When it came time for our annual summer look at the drag racing market, an interview with Rick Moroso was a top priority.
As a competitive drag racer and head of Moroso Performance Products in Guilford, Conn., drag racing is an integral part of Rick’s everyday life. So, who better to ask about the current state of the sport, and how the slow economy and other challenges are affecting both drag racing in general and the independent speed shops that support it.
Moroso has been around racing since a very young age, accompanying his father, the late Dick Moroso, to events, and then later competing and working at the family business.
Starting as a welder and fabricator at Moroso Performance Products, he moved on to quality control, research and development, chassis fabrication and product and sales management. After 16 years, he was named president by his father in April, 1997.
Meanwhile, he has competed in and won events in the NHRA, IHRA and NMCA, to name a few. Recently he’s been entering Open Track Events.
The following are some of his thoughts on the state of drag racing, his company’s relationship with performance retailers and builders, and the synergies that the two sides can build on moving forward.
Hi Rick. We know that attending drag racing events with your father, Dick Moroso, when you were young helped lead you to where you are today with Moroso Performance Products. What do you remember most about those formative years at the track with your Dad, and what do you still put into practice today?
What I most remember about him was his competitive spirit and determination to win. He enjoyed competition because it tested man’s intellect on one hand and on the other hand because it pushed man physically.
“Quiet determination” is one way to describe him at the track. Very focused on the task at hand, with the goal of winning. He did not say many words during that time, but when he did you took notice because you knew the content had been well thought-out and would be insightful.
This same determination is what started and drove Moroso Performance Products to be what it is today-using intellect to come up with products that solve racers’ needs.
Putting it into practice today, I know what my father expected out of a product with his name on it and I expect the same. As a racer, when I go to the track I’m determined to win. When my customers go to the track, I know that they are determined to win, so I don’t want to let them down with a product that is not capable of winning.
I know that it takes a team effort and that each individual matters, so we are all on a first-name basis here at Moroso.
What is it about drag racing that’s kept you involved all of these years?
Being involved with cars and the spirit of being able to take a car and through thought-out modifications-whether they be off-the-shelf or just created for this application-making the car go faster.
I also enjoy watching a just-created product for a specific application grow from being a solution to my problem to a product that is sold to the masses with the Moroso name on it.
Most recently, I’ve been trying my hand at Open Track Events for a new challenge and perspective of motorsports.
Looking back, what similarities do you see between drag racing, say back in the 1980s, and how it is today?
The spirit of competition and the camaraderie between racers and the friendships that are formed are the same.
What are the big differences you see?
A big difference is some of the different organizations that have sprouted up that target specific markets such as ADRL and NMRA. NMRA has actually created a whole lifestyle with the races, events, its website, etc.
Of course, the Internet has changed everything about race events, from offering live timing and instant results to the grudge talk that happens on the forums.
Unfortunately, it’s a shame for the industry that sport compact drag racing didn’t grow legs and become a mainstay. It exposed a whole new group of individuals to the sport and the industry.
The people that are left are as hardcore as any traditional group and it did foster people that switched to American V-8s.
How does your drag racing team affect your day-to-day business at Moroso Performance Products, and vice-versa?
One of the ways that having a drag racing team influences day-to-day business at Moroso is the similarity of establishing both short- and long-range goals, whether it is making it to the next round in drag racing or helping the sales department at a trade show or offering input to the marketing department in business.
The long-range goal in drag racing could be winning the championship, while at the company it is having a year that breaks sales records.
As a leader of a team and of a business, what type of influence/effect do you try to have on your employees?
Team-Business or Business-Team, they are one and the same. Teamwork and communication among employees is crucial. Every employee must have his or her role, but within these roles they offer assistance or input to their fellow employees.
How would you describe the relationship between Moroso and your many speed shop customers across the company?
Over the years, our company has made every effort to be a stable rock in the industry. Speed shop owners know they can call us to get information about a product right away from a human voice, that we can offer input or perspective on a part or program, and that they can talk with one of our in-house or outside sales representatives at a race, show or at their store.
What are the one or two keys to nurturing many of the longstanding relationships you’ve built with your best resellers over the years?
Offer them a quality product that we stand behind and for it to perform like we advertise that it will.
What’s your take on the current state of drag racing and the drag racing market?
It has been off to a cautious start this spring because of weather conditions and gas prices being over $4 a gallon.
Now that the weather seems to be getting back to normal from the El Nino effects that the country has been facing and gas prices have stabilized at under $4 a gallon, car counts seem to be back up on their way to 2007 levels.
What about the performance aftermarket industry?
Being that we are in the entertainment business, the industry was affected by the economic meltdown that hit the country a couple of years ago. But now we are in the “spring stage” of regrowth and rebound.
How do you see the two working together into the future?
Like they have in the past-you need one for the other.