Tag Archives: Keith Rocco

Keith Rocco Looks To Seal Eighth Thompson Sunoco Modified Title at Sunoco World Series

By Kyle Souza, Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park 

Tom Morris/Myracewnews photo

THOMPSON, Conn. — Twelve years ago, Keith Rocco hoisted his first championship trophy in the Sunoco Modified division at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. 

At the time, it’s hard to think the Berlin, Connecticut, driver knew the title run would begin a stretch of dominance at TSMP. Over the last 12 years, Rocco has seven championships in the division, including the last three – and he is in position to clinch another as the 57th annual Sunoco World Series — October 11-13 – draws closer. 

He leads Woody Pitkat by 40 points heading into the finale, which is a lead he should be more than comfortable with. Thompson competitors earn 50 points for winning a feature race, while each position down through the field earns two less, meaning second earns 48, third receives 46, etc. In heat races, the winner earns five points, with a one-point drop throughout the top five, with fifth earning just one. Pitkat would need Rocco to have a major stumble to have a shot. 

How is Rocco able to have this success every single year? 

“It’s just a passion for racing. If anything, things seem to get easier with the amount of years that we have run. It isn’t as stressful as it was in the beginning, when I was trying to get those first championships,” Rocco said. “But the competition is definitely the fiercest it has been in the last couple of years.” 

With 48 different drivers taking a green flag in Sunoco Modified racing so far this season, the competition level has spiked, and Rocco has some stiff contenders to pick up feature wins. But that hasn’t slowed him down. Rocco has four wins in the races to date, which puts him tied with Ronnie Williams for the most in the division. Pitkat has two wins, and the three of them have combined to score 10. 

“From the first day I went to race Thompson, Woody has been there. We’ve raced a long time and we race really well together,” Rocco said. “Woody is in pristine equipment this year and it’s definitely stepped up his program.” 

In the familiar black and orange No. 57, Rocco competes for the Pane family. The success they are having together shows how strong the chemistry is. 

“The thing about racing with the Pane family that separates them from the average team, we ended up getting together, I got a call with an offer for a car and he knew I had a shot at a NASCAR national title,” Rocco said. “We started working together and we had a few different crew chiefs, and when we really started having a lot of success, he encouraged me and told me I knew these cars better than anyone else. They really backed me to do things how I want to do it and I think that’s what separates us from everyone else. They put all of their trust in me.” 

On the stats front, his eighth track title would be his 17th overall NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I track championship. Rocco also has six championships to his credit under the NASCAR sanction at New London-Waterford Speedbowl, and three at Stafford Motor Speedway. Before the World Series ever takes the green flag, Rocco could increase his number by one.  

He trails Ronnie Williams and Todd Owen in the Stafford championship battle, and he’s just 16 points from the top. If he can win at least one between the two tracks, he will tie Joe Kosiski for the most Division I track titles in NASCAR history. If he can win both, he will make the record his own. 

On the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship front, Rocco finished fifth this season, just 18 points from the top. He did win the national title back in 2010, but his competition for the crown includes drivers who compete at three tracks down south. Rocco only competes at two in New England. 

“I haven’t looked as those standings all year, we just go out and do our thing,” Rocco said. “It’s not something I can change because we are limited to two tracks, and it’s tough racing against guys down south. I’m happy to be up there again. I’m also extremely happy to be able to get a National Title back in 2010– that was a perfect season for us – and I’m not sure if anyone in New England will ever have the chance do that again. There are so many different drivers that win up here, and it’s hard to dominate like that.” 

For now, Rocco will shift his focus on capturing the title at Stafford Motor Speedway at their Fall Final on Sunday, September 29. After that, all eyes will turn towards the 57th annual Sunoco World Series at Thompson, October 11-13, where the division will open Sunday festivities with a 30-lap feature. 

