October 4, 1981: journeyman road racer Rocky Moran, with a 1 ½ year old son at home, would fulfill a lifelong dream by making his ChampCar debut at Watkins Glen. In what would be CART’s third and last appearance at one of America’s most famous road courses, Moran qualified 7th in the Pepsi Challenger Eagle stock block. It was the same car which Mike Mosley had placed on the front row at Indy earlier in the year, then won from the back row at Milwaukee the following week.
Of even greater personal significance, Moran would make his foray into CART with one of his heroes, for he was now one of Dan Gurney’s All American Racers. “It was always special driving for Dan. I grew up going out to Riverside and remember watching him race there in 1960, so that was pretty awesome.”
The awesome feeling continued well into the race. “I was in the lead and had Rick Mears behind me, and it was pretty much a static situation. And we ran out of fuel.”
Nonetheless, a sixth place finish for a raw rookie represented a significant accomplishment, and Moran reasonably expected this stellar one-off appearance would become the impetus to landing a full-time ride. “At the time, I thought that it was. I thought I had knocked the door down, so to speak. In reality, I didn’t race a ChampCar again until Long Beach 1985, four years later.”