Keith Rocco Disqualified From Late Model Win At Thompson; Car Owner Disputes Findings

Thompson Speedway Long Narrow LogoKeith Rocco was disqualified Monday by Thompson Speedway officials from his victory in Sunday’s 25-lap Late Model feature at the track.

Rocco’s car was disqualified after he was found to have what was deemed an illegal transmission flex plate and unapproved external balancer.

Team owner Scott Fearn claims the entire process leading to the disqualification was mishandled by track officials. Thompson race director Scott Tapley said all procedures leading to the disqualification were handled properly.

Late Model division cars at Thompson are run under the rules package of the American Canadian Tour.

“They said they were going to look at my transmission and clutch,” Fearn said. “And they have Mike Sangermano there. Nobody at the track actually knows how to even check a transmission. I’ve got no problem with [Sangermano], but, is that not a conflict of interest?”

Sangermano’s business, Magnus Racing Products, is one of two approved transmission dealers for the American Canadian Tour.

“So we go to tech and they tell the other four guys [in the top five at the finish], you’re all set, you can go back to your trailers,” Fearn said. “So we’re the only car in the field that got [inspected]. [Tapley] said ‘That’s within our right, you know the winner always gets teched more than the other cars behind because they won the race.’ I said ‘That’s all well and good Scott, but can you not agree that it just looks bad. It gives a poor impression and it leaves a lot of people with a bad taste in their mouth when only one person gets [inspected].’ He said ‘Of course you’re going to think that, you won the race.’ I said ‘It looks bad when you tech one car tell the other five they can leave.’ He said ‘Well, in NASCAR they have a list of things and the winner gets teched more.’ I said ‘Scott, in NASCAR if the winner fails tech the second place car goes through the exact entire inspection as the first car.’ I said ‘You’re going to disqualify me for a flexplate and you have no idea what anyone else in the field runs. You can’t even compare it.’”

Tapley called Fearn’s claim that his car was the only one inspected: “Completely inaccurate.”

Tapley said, because of the setup with the way the pit paddock area was arranged for the Icebreaker weekend, Late Model teams were parked at the back of the property, far away from the normal area where postrace inspections are typically completed.

Tapley said, to save teams from pulling pit carts from the back of the property by hand, they allowed the other Late Model division finishers in the top-five to go over the scales in the normal area and then they sent track inspection crews to do postrace tech at the car haulers for the Late Models.

Fearn and Rocco were allowed to pit their Late Model in the area designated for the NASCAR Modified Tour and SK Modifieds because Rocco, of Wallingford, was also driving in the other two divisions.

“Every car was [inspected] at their trailer,” Tapley said. “The deal with them was they arrived Sunday morning, they had raced that same car the night before at [the Waterford Speedbowl]. So they got their Sunday morning and they wanted to pit next to their other teams. So they were on the opposite end of the property [from the other Late Model division teams]. We had guys doing tech on the Late Models out back. Then we had to come back and do his. We helped them out by putting him in a place which made it convenient for him to race all three cars.

“While [Fearn’s team] was doing their stuff in victory lane, fifth through second went across the scales. They were then met at their trailers with out tech staff. We didn’t want to make those teams haul their pit cars all the way across the property by hand so we went out of our way to do tech for them [where they were parked]. In the same way, we went out of our way to place [Rocco’s] car in an area where they could have it do all the divisions that he wanted to race. When we were done doing tech on the other cars that’s when we came back to [Rocco’s] car.”

Tapley said Fearn’s car was the only car that had its transmission taken apart.

“The car that wins the most money, gets the most points does the most tech,” Tapley said. “That’s how it should work at every level of racing.”

Fearn also questioned the actual rule that allegedly made the flex plate he was using illegal.

The 2014 American Canadian Tour rules posted online state that a “153 tooth stock flywheel flex plate” must be used.

“I’ve been racing for 25 years, I have never seen a rule in any division that does not have a weight rule for a flywheel [flex plate],” Fearn said. “ACT has a part number for the clutch. The entire rule as its written for the flywheel or the flex plate is six words long. The rule for the flexplate. 153 tooth stock flywheel flex plate. End of it. Six words. It doesn’t say ‘Must be steel’. It doesn’t say it ‘Must be GM stock.’ It doesn’t say ‘Must weigh this.’ And it also doesn’t say no aftermarket replacements allowed. Tapley told me ‘You can’t use aftermarket parts.’ I said ‘Scott, at least three quarters of the field [on Sunday] has an aftermarket flexplate in their cars.’ I guarantee four or five guys have the exact same one we have. I told him ‘I need some guidance on what is legal. The catalog says 153 tooth stock GM 86 and up flexplate. That’s what I bought.”

Tapley said he never told Fearn that aftermarket parts were illegal. Tapley said track officials reached out to American Canadian Tour president Tom Curley and their lead tech official Dean Gallison for clarification on the parts in questions.

“We deferred to the [American Canadian Tour] on this rule,” Tapley said. “We run their rules. That’s the best way for our tech staff to do it.”

They were told that the part was “absolutely” illegal.

