WATERFORD – Keith Rocco is like a stingy virus to the competition in the SK Modified field at the Waterford Speedbowl.
When the competition thinks they’ve shook him, he just keeps coming back and knocking them down again and again.
And that was the case once again Saturday at the Speedbowl.
After a massive crash in his heat race that forced him to a backup car, Rocco started deep in the field, rallied from an early race incident and won the 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature Saturday at the Waterford Speedbowl.
“I’ve got an awesome team behind me,” Rocco said. “Nights like this are the one’s you really enjoy because you’ve really got to work for them. Just when you think they’ve got you beat you pull something like that out of your hat. It’s awesome.”
It was the second victory in four SK Modified features at Waterford this year. Rocco, of Wallingford, has finished second in the other two races this year.
Tim Jordan of Plainfield was second and Kyle James of Ashaway, R.I.
After getting wrecked in the heat race, Rocco’s father Ronnie went to Wallingford to get the car the team runs regularly at Thompson Speedway.
“Last time that car ran was the Icebreaker [at Thompson on April 6],” Rocco said. “Granted we won [the feature at Thompson], but I haven’t touched [the car] since the Icebreaker. My father went and got it, we had to finish bolting the shocks back on it and ran it the way it was. Everybody was like, ‘Do you want to change the gear? Let’s change the rear end.’ I was like, ‘It’s not even worth it.’ To win with gears like that in that car, I’m just pretty shocked myself.
“My father made some record time going to get this car and getting back. If it wasn’t for my father I wouldn’t be in victory lane. He was the one that said ‘Go get that car.’”
Rocco started 20th and was working his way quickly through the field before being forced to the pits with 27 laps remaining to make repairs after being involved in an accident. He came back on track and fired back through the field again.
Jordan went by Joe Gada for the lead on the fourth lap. By lap 20 Rocco was haunting the leaders again.
Rocco went by Diego Monahan for second on a restart with 16 laps remaining, but lost second place to James with six laps remaining. On a restart with five laps left, Rocco went under James for second place and a lap later he went under Jordan for the lead heading into turn one.
“Timmy was using up a lot of racetrack,” Rocco said. “I was really trying to go to the top. I was trying to work him over very clean and he wasn’t giving me much room on the top. Kyle James just got the nose in there [with six laps left]. The only shot I had was that [last] restart and I just had to make it work. Good side-by-side racing though.”
Jordan, a former Late Model champion at Waterford in his first season running full-time in the SK Modified division had his best finish in the division.
“We lost so it wasn’t good obviously,” Jordan said. “It’s kind of embarrassing, we should run better than this.”
James said mechanical issues with his car before the final restart took away any opportunity he had to challenge for the victory.
“We had a real good car,” James said. “I thought we were going to have something there for Timmy. But before went green [on the last restart] I went to heat the tires up and something broke in right front caliper. We had no brakes on that last run. But it was fun watching them battle. We’ll take a third. We’ve had nothing but bad luck to start the season. This is what we needed.”