“We’ll go out there and try to win the race like we always do,” Rocco said. “To me, it’s just another number (the eighth title). I’ve always gone to Thompson to win races and it’s always been my type of racetrack. It’s fast, and the way you drive it down in the corner, the adrenaline is a real rush because of the high speeds.” 

The 57th annual Sunoco World Series will take the green flag on Friday, October 11, and roll through Sunday, October 13. The event begins on Friday, with practice sessions running throughout the afternoon, and qualifying heat racing set to begin at approximately 4:30 p.m. Feature racing on Friday includes the Granite State Pro Stock Series, Late Models, Open Vintage Modifieds and Senior Tour Auto Racers. 

Saturday, action begins early with practice at 9 a.m., while qualifying racing begins at 2:30 p.m. There are 10 different feature races planned for Saturday night. Sunday, action begins at 1 p.m., with the season-finale for Thompson’s Sunoco Modified division. The NEMA Lites, ISMA Supermodifieds and TSMP Limited Sportsman will also join the headliner of Sunday — the Sunoco World Series 150 for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. 

Admission to the paddock area for the entire three days is $75, with grandstand general admission set at $55. Any seniors (65+), veterans and active military will have general admission tickets priced at $50, while kids 12 and under are free in general admission.  

Thompson’s annual breakfast and dinner buffets will also take place during Sunoco World Series weekend. The breakfast buffet runs from 7-11 a.m. on both Saturday and Sunday and is $14 per person. The dinner buffet runs from 5-11 p.m. on Saturday night only and is $24 per person. For any children 12 and under, the dinner buffet is $14.  

For more information on Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, fans should visit the track on the web, www.thompsonspeedway.com and follow the track on social media via Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. 

Stafford Speedway SK Modified® Title Race Comes Down to Final 2 Races

Tom Morris/Myracenews photos

(Stafford Springs, CT)—Heading into the final 2 races of the 2019 SK Modified® season at Stafford Speedway, defending track champion Ronnie Williams holds an 8-point lead over Todd Owen, a 14 point lead over Keith Rocco and a 34 point lead over Michael Gervais, Jr.  The tight points race is reminiscent of the 2017 and 2015 seasons. In 2017 Keith Rocco came from 20 points back over the final 2 races to claim the title over Chase Dowling while in 2015 Rowan Pennink  outlasted current NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series driver Ryan Preece in a tight race for the title.

The 2019 season kicked off with Rocco winning the first race of 2019 but a DNF and a 25th place finish in the second race of the year left Rocco in hole that he is still trying to dig out of.  Gervais took over the points lead after that second race and he held the lead until June 21 when Owen took over the point lead.  Owen led the points from June 21 through August 9, when a first lap wreck combined with a Williams win, erased Owen’s 42 point advantage and left the two drivers tied for the lead in the standings.  Williams and Rocco have each won twice in the four SK Modified® races since August 9th, setting up a 2-race sprint to the finish line to see who will become the 2019 SK Modified® champion.

“We started off kind of slow and it was right around the midpoint of the season that we got back into our groove and we’ve been real consistent and got some wins,” said Williams, the driver of the #50 Les’s Auto Center Ford.  “I always knew if we could be consistent and get some wins that we’d at least be in the hunt for another championship.  I think we’re in a good spot right now and of course last year was better since we had a 66-point lead.  It should be a nice tight battle with Keith [Rocco] and [Todd] Owen.  We’re not going to change anything or go into the last 2 races with a different mindset than we’ve done all season long.  We have to compete and the rest will take care of itself.  Anything can happen in these last 2 races.  It’s great to be in front like we are now but we all know that just one mistake could cost us the championship and it’s the same for the other guys.”

“I’m going do what I’ve been doing all year long and try to win the last two races and hope for the best,” said Owen, driver of the #81 Cooker Construction Chevrolet.  “No matter the outcome, we’ve had an awesome year.  It’s pretty crazy that top-3 in the SK Modified® points standings are all in the top-10 in the national points, so we’re all having awesome seasons.”

