October 23rd, 2017
History Maker: Keith Rocco Completes Stunning SK Modified 2017 Sweep
A www.racedayct.com article
Keith Rocco thought about winning three SK Modified championships in one season. Keith Rocco wanted to win three SK Modified championships in one season.
But on Sept. 16 that thought, that desire, became focused mission in memory of his mentor and friend Ted Christopher.
Sunday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Rocco completed that mission, in movie script type dramatic style.
First deflation for Rocco, then elation.
Kyle James of Ashway, R.I., the winner of the 80-lap SK Modified feature Sunday was first declared the 2017 New London-Waterford Speedbowl SK Modified division champion by track officials.
But upon further review, Rocco was awarded the championship by track officials.
“It’s pretty awesome to think about being able to do it,” Rocco told RaceDayCT. ” It kind of all flashed before our eyes there, basically a whole season with the opportunity to win all three and then it almost kind of came to an end. And somehow someway we pulled one out of our hat and was able to still make it work.”
After track officials declared James the champion, they further reviewed a late black flag issue with Rocco and it was declared that Rocco actually beat James by one point in the standings for the season.
“It’s obviously frustrating to be told one thing and then the other side pleading their case and getting a recount and then convincing the officials that a black flag was thrown on a lap that they said it wasn’t thrown on,” James told RaceDayCT. “It is what it is.”
Rocco, who already won SK Modified championships at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, became the first driver in Connecticut racing history to win SK Modified championships at the state’s three short tracks in the same season.
Rocco dedicated the unprecedented sweep of championships to Christopher, who was killed in a plane crash while travelling to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on Sept. 16. The 32-year old Rocco was a crew member for Christopher as a teenager before becoming one of his toughest rivals on the track over the last decade.
It was Rocco’s seventh SK Modified championship overall at the Speedbowl. The 2012 season is the only year Rocco hasn’t won the SK Modified championship at the track since 2010.
Rocco, the track’s all-time winningest driver, also has four Late Model championships (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) and a Limited Sportsman division title (2004) at the Speedbowl.
“The amount of championships we’ve won down there, it’s like realistically every year we’ve been in contention and leading the points,” Rocco said. “That one year (2012), we got thrown out [of an event], I think that’s the reason we lost that one. But, I just have a love for the place. I really enjoy coming here on Saturday’s and it’s just like a second home to me really.”
After rallying from a flat tire early in the event, Rocco was involved in a wreck while running tenth late in the race. Rocco was able to return to the track with a badly damaged left front suspension and finish the race on the track.
Immediately after the race the track’s electronic scoring system listed Rocco with a 14th place finish, but track officials deemed that because he was black flagged for damage and track officials stopped scoring him, he was dropped to 18th place.
An 18th place finish for Rocco gave James a two-point advantage in the final standings for the division.
James came into the weekend second in the SK Modified division standings, 16 points behind Rocco. James finished second in his heat race and Rocco finished first in his, putting Rocco ahead by 17 points at the start of the feature. The winner is awarded 32 points for the feature and 18th place is awarded 13 points.
But Rocco’s team argued over the exact timing of the black flag being displayed to them them and upon further review track officials deemed that Rocco finished 15th instead of 18th based on when they were shown the black flag and how he was eventually scored. It gave Rocco 16 points for the race and a one-point advantage in the final rundown for the season standings.
“We could only control what we were going to do and that was to win the race,” James said. “That was goal No. 1. I couldn’t control the fate of the cars behind me. The way the cards fell, it seemed to all go right and then they’re doing recounts. And I don’t even really know what happened because I didn’t see any of it. I don’t even have a case and I’m kind of in a place where I don’t have anything to say. I really don’t know what to say because if I watch the race and I might have a better idea of what really went on. I couldn’t count his laps down, I couldn’t see his tire, I couldn’t see when they threw the black flag.”
October 16th, 2017
To The Wire: Todd Owen Gets Win, Keith Rocco Takes SK Mod Title At Thompson
A www.racedayct.com article
THOMPSON – The drama on Sunday at Thompson Speedway in the SK Modified division came down to the battle between Keith Rocco and Todd Owen for the division’s championship.
But it might have been a little bit of drama carrying over from Stafford Motor Speedway that brought even more feistiness and theater to the championship event for the SK Modified division Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Sunday.
Rocco looked on the road to celebrating a championship with a feature victory on Sunday, but a battle for the top spot between Rocco and Dowling changed all that.
In the end it was Todd Owen of Somers scoring the victory in the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature.
After getting knocked out of the lead by Dowling, Rocco, of Wallingford, held on for a third place finish in the feature to edge Owen for the championship. Dowling, of Roxbury ended up second on the track.
“There’s a reason I’ve got more championships than that kid’s got wins,” Rocco said of Dowling. “That wasn’t really called for. But we pulled it off and we’re here with another championship.”
Said Dowling: “He gets mad all the time, he’s got more championships than I’ve got wins. But I wasn’t even in my dad’s thoughts when he was racing Modifieds, and he’s still in the [SK Modifieds]. It’s no big deal.”
He gets mad all the time, he’s got more championships than I’ve got wins. But I wasn’t even in my dad’s thoughts when he was racing Modifieds, and he’s still in the [SK Modifieds]. It’s not big deal.
Rocco came into the event holding an 11-point lead over Owen in the chase for the title at Thompson. Two weeks ago Rocco came out on top of a final race head-to-head battle for the SK Modified championship at Stafford with Dowling.
