By Shawn Courchesne
LOUDON, N.H. – It’s the track on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour that most accentuates the fundament feeling many around Modified have about Wallingford’s Keith Rocco.
Many in Southern New England racing circles characterize Rocco as a short track, sprint race specialist who might not have what it takes in events that demand patience.
This weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Rocco is out to prove the naysayers wrong.
Rocco will be making his third appearance in a series points event at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Saturday’s Andy Blacksmith 100. He will also compete in Friday’s 35-lap Whelen All-Star Showdown for the Whelen Modified Tour.
Rocco made his Whelen Modified Tour debut on Sept. 19, 2009 driving for car owner Ed Partridge’s TS Haulers team. He qualified third and finished 33rd in that event. He made his second and most recent series start at the track on July 14, 2012, qualifying sixth and finishing 22nd for Boehler Racing Enterprises.
This weekend Rocco is at the track with Our Motorsports, readying to make his sixth start for the team this year. Rocco replaced Tommy Barrett Jr. in the Our Motorsports ride in April after Barrett was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Willimantic on April 17.
“Anytime you go to New Hampshire it’s very fun,” Rocco said. “It’s an awesome racetrack. A fast racetrack. The fans love it, the drivers love it. I’m looking very forward to it. We were able to go up there and test and try some stuff and I think we learned some stuff that’s going to help us not only there but at some other tracks. The team is a great team and they’re great to work with. They’re all classy people.
“Every time I’ve been there I had a fast car. We’re always up front and fast. We just never got the breaks we needed.”
Rocco doesn’t worry about those who say he doesn’t have the makeup needed to be successful on the Whelen Modified Tour. He has three top-10 finishes in the last four events.
“As far as the short track patience, that doesn’t faze me. People say I have an [SK Modified] mentality and I’m going to burn the thing up. It’s not that I burn things up. We haven’t had the greatest car the last few races. Every race we’re getting better and better and the team is progressing which is awesome. We’ve got to find a package that works for me and works for [crew chief Brad Lafontaine]. We’ve been doing that.”
Rocco was third fastest with his primary car during Friday’s two-hour practice session in preparation for the Whelen All-Star Showdown later in the day and Saturday’s Andy Blacksmith 100.
He was also sixth fastest practicing the Our Motorsports entry that Todd Szegedy will race in the All-Star Showdown.
“It was pretty good,” Rocco said. “The [primary] car was pretty quick right off the truck so we tried to work with the [Szegedy] car a little bit to get it good … for the All-Star race. It’s a little tough bouncing back and forth, but I think we ended up good. They were both fast. It’s tough when you’ve got two cars to work on and everybody is scrambling so it was a good job.”