“DNF’s have killed us this year,” said Rocco, driver of the #88 Wheelers Auto Chevrolet.  “We won the first race and then in the second race we got caught up in a wreck and were one of the first cars out of the race that night.  We’ve been playing catch-up all year long and the last time we got close to the lead we ended up in a wreck again, so it’s been that kind of year.  We have a fast car and we’re looking to win the last couple races.  The thing we have going for us is that we have nothing to lose and the other guys do.  There’s nothing left on the table, it’s all going to be hanging out these last 2 races.”

The dark horse in the SK Modified® championship race would be Gervais.  The driver of the #33 Gervais Brothers Roofing Chevrolet won the 2009 SK Light championship at Stafford without winning a race that season and although he is 34 points or 17 positions on the track behind the leader that deficit can be erased in one night.

“Our plan is to try to finish up front these last 2 races,” said Gervais.  “We’ve had a really good car the last couple of weeks so we want to continue what we’ve been doing.  We started off the year really good with a couple of second place finishes and were sitting up front for a while, but some of the other guys were just a little bit better than we were and that’s how the lead slipped away from us.  We’ve been able to stay right there with those guys all season so it’s been an awesome year for sure.  I’ve never won a Spring Sizzler or Fall Final race so I’d love to win the Fall Final this season but we’d definitely take a win this Friday night as well.  We know we can win a championship without winning a race and anything can happen in these last 2 races.  Either way we’re all very happy with what we’ve accomplished this season.”

The race for the SK Modified® championship resumes this Friday, September 13 as part of First Responder Night at Stafford.  All first responders with proper I.D. will get a general admission ticket for only $10.  Regular tickets are priced at $20 for Adult General Admission, $5 for kids 6-14 and kids 5 & under are free.  Reserved seating is $23 for all ages. 

The SK Modified® champion will be determined at the season ending NAPA Fall Final on September 28-29.  Tickets for the NAPA Auto Parts Fall Final Weekend are priced at $40.00 for adult general admission tickets, $10.00 for children ages 6-14, and children ages 5 and under are admitted free of charge when accompanied by an adult. Reserved seating is priced at $45.00 for all ages. All NAPA Fall Final tickets are good for admission on both Saturday and Sunday.  Discount tickets for the NAPA Fall Final Weekend are available at your local participating NAPA Auto Parts Store.  The NAPA tickets include general admission for both days along with a lunch buffet on Sunday, all for only $38 per person.  For a list of participating NAPA Stores, please click the PARTICIPATING NAPA STORES link found at the top of the www.staffordspeedway.com homepage.  All ticket prices include 10% CT Admission Tax. 

For more information, visit StaffordSpeedway.com, checkout Stafford Speedway on Facebook or Twitter, or contact the track office at 860-684-2783.

Rocco, Leary, Narducci, Provost, & Bessette Score Lincoln Tech VRMS 80 Feature Wins at Stafford Speedway

Tom Morris/Myracenews photos

(Stafford Springs, CT)—Stafford Speedway returned to NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing action on Friday, August 30th with the Valenti Modified Racing Series in the house for the Lincoln Tech VMRS 80.  Keith Rocco was a winner for the second consecutive week in the SK Modified® feature, Tyler Leary won for the first time in nearly 2 years in the Late Model feature, Bryan Narducci scored his second consecutive and eighth overall feature win of the 2019 season in the SK Light feature, Duane Provost secured his second win of 2019 in the Limited Late Model feature, and George Bessette, Jr. took down his second consecutive and fourth overall win of 2019 in the Street Stock feature.

In the 40-lap SK Modified® feature event, Troy Talman took the early lead with Joey Cipriano applying heavy pressure in second.  Tyler Hines was third with Cory DiMatteo fourth and Glen Reen fifth.  Hines got into the back of Cipriano on lap-5 with Cipriano recovering in 14th place.  Talman still held the lead with Hines now in second, DiMatteo third, Reen fourth and Andrew Molleur fifth. 

