A lot of fans today think that Jeff Gordon was the first “young gun” when in fact he actually was not. There was another man who was rising up the ranks fast in the late 1980’s and was on track to be one of the best the sport has ever seen. Unfortunately his life ended violently and suddenly.
The man I am speaking about is Rob Moroso. At the time it was unheard of for a young man below the age of 25 winning in some of NASCAR’s top series. Rob Moroso started out racing in karts that his father supported him with and he quickly worked his way up through the ranks of NASCAR. At the age of 16 Rob became the youngest driver to win in a NASCAR touring series and at 19 he became the youngest to win a Nationwide race a record that now belongs to Joey Logano.
Rob made his debut in the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide Series) in 1986 at the age of 17. He drove again for his father Dick Moroso who was the founder of Moroso performance. A year after his first victory in the Busch series he won the 1989 Busch Championship. At the time it was unheard of for a kid to be beating some of the Winston Cup veterans that raced in the Busch series like Dale Earnhardt Sr. He had a total of six wins, 42 top tens and nine poles over a span of four years in the Busch Series.
In 1990, Moroso’s father decided that his son was ready to go up to the big leagues and race in Winston Cup. He drove a number 20 Oldsmobile with sponsorship from Crown Petroleum. Crown wanted to get into NASCAR and saw Moroso as a great way to get involved. However, he did not perform as well as expected once he got into the cup level. His best finish of the year was a ninth place finish at the Firecracker 400 at Daytona. Moroso became very frustrated with his lackluster finishes and could not understand why he was doing so poorly.
On September 30th 1990 around 11:00 PM in Mooresville North Carolina, Moroso was driving home after being out drinking when his car skidded around a turn and crashed into an on coming car. Moroso and the driver of the other car, Tammy Williams were both killed. Police estimated that his car was going over 75 mph and that his blood alcohol level was twice the legal limit. The crash was only hours after the race at North Wilkesboro Speedway where he finished 21st.
NASCAR had just lost its next superstar and not only was NASCAR hurt by the loss but so was Rob’s father Dick. Rob and Dick had what others called the closest relationship a father and a son could have and Rob’s accident left him in shock. Dick died in 1998 of cancer and he was never the same after his son’s death. Rob was posthumously awarded the 1990 NASCAR Winston Cup Series Rookie Of The Year.