Opinions Varied In Pits At Waterford Speedbowl On Injured Keith Rocco Driving An SK Modified

WATERFORD – Not everybody in the pits at the Waterford Speedbowl Saturday was cheering for the return of Keith Rocco behind the wheel of an SK Modified at the shoreline oval.

Keith Rocco

Rocco will start the 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature tonight at Waterford then pull off the track after the first caution. NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour points leader Doug Coby will then take over the seat for Rocco and finish the event.

Rocco will earn any track or NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points based on the eventual finish of the car.

Rocco sustained a dislocated left wrist and fractured radial bone in a practice crash last Sunday at Thompson International Speedway and had surgery on the wrist Friday.

Tyler Chadwick, who is second in the points in the division coming into the night, 12 behind Rocco, was surprised to hear he would be behind the wheel of a car at the Speedbowl.

“So he gets the points?” Chadwick said. “I thought he wasn’t running for points? I thought that was the whole deal this year, he wasn’t running for points? It’s kind of bullshit I guess. It’s no good. He’s got to be on painkillers and stuff like that? Why would you let somebody in a racecar, even if its for a lap? That doesn’t seem like a good deal to me, but there’s nothing that I’m going to say that’s going to change anything.”

Rocco assured track officials he wasn’t on any influencing pain medications.

Rocco is in his first year competing full-time on the Whelen Modified Tour and because of that commitment already missed one race this year at the Speedbowl. He will likely miss another event when the Tour visits Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway on Sept. 15.

“I already spotted [Chadwick] one race, let’s not bitch about it,” Rocco said. “How many races do I really need to spot him? I’m going to spot him one more [for the Whelen Modified Tour race at Riverhead Raceway on Sept. 15].”

Jeff Pearl, who is third in points in the SK Modified division at Waterford, 21 behind Rocco, said he didn’t have any problems with the situation.

“If it was me I would say I wouldn’t do it just because I have to work with my hands and my arms every day and to me that’s more important to me,” Pearl said. “But I’m not in his shoes. Keith is strong. When someone tells him he can’t do something he always seems to do it anyways. As far as the points, that doesn’t really bother me.

“If he was on painkillers and driving with one hand, I’d still probably rather drive side-by-side against him than some of the guys we race with here.”

Rob Janovic Jr., who is fourth in the standings, 27 points behind Rocco, wasn’t against Rocco driving, but had questions.

“If we don’t get a caution for 10 laps, what’s he going to do, run around at speed for 10 laps with one arm?” Janovic said. “I don’t have a problem with him taking the green and pulling off. I would hope that somebody would let me do that. But to run at speed for 10 laps or four or five or whatever it is, that’s kind of crazy. All the power to him.

“Somebody was saying to me earlier today, ‘When I had my knee operated on I didn’t feel right for two days.’ So, I guess everybody’s body is different. But again, if he’s going to take one lap, I’ve got no problem with it.

“As much as Keith is a friend of mine, the issue of safety does come in. I would think that he’s smart enough to know that if he doesn’t feel right, I would think he’s smart enough and aware enough to know ‘Alright, you know, this might not be so good, I should pull off.’ I’m putting my trust in him and his judgment.”

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