Spotlight On: Matt Moro

Wednesday, May 9, 2018
Matt Moro (Chuck Stowe Image)Matt Moro (Chuck Stowe Image) Matt Moro, 40, is the third installment of a four-generation racing family. “Something we’ve always known to do. We didn’t play baseball, we didn’t play football, basketball, we raced. That’s all we’ve ever known how to do and that’s all we’ve wanted to do.”

Matt has been racing for 25 years total and at Knoxville Raceway for 22 of those years, racing go-karts before a sprint car and his son, Anthony, 19, does a little bit of racing as well. He just won his 2nd championship and

The racing number, 2M, has been passed down across the generation as well. His grandfather was number two as was his father until another driver was two and he had to stick a 2m on his.

“When I started racing in 1996, my dad and I raced together, in two different classes, he a 410 and I a 360, he was 2m in that class and I was 2m in mine and that’s the way it’s stayed.”

“My grandfather, also named Matt, unfortunately, passed away at a very young age, from Hodgkin’s disease, a form of cancer, he was 33 years old when he passed away and I never got to meet my grandfather, but he was a very well-known racer in the area, in the stock car division, he was the track champion at multiple places, and he was also the featured car in a movie in the mid-sixties called Fever Heat, filmed in Stuart, Iowa and a little bit at Oskaloosa also. A lot of our local track guys were in it. Denise Moore Jr’s father and Lonnie Parsons were in it, along with my grandfather. It was a real neat movie around our area.”

Unfortunately, Fever Heat was a B-class movie, not necessarily a hit, but don’t worry, the National Sprint Car Hall of Fame and Museum own the rights to the movie, after buying it through Paramount.

“And that is one Awesome thing that the hall of fame did,” Matt said. “Because there were only two reels left and they were going to be destroyed. There was already enough damage that it took both those reels to make one good movie out of it and they were able to put it on VHS and DVD.”

Matt was present for the rerelease at The Grande Theater in Knoxville. A few actresses, the producer, and the writer of the book the movie was based off of all attended the premiere in 1998.

On the other end of that spectrum, Matt’s grandmother apparently did some pretty cool things too.  “My grandma got into a Powder-puff race and I don’t know too much. Everybody seems to know the story better than I do. My dad doesn’t talk too much about it, but my grandma got into racing and she, maybe, dressed up as a guy. Cause females weren’t allowed in the pits back in those days, and she did a little racing herself and that’s what I know of the story.”

Matt doesn’t have any memories he’s most fond of. “Sure, there are the ones that stick out more than others, but, you know, I’m pretty mellow all the time, I don’t get too fired up, I just go at it every night the same as I would whether we’re fifteenth in points or we’re leading the points or we had a bad night. As long as everybody went home from the racetrack it still was a good night. May not have been our best night on the track, but it was still a good night. I mean I’m doing something that very few people get to do. And I don’t take that for granted, I actually am honored that I can do it and honored and privileged that I can do it at the best place in the world too,”

To help them have a good night, Matt’s pit crew consists of, his number one guy in the world, Howard Albright, Knoxville Raceway Hall of Fame mechanic, and Matt’s best friend, “We go to lunch every week, we talk on the phone almost every single day”, his father, Tony Moro, his crew chief, back aboard this year after racing some trucks and late models, Kenny Ennis, long time crew member down in the pits, and Tyler Derickson, also a long time pits attendee.

As far as superstitions go, Matt’s is one of the more justified ones. “I don’t eat chicken on race days,” he says. “We had a bucket of chicken in the pit area two different times and both times I had to be scooped up by the ambulance crew and taken away. Since then we just decided, we’re not eating chicken. It does get a little tuff sometimes because Knoxville Raceways chicken bites are absolutely awesome and I eat them afterwards.”

