Closure: Ted Christopher Protégé Keith Rocco Wins SK Modified Feature At Stafford

Keith Rocco (right) celebrates winning Friday’s SK Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway with Mike Christopher Jr.

STAFFORD – Ted Christopher was the undisputed, unchallenged king of the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Friday at Stafford Christopher was awarded his final checkered flag in the division.

And in almost perfectly fated fashion, Christopher’s former crew member, protégé and close friend Keith Rocco scored the victory in what proved to be a 39-lap feature for him.

“I just knew I had to come here to win,” Rocco said.

Stafford Speedway’s regular 40-lap SK Modified feature was shortened by one lap Friday. After 39 laps the field pulled off the track and went to the pits as announcers called a final lap between Christopher and Rocco. On the scoreboard Christopher’s No. 13 was lit alone in the first place spot with the board showing 40 laps completed with a checkered flag flying for Christopher.

Victory lane was left empty on the track. Rocco celebrated on the midway with fans. He draped a Ted Christopher flag over his car and was met by Christopher’s nephew, Mike Christopher Jr.

An emotional Keith Rocco stands at the back of his SK Modified after draping a Ted Christopher flag on it

“I just had that feeling today, you know what I mean,” said Rocco, who worked on Christopher’s crew for much of his teen years. “You know, sometime you’ve got to take the black car out to be like Ted. We took the black car out tonight. We were on a mission. I had a mindset tonight that I was winning the race … I didn’t care if I had to ship somebody out of the way on the last lap. I don’t know.”

It was Rocco’s first SK Modified win at Stafford in 2017.

Christopher was killed in a plane crash Saturday in Guilford.

Christopher, 59, was the all-time winningest driver at Stafford with 131 career victories, including 109 in the SK Modified division. Around Stafford Speedway he was known as The King.

This season at Stafford Christopher had a division leading six victories in the SK Modified division. He finished fourth in the SK Modified feature in his final start at the track on Sept. 15.

The race began with a missing man formation and the pole position on the field left empty representing Christopher starting in the spot.

Keith Rocco embraces Stafford Motor Speedway general manager Mark Arute after winning Friday’s SK Modified feature

On lap 13 fans in the grandstands stood holding up one finger on one hand and three on the other for Christopher with announcers going silent.

Ronnie Williams went by Tony Membrino Jr. for the lead on lap 13. Rocco moved to second on lap 16 then went by Williams for the lead on lap 18. He never trailed again.

With two events remaining this season, Rocco came into the night third place in the standings, 34 points behind leader Chase Dowling, who was involved in an accident and finished 20th. Rocco jumped to the points lead, four points ahead of Dowling heading into the final event of the season at the NAPA Fall Final on Oct. 1.

“If Ted ever owed me anything he paid the favor today,” Rocco said. “Ted is up there laughing, staring down.”

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Comments

  1. Rhea LeVasseur says:

    Congrats Keith

  2. Wish I could have been there. Hearing that last lap call must have been very emotional for all. Hard not to feel that way just trying to read about it.

  3. A fitting tribute to a legend…..having the opportunity competing against him from the beginning of his career for the competitive side to the rough side, he truly will be missed.
    A ending that will forever be etched in memories…the last time I can recall this being done was for another champion, “Fred DeSarro” at the Thompson Speedway for benefit race in fall of 1978. Geoff Bodine brought field to infield on last lap.
    Ted…….Thanks for the memories………

  4. Great job Keith! What an awesome tribute to The Man!! TC13

  5. Ray Skoglund says:

    This was just ment to be
    And Keith’s dad’s number was 13

  6. Christopher F says:

    Just a great job by all. Things at the track will never be the same. Great job Kid!!!! RIPTC#13!!!!!

  7. FYI:

    http://www.vintagemodifieds.com/ronnie_rocco/
    Found these pictures of Keith’s dad on the Vintage Modified Photo Gallery site

    Is it OK to post this here?

  8. I really am not a fan of Keith or even Teddy but I Tipp my hat to him, that was great and pure genuine.

  9. Shawn,
    If my previous post is not, in your opinion, suitable for this thread, delete it. I was just trying to show the pics of Ronnie Rocco’s 13 – BUT – I could live with your choice of “it doesn’t belong here”
    You have done an AWESOME job with the Ted Christopher tributes – WTG!
    Bill

  10. Bill,
    It’s fine, just catching up with approvals.

  11. Terrific job by Stafford Speedway! A great tribute to TC to have the drivers pull off at lap 39, and they couldn’t have picked a better song than the Frank Sinatra classic My Way to play at the end.

    Congrats to Keith Rocco, what determination and focus. In looking at lap times, Rocco ran the fastest 10 laps of the race. Lap 17 was a 19.163…. then 9 more before getting to the 31 of Kopcik who ran a 19.277.

  12. After reading most of the article’s I could ,I’ve determined Teddy wasn’t the bad ass that he wanted us to think he was,a great article in Sunday’s courant, a good guy gone to soon Thanks to the Arute family , nice job , it’s to bad the old point leader’s family and friends didn’t get to see it as they all got up and left when their car didn’t complete a lap

  13. As an individual and racer Keith cannot compare to Ted, Keith blames things on other drivers for his misgivings, and cries like a spoiled child when he doesn’t get his way and would announce it to the public. Ted would mentor drivers, think it out, have fun with the track and other drivers, and he never thought he owned the race track or officials because he was Ted.

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