On lap 13 race leader John Studley got loose in turn four. With Ryan Preece checking up in second behind Studley, Rocco vaulted from fourth place to the lead.
On lap 28, contact between Dowling and Rocco sent Rocco out of the lead and up the track in turn two. Rocco fell back to fifth and Owen was able to make the move to lead past Dowling.
“I was leading the race and I know everybody wants to win, but that almost cost us big,” Rocco said.
Said Dowling: “I started 12th, I got to the front, we had a green flag run and we were catching him so we were faster than him. He’s running against the wall the whole race, all the way up behind the momentum line. I showed a nose and he put me down on the apron. So I wasn’t going to let it happen. So I just throttled up a little bit and we made contact and he went up toward the wall. His car is one piece, my car is one piece. He’s got a mature group of guys giving me the finger and stuff. It’s all good.”
Said Owen: “Just hard racing I guess. I don’t know if that went back to Stafford. It was definitely hard racing. I don’t think I’d want to be the one in the middle of the fire there.”
Caution flew for the stopped car of Troy Talman on lap 29, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.
On the restart Owen was able to hold off Dowling, with Rocco clawing back to third place.
“To be honest, I figured that Dowling would probably try to clean out Owen too,” Rocco said. “But he didn’t. So, we just knew we had to stay where we were. … That was it.”
It was the second victory of the season at Thompson for Owen.
Todd Owen celebrates victory in the SK Modified feature Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway
“We definitely can’t be disappointed,” Owen said. “I went into today know we had to win the race and whatever happened would happen. For next even expecting to be here, it’s pretty cool. We were fast. We won that race because we were fast, not because it was just luck.”
It was the second consecutive championship at Thompson for Rocco and his sixth overall. It was his 15th NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship overall between Thompson, Stafford Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, which ties him for second all-time in Division I track championships in NASCAR history.
“They keep getting harder and harder,” Rocco said. “And with about two laps to go we really had to put on our game fact and get after it.”
Rocco is looking to become the first driver to win SK Modified championships at all three Connecticut short tracks in the same season. He will take the points lead into the final event at the Speedbowl next week. Because the Speedbowl is not a NASCAR sanctioned facility a possible title there would not count toward his Whelen All-American Series championship totals.
“We’ve still got one to go,” Rocco said. “Anything can happen. We saw what happened today and how close it came. Like I keep saying, you just need a little luck on your side and be on your game.”
October 4th, 2017
Destined: Keith Rocco Wins SK Mod Race, Title At Stafford Speedway
A www.racedayct.com article
STAFFORD – Keith Rocco climbed from his SK Modified in victory lane at Stafford Motor Speedway Sunday and the emotion began flowing immediately.
In the days leading up to Sunday’s final SK Modified event of the season at the NAPA Fall Final at Stafford Speedway, Rocco emphasized that he was coming to the track on a focused mission to win the division championship in memory of his mentor, competitor and friend Ted Christopher.
Sunday he completed that mission.
Christopher, the all-time winningest driver at Stafford Motor Speedway, was killed in a plane crash on Sept. 16.
After seeing Christopher’s No. 13 retired to start the day at the track, Rocco won the 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature Sunday to capture his third career championship in the division at Stafford.
“This is …, this is a tough one,” Rocco said, his voice cracking with emotion immediately following the race. “This is for the whole Christopher family. The team. They’re all back here behind me. I just, I wish it was different.”
Chase Dowling of Roxbury, Rocco’s closest competition for the championship, was second. Todd Owen of Somers third.
On Sept. 22, in the first event at Stafford following Christopher’s death, Rocco won the SK Modified feature. With Dowling involved in a crash that evening, Rocco’s first victory of the season that night erased a 34-point advantage in the standings for Dowling and put Rocco ahead of him by four points going into the season finale.
With Dowling holding the tie-breaker against Rocco, it meant Rocco had to either beat Dowling or finish no worse than one spot behind him in the feature to win the title.
Prior to the start of the race the 24-car field ran three-wide pace laps in honor of Christopher while fans held up one finger on one hand and three on the other.
Fans at Stafford Speedway salute Ted Christopher as the SK Modified field runs three-wide pace laps prior to their feature Sunday at the NAPA Fall Final
Early in the event Dowling got by Rocco, but on lap nine Dowling was involved in a turn four crash that nearly also collected Rocco.
“I didn’t really have any expectations,” Rocco said. “I just knew that we had a car that was capable of winning the race. It was pretty frustrating in the beginning of the race. It was two-by-two and [Dowling] got by us. … Just never did I even want him ahead of me, so that was pretty frustrating. He got tangled up and we just squeaked through and from there on out, once it singled out, I knew we had a car that was capable of driving to the front.”
Rocco took the lead from Ronnie Williams on lap 20 and never trailed again. Dowling clawed back through the field, but never was able to mount a challenge on Rocco in the closing laps.
“We got caught up in that wreck,” Dowling said. “We were going to the front. I thought we were in good shape. … The whole front of the car is torn apart. But these guys gave me a great car. It takes a lot to go to the back of the field and come back to the front.”
Rocco, who had SK Modified championships at Stafford in 2008 and 2010, spent much of his teen years as a crew member for Christopher before getting his shot to race against him. Rocco said the championship played out just as Christopher would have wanted it.
“One thing about me and Ted, there was never any jealousy between us,” Rocco said. “If I couldn’t win I wanted him to win and if he couldn’t win it was the other way around. We laughed and joked about it.
“Ted’s whole team, they were all here, I tried to drag all of them in the picture with us because I feel like they’re part of me team today. I feel like they came here to cheer me on.”