“I’m really a boring person,” Matt said, when asked about life away from the racetrack. “I work a lot and then I work on race cars a lot. I kind of live, eat, breath racing. I still, even in the off-season, work on racecars every night almost all week long. I do hang out with my family, of course, and I am very fortunate that my little girl, Macy, who’s six, loves it out in the shop. She likes being there, she likes hanging out, and I may have one of the only race shops that has cartoons playing. I’ve got a little stash of candy and pop she gets to drink out there apposed to in the house were my wife, Tara, doesn’t let her in the house.

“I love going to baseball games,” he added, “that’s what I try and do on my free time. I love going to watch major league baseball games, even the Iowa Cubs. I love going on trips, we like going to Mexico, but that’s just a couple of time a year. I used to go to Daytona a lot, about 12 years straight, and then someone introduced me to this one little race called the Chili Bowl that I’ll never miss again in my life. It’s still really grass-roots racing, it’s still fun, Robert Bell won a heat race last year, and it’s still one of the coolest things a person can go do.”

Matt has gone through his share of nicknames, from ones at the car dealership he works at to ones down at the track (Mike Roberts has always called him Bonsai), but Murdock was the one that has stuck with him the longest.

“I got that nickname when I was about five years old. I was playing with my little Hot Wheels cars on the ground and actually my boss here at Carl Chevrolet, saw me playing at the go-kart track and asked ‘what are you doing?’ and I said ‘I’m playing A-team’. A-team was a very popular show back then and he asked ‘Who are you?’ and I said ‘Mr. T’ and he says ‘If you’re anyone you’re a Murdock’ so, Murdock has stuck ever since. Murdock was kind of the wiry-crazy guy on the TV show and I’ve been known as Murdock most of my life really.”

Matt would like to go up to a 410, but he knows that it probably won’t be happening anytime soon. “I do think the 410 fits me better as a driver, I like the driving of a 410 much more than a 360, but sponsorship is a big thing if you want to move up. Casey’s General Store, a long time sponsor and supporter of mine, already have two cars in the 410 class. I am their 360 person and that’s why I stay there. I’ve talked to them before about moving back up, but they want me where I’m at and I’m happy to have them and I don’t want to jeopardies that relationship, I will stay where I’m at.”

Matt is invested in the future of racing as well. He will go up to these younger drivers or they’ll come to him and he’ll give his best answer. “I look at that as our future and what a bright future we have a Knoxville Raceway right now. We have just an unbelievable cool group of kids that are coming in here. Eric Bridger, this kid is unbelievable good talent and he’s showed what he can do inside of a racecar, Cade Higday who’s doing a great job, Kelby Watt is really good and he’s really smart, he’s got a good family with him, and it just keeps going on and all the nice young faces we have there. I do try and help out anybody and everybody I can and I feel like I’ve got a lot of help over the years.”

As for retirement, Matt thinks his time is wearing down. “I’m not a career racer and I have a job, I have a great job. I don’t think I’ve got five more years in me. I will not be racing at 50 years old. I will race the 2018 season and at the end then we’ll decide. It’s one of those scenarios where when I was younger I had lots of desire and no money or time to go racing and now I have a little more time, a little more money, but my desire is going away a little bit. I just can’t stay up all night working on these things like I used too and if I crash them, I don’t recover like I used to. You start thinking of the future a little more now and when you’re young you’re invincible.”

One thing Matt hopes for is that they will return the Master’s Classic by the time he’s fifty, but he knows that they probably won’t and don’t worry fans, Matt has no desire to slow down at this point and this coming season he would like to race more races than he ever has before.

“I’ve got a pretty good group of parts and pieces and an engine sitting there that I think we’ll be able to go and race, maybe, 25 – 30 races.”

“When I quit racing I’m not done with Knoxville Raceway. I don’t know what I’ll do. I don’t know if I’ll be a car owner, if I’ll be anything. At one time I’ve talked about even getting into announcing a little bit. That whole ordeal started with Ralph Capitani years ago telling me that this is something that maybe I should look into doing. I’m more of a fan of racing and more involved that way than I am as a driver. I could quit racing and be okay with it as long as I could still be involved and still go.”