LONG BEACH, Calif. – Could the 41st Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach be the setting for a “Rocky” story?
Rocky Moran Jr., who competed for the first time on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn Long Beach street circuit in 2000 in Toyota Atlantics, will make his Verizon IndyCar Series debut in the No. 18 Trench Shoring Honda for Dale Coyne Racing this weekend.
“I can’t tell you how excited I am about finally being able to drive an IndyCar,” said Moran, who tested a Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda last September on the Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. “Dale is a dream-maker and I have always dreamed of this opportunity. We just need to run a lot of miles, as I am aware of the hill I have to climb, but I love Long Beach and this truly is a dream come true for me.”
He will replace Carlos Heurtas, who finished 16th in the Indy Grand Prix of Louisiana at NOLA Motorsports Park on April 12, advancing eight positions from his starting spot. A mechanical issue in the opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg relegated him to 24th place.
Moran, 35, a native of Irvine, Calif., who lives in Ladera Ranch in south Orange County with his wife and three children, last competed in five American Le Mans Series races in 2011, co-driving with Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano da Matta.
He also has competed in the Rolex Grand-Am Sports Car Series in 2006, drove in the Freedom 100 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2005 and was a multiple race winner in Toyota Atlantics.
"I was leading the race in 2005 with two laps to go my wheel nut backed off, so I still haven't gotten over that one," Moran said. "My dream has been to be an IndyCar driver and I literally found out late (April 16) afternoon that this was going to happen. Thankfully, I had a seat from my Sam Schmidt test and had the pedal settings.
"Driving up here was beyond surreal. It's a total blessing. The people in my inner circle, they know how much this means to me and for it to happen here. I just want to do laps and keep my nose clean. The more laps I'll do the quicker I'll get. This is like a test session for me on a race weekend."
Moran’s father was a three-time Indianapolis 500 Mile Race starter and made 24 Indy car starts overall. He teamed with P.J. Jones and Mark Dismore to win the 24 Hours At Daytona in 1993.