“I was down here (in the pits) earlier, but he’s got his own deal going on,” Donnie said, detailing why he spent most of the night watching from the spectator side. “He knows what he needs to do. I told him, ‘If you need any advice or anybody to talk to, call me.’ But I said, ‘You can handle it. You can do it. You’re mature enough. You’ve got a great team, great owner. Get it done.’

“He has that desire because he’s always had to live up to me. And you know, even today people still say, ‘Son of the Million Dollar Man,’ and it’s like, now he can prove to people that it’s just not my son, it’s Devin Moran.”

Brenda echoed Donnie’s assessment.

“I’m just proud, excited for him for making his own name,” she said. “Treasure it.”

Donnie recalled afterward some of the near-misses his son had at Eldora since he debuted there in the 2012 Dream. There were three runner-up finishes in crown jewel preliminary features (first World 100 in 2021, Dream in ’23), a third-place run in 2022’s Eldora Million, and, most notably, a third-place finish in last year’s Dirt Track World Championship that was especially painful.

“He had a good chance in the Million when Jonathan (Davenport) won, but the Dirt Track, he just didn’t close the deal,” said Donnie, whose last Eldora start came in the 2013 World 100 that marked Devin’s first attempt at Dirt Late Model racing’s most prestigious event. “The whole track was rough (for the DTWC), he was exhausted, he was trying to finish and win the (Lucas Oil Late Model Dirt Series championship), but he didn’t close the deal.

“I got on him. I busted his ass over that deal. Last year at the Dirt Track, it slipped away from him.”

But Devin learned from the DTWC disappointment. The loss made him stronger.

“Experience is just like the credit card commercial,” Donnie remarked. “It’s priceless.”

An Eldora success would seem to indicate that Devin’s talent and experience are molding together in a way that has him pointed toward a bright future, one that could someday rival his father’s Hall of Fame career. Devin, whose career-best finish in the Dream finale is seventh in 2016, surely likes where he’s positioned.

“I just feel I’m in the best place in my life on the racing side, and really the personal side,” Devin said, relieved to have the Eldora albatross off his back. “I just got married last year and I have an awesome wife. I feel like I’ve got a great race team and great crew.

“And I won at Eldora! Nothing could be better.”