WATERFORD – Keith Rocco has run out of championship fingers at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Rocco came out on top of a late race shootout with Jason Palmer to win the 30-lap Late Model feature Saturday at the Bemers Big Show at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.
Victory lane also proved to be the site for Rocco to celebrate his third Late Model division championship for Rocco.
Palmer, of Berlin, was second and Ray Christian III of Uncasville third.
Rocco was far enough ahead in the standings coming into the day that he clinched his third Late Model title in the last four years by simply taking the green flag for the event.
It marked Rocco’s 10th championship overall at the Speedbowl, a track where he is the all-time winningest driver. Rocco celebrated his sixth SK Modified division title at the track in that division’s final event Sunday. He also has a Limited Sportsman division title.
He won his first two Late Model division titles driving for car owner Scott Fearn. Saturday’s marked his first driving for car owners Mike and Beth Sullivan.
“If you have all the right pieces of the puzzle you can make it work,” Rocco said. “We had all the right pieces, we just had to figure it out. Not every car is the same, not every car wants the same thing. But I’m real happy for Mike and Beth. I’m glad I could seal the deal and get them a championship. They work real hard and spend a lot of money and a lot of time on this.”
And there was no waltzing to the title for Rocco Saturday.
Rocco went by Christian for the lead three laps into the event. With 13 laps remaining Palmer moved past Christian into second place.
On a restart with three laps remaining Palmer stayed to Rocco’s outside and led by inches at the white flag, but the caution came back out again before the checkered.
On the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish it was Rocco holding the spot before the caution flew once again just after the white flag.
Rocco chose to restart on the outside on the final restart and was able to hold off Palmer’s charges on the final dash to the finish.
“Last night was [Palmer’s] Jack and Jill and we partied together until about 1:30 in the morning,” Rocco said. “To be able to come out here today … and race for the win, that was a lot of fun.”
Said Palmer: “The top was incredible. It was like glue out there. The bottom was good but the top was better.”