Todd Owen got around Molleur for fifth on lap-7 with Michael Gervais, Jr. in sixth.  Gervais took fifth from Owen on lap-10 and Hines was given the black flag for making contact with Cipriano.  This put DiMatteo into second with Reen third, Keith Rocco fourth and Gervais fifth as Talman was still in the lead on lap-14.  Reen got around DiMatteo to take over second on lap-15 but DiMatteo came right back and nearly retook the spot on lap-17.  DiMatteo continued to look high and low for a way around Reen while Rocco and Gervais were closing in and Talman was still in the lead.  DiMatteo made a pass stick on lap-20 to move back into second and drop Reen to third. 

With DiMatteo now in second, he was slowly starting to eat into Talman’s lead with Reen and Rocco right behind him.  Ronnie Williams and Owen were waging a thrilling side by side duel for sixth place with Williams taking sixth on lap-26.

With 10 laps to go, DiMatteo had closed the gap to Talman and was right on his back bumper.  Rocco and Reen weren’t far behind in third and fourth and DiMatteo took the lead from Talman on lap-32 with a pass coming out of turn 2.  DiMatteo’s pass for the lead allowed Rocco and Reen to close right up to the back bumper of Talman and Rocco took second on lap-33 with Reen taking third as Talman fell back to fourth. 

Rocco took to the outside lane and ran side by side with DiMatteo for lap-36 before falling back into line.  Rocco again went to the outside of DiMatteo on lap-38 and the two were virtually even at the line.  The three leaders touched going down the backstretch with DiMatteo spinning and Reen hitting the wall to bring the caution out with 38 laps complete.  Rocco brushed against the wall as he had white stripes all around his right side tires but he stayed on track in the lead for the restart.  Williams was now second for the restart with Gervais and Talman in the second row.

Rocco took the lead with Williams right behind him in second.  Williams couldn’t get close enough to Rocco on the final lap to make a move as Rocco took down his second consecutive win and fifth overall of the 2019 season.  Gervais finished third with Owen and Talman rounding out the top-5.

In the 30-lap Late Model feature event, Tyler Leary took the lead at the drop of the green with Richard Ciriello in second.  Michael Bennett held off Al Saunders for third with Michael Wray and Cliff Saunders side by side for fifth place.  Tom Fearn and Ryan Fearn were slicing their way through traffic in the early going and with Wray taking third on lap-4, Tom Fearn took fourth from Bennett and Ryan Fearn took fifth on lap-5 as Bennett slid back to sixth in line. 

Wray got by Ciriello to move into second on lap-6 and his move opened the door for Tom Fearn, Ryan Fearn, Al Saunders, Kevin Gambacorta, Wray, and Bennett to all get by Ciriello as he fell back to outside the top-10.  Leary had built up a large lead of almost a full straightaway over Wray and Tom Fearn.

Tom Fearn took second from Wray on lap-9 and Ryan Fearn followed him through to take third and drop Wray back to fourth in line.  At the halfway point of the race, Leary still held nearly a full straightway lead over Tom and Ryan Fearn with Wray fourth and Gambacorta fifth in line.  Al Saunders was sixth followed by Wayne Coury, Jr., Cliff Saunders, Bennett, and Dave Wray.  Bennett’s car began to drop off the pace on lap-19 and he brought his car to pit road on lap-20 where his team went under the hood. 

With 5 laps to go, Leary was still out front by a wide margin with Tom and Ryan Fearn still in second and third.  Gambacorta was fourth in line with Coury up to fifth.  Leary led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his first win of the 2019 season in dominating fashion.  Tom Fearn finished second with Ryan Fearn, Gambacorta, and Coury rounding out the top-5.

