Richard D. "Dick" Moroso, a champion drag racer who later became a major supplier of racing parts, has died of cancer at age 59.
Moroso died of brain cancer Saturday at a hospice in Branford, Conn.
Named by Hot Rod Magazine as one of the 100 most influential people in drag-racing history, Moroso was best known as the founder of Moroso Performance Products and as the owner of the Moroso Motorsports Park, a 2.2-mile raceway in Palm Beach Gardens.
Moroso began racing cars while still in his teens. By the time he was in his early 20s, he was designing car engines in his parents' basement in Greenwich, Conn. In 1966, he was the champion in his racing class at the Labor Day U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.
Even greater fame seemed to await his son, Robbie, who held promise of being a stock car star of the future during the late 1980s. But in 1990, just after signing a NASCAR Winston Cup sponsorship deal, he died at age 22 in a drunken-driving accident.
"If I die tomorrow, it won't be the worst that's happened to me," Moroso said in an interview earlier this year. "My wife said I rolled up and died (after Robbie died), which I did, I guess."
IN 1971, Moroso gave up competing to concentrate on Moroso Performance Products, which is based in Guilford, Conn. In 1982, he bought the neglected Palm Beach International Raceway on a whim and turned it into Moroso Motorsports Park.
Survivors include his wife, Lori; a son, Rick, who has been the president of Moroso Performance Products since 1997; a daughter, Susan Moroso Stricker, and a grandson.
Memorial services are planned for later this week in Connecticut.
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