In the 20-lap SK Light feature event, Joey Ferrigno took the lead at the green and he led the first lap before Chris Matthews went to the front on lap-2.  Teddy Hodgdon followed Matthews by Ferrigno to move into second with Amanda West taking third, Alexander Pearl fourth, and Mark Bakaj fifth as Ferrigno slid back to sixth in line.  The caution came out with 3 laps complete for a multicar incident in turn 2 that involved the cars of Ed Chicoski, Glenn Bartkowski, and Sami Anderson.

Matthews and Hodgdon were side by side for the lead back under green with Pearl in third.  West and Bob Charland were side by side for fourth.  Hodgdon got clear to the lead on lap-6 with Matthews and Pearl now side by side for second while West and Charland were still side by side for fourth place.  Pearl took second from Matthews with Charland getting the better of the duel with West for fourth.  The caution came back out for debris on the frontstretch with 10 laps complete.

Hodgdon and Pearl were side by side for the lead but the caution came back out with 11 laps compete as Norm Sears, Robert Bloxsom, III, Glenn Griswold, and Ethan Durocher all spun on the frontstretch.

Matthews and Hodgdon were side by side for the lead with Narducci and Pearl side by side for third on the restart before Narducci went 3-wide with Hodgdon and Matthews before backing out and settling back in to second alongside Matthews as Hodgdon got clear to the lead. 

Narducci made a move to the inside of Hodgdon on lap-15 to take over the lad.  Hodgdon spun on lap-16 going down the backstretch and rejoined at the rear of the field as the race stayed green.  Matthews was now second with Pearl third, Charland fourth and Wesley Prucker fifth as Narducci started to stretch out his lead.  Narducci led the field to the checkered flag to pick up his eighth win of the 2019 season.  Matthews finished second with Pearl, Charland, and Prucker rounding out the top-5.

In the 15-lap Limited Late Model feature event, Gary Patnode led the first lap before giving way to Duane Provost, who took the lead on lap-2.  Jeremy Lavoie pulled alongside Provost on lap-4 for the lead and the two cars ran side by side for two laps before the caution came out with 5 laps complete as Alexandra Fearn slid into the turn 4 wall with a flat right front tire.

Lavoie and Provost resumed their side by side duel for the lead on the restart with Patnode in third.  Matt Clement was fourth and Devon Jencik was fifth in line.  Lavoie got clear to the lead on lap-8 with Patnode now side by side with Provost for second place with Clement right behind them.  The caution came out with 8 laps complete for a spin in turn 2 by Kevin Crosby.

Lavoie took the lead on the restart with Provost slotting into second.  Clement took third with Patnode fourth and Dave Gargaro, Jr. up to fifth.  Provost made a move to the inside of Provost on lap-12 and he took the lead on lap-13.  Clement was right behind Lavoie in third to form a 3-car train for the lead.  Provost led Lavoie and Clement to the checkered flag to pick up his second win of the 2019 season.  Patnode finished fourth with Gargaro rounding out the top-5.

In the 20-lap Street Stock feature event, Marvin Minkler led the first lap before Tyler Trott went to the lead on lap-2.  Zack Robinson took second with Meghan Fuller third, George Bessette, Jr. fourth, and Adrien Paradis, III fifth as Minkler fell all the way back to ninth place. 

Bessette made a move to the inside of Fuller on lap-6 and he was able to complete the pass on lap-7.  Bessette then took the lead from Trott on lap-12 before the caution came out for a spin by Fuller in turn 3 that collected the car of Paradis. 

Bessette took the lead on the restart with Robinson right on his back bumper in second.  Paradis was third in line with Travis Hydar taking fourth from Trott on lap-15.  Nicole Chambrello spun on the frontstretch to bring the caution back out with 15 laps complete.

Bessette took the lead back under green with Robinson still glued to his back bumper in second.  Hydar took third from Paradis on lap-18 with Trott and Fuller side by side for fifth.  Fuller took fifth on lap-19 but no one could catch Bessette as he took down his second consecutive and fourth overall feature win of the 2019 season.  Robinson finished second with Hydar, Paradis, and Fuller rounding out the top-5.

For more information contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at (860) 684-2783, or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.

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SK MODIFIED® (40)

1) Keith Rocco, Berlin

2) Ronnie Williams, Tolland

3) Michael Gervais, Jr., Wolcott

4) Todd Owen, Somers

5) Troy Talman, Oxford, MA

6) David Arute, Stafford Springs

7) Tony Membrino, Jr., Berlin

8) Joey Cipriano, Waterbury

9) Michael Christopher, Jr., Wolcott

10) Todd Patnode, Swanzey, NH

11) Andrew Molleur, Shelton

12) Tyler Leary, Hatfield, MA

13) Ed Spiers, Beacon Falls

14) Tyler Hines, North Haven

15) John Catania, Agawam, MA

16) Anthony Nocella, Woburn, MA

17) Cory DiMatteo, Farmington

18) Glen Reen, Wilbraham, MA

19) Stephen Kopcik, Newtown

20) Marcello Rufrano, North Haven

21) Dan Avery, Somers

LATE MODEL (30)

1) Tyler Leary, Hatfield, MA

2) Tom Fearn, East Longmeadow, MA

3) Ryan Fearn, East Longmeadow, MA

4) Kevin Gambacorta, Ellington

5) Wayne Coury, Jr., Fairfield

6) Michael Wray, Northford

7) Cliff Saunders, Stafford

8) Al Saunders, Stafford

9) Paul Arute, Northridge, MA

10) Dave Wray, Durham

11) Andy Marchese, Tolland

12) Richard Ciriello, Reading, MA

13) Greg DeMone, Ludlow, MA

14) Paul Varricchio, Jr., Berlin

15) Scott Bouley, Thomaston

16) Michael Bennett, Willington

17) Gary Theriault, Enfield

SK LIGHT MODIFIED (20)

1) Bryan Narducci, Colchester

2) Chris Matthews, Stafford

3) Alexander Pearl, Salem

4) Bob Charland, Stafford

5) Wesley Prucker, Stafford

6) Noah Korner, Canton

7) Steven Chapman, Ellington

8) Brian Sullivan, South Windsor

9) Jonathan Puleo, Branford

10) Nick Anglace, Oxford

11) Andrew Les, New York, NY

12) Teddy Hodgdon, Danbury

13) Norm Sears, Andover

14) Alina Bryden, West Springfield, MA

15) Joey Ferrigno, East Hartford

16) Rit Dulac, Plantsville

17) Todd Clark, Bristol

18) Amanda West, Colchester

19) Robert Bloxsom, III, Stratford

20) Glenn Griswold, Vernon

21) Ethan Durocher, Canterbury

22) Paul French, Andover

23) Ed Chicoski, New Hartford

24) Mark Bakaj, Lebanon

25) Sami Anderson, Wolcott

26) Glenn Bartkowski, Manchester

LIMITED LATE MODEL (15)

1) Duane Provost, Palmer, MA

2) Jeremy Lavoie, Windsor Locks

3) Matt Clement, Wethersfield

4) Gary Patnode, Barkhamsted

5) David Gargaro Jr., Cranston, RI

6) Devon Jencik, Canton

7) Kevin Crosby, Coventry

8) Alexandra Fearn, East Longmeadow, MA

STREET STOCK (20)

1) George Bessette, Jr., Danbury

2) Zack Robinson, Putnam

3) Travis Hydar, Woodbury

4) Adrien Paradis, III, Plainville

5) Meghan Fuller, Auburn, MA

6) Tyler Trott, East Hartford

7) Marvin Minkler, Stamford

8) Dave Secore, Jr., Union

9) Bobby Stirk, III, Naugatuck

10) George Yuska, S. Glastonbury

11) Chris Danielczuk, Goshen

12) Paul Bourdon, Jr., Jewett City

13) Chris Ciriello, Beacon Falls

14) Nicole Chambrello, Kensington