The disqualification gives Glenn Boss of Danielson, the second place finisher on the track, the victory. Chris Curtis of Rutland, Mass. was moved to second and Rick Gentes of Burriville, R.I. to third.

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  1. Sounds to me like Rocco and Fern got an unfair shake on this one. Never liked the only tech one car deal. I’ve seen Stafford have a similar problem with there late model division where they had to disqualify the top 3 for all of them having the same disqualification. Thompson should be ashamed with the officiating. Lets not forget that Rocco’s car had to sit around for hours in Tech because they had to wait for Tapley to get done with running other races…. Sounds like they need more officials who can make a decision or give due diligence to all competitors when you accuse a team of cheating.

  2. Friend of moltz says

    Maybe they could borrow the flex plate from mark coopers 28. I heard its parked for the year because of a lack of funding.

  3. you could put a flexplate from a dump truck on that car and it will still be the fastest car there. I mean is that the big speed secret……a flexplate?? I thought they would get DQ’d for having a Big Block. Not a flexplate????

  4. Not all the late models were out back. The 45 was by the garage…and last year at the World Series the late models were out back but everyone went through tech right by the garages what makes this year different. I would hav to call bs on the inspectors bringing all their gear out back to do the inspection

  5. Eric Baker says

    Hey friend of moltz check your sources before u make a statement.

  6. Whether Rocco got a fair shake or not I can’t really say. I wasn’t there so it comes down to what each party remembers about the conversation. However, a quick check of the 2014 ACT rules finds the following under section 11H, “Must run 16# flywheel GM
    Part #14088646.” If it wasn’t this part number then it was illegal.

  7. Sounds like The Rocco / Fearn team is getting teched for a change . At the bowl they get a free pass ! Good job Tapley and crew for going above and beyond the make the playing field fair !

  8. “The car that wins the most money, gets the most points does the most tech,” Tapley said. “That’s how it should work at every level of racing.”

    But that’s NOT how it works at every level of racing, Scott, not even at the local level. Stafford doesn’t tech like that as a normal practice.

    If you are going to tech like that, then you are going to be promoting the idea of it pays to skirt the rules on the deep/heavy tech items, and finish second.

  9. Keith had an incredible race. He drove great and should have won the show. Hate that it had to end like this manner.

  10. Crazy in NY says

    Scott, you should be thankful Tapley didn’t have his magic “sniffer” with him.
    He’d a forgot all about looking at your flywheel.

  11. check again says

    Rich I believe the 16# flywheel would be for a stock clutch…. A flexplate is used for a super clutch and there is no part number.

  12. Good point “check again”. I guess I can see where there would be confusion.

  13. So you DQ the winner on his flexplate but don’t check the second place car even after the DQ. That has to be the dumbest thing I ever heard. What a great way to instill confidence in the tech inspection process.

  14. somewhat literate says

    got magnets?

  15. I can honestly say that, I was 4 trailers down from the second place finisher (on the track) and they had their entire operation loaded up and trailer locked before the next feature was over, also never once did any tech or track official go over to them except the official asking everyone to load up or get as tight to their trailers as possible so they could begin lining up the GSPSS
    The #3 car was the first car loaded up and the entire then walked up to the main paddock / grandstand area, not sure what could of been teched that quick, maybe they checked to make sure the car had 4 tires on it guess that seems like a tech that would happen. It makes sense that if you are going to toss a competitor and label them as cheaters you should also perform the same inspection on the next car on line and so on until you find a legal winner, specially when both of the top 2 cars ran an exact same fast lap time of 21.584 seconds, it does not take a rocket scientist to figure that if that is what the #1 car had that makes him so fast and able to win the race then the #3 must of also had something to make him able to run the same exact lap time. Just not a good way to start the season off as a track to be labeled as not doing tech fairly, that often leads to low car counts pretty quickly

  16. onlooker says

    Pretty sure it was a Steel 153 tooth flexplate. It was gold anodized though. I guess thats what makes it not stock. I think chris mullen helped them take it out and he isnt on their crew I dont think. So I guess it wasnt a secret. All the other divisions tech’d at the garage though. Both of keiths cars sat there a long time. I guess thats what happens when you win all the time.

  17. I’m pretty sure that this late model of Ferns is an offshoot, satallite operation affiliated with the Vin Beetle racing family. It would make sense that the way that squad dominated the weekend that someone eventually had to take the fall for the success of these teams as a whole. Just a shame that it had to be these guys, they seem to be well liked by most and a fun group to be around overall.

  18. Andy da woodchuck says

    The rule reads “153 tooth stock flywheel flex plate”..ok that means you go to NAPA and buy a stock 153 flex plate or stock equivalent from your favorite online site which this thing weighs about 15lbs.. it doesn’t mean you install the “Lightest (about 5lbs) flexplate available rated for 60.1 lb.-in.2 moment of inertial – 51% of the moment of inertia of an equivalent typical OEM flywheel that significantly improves your engine acceleration and deceleration”. yeah that sounds stock.
    So Good job Tapley for standing you ground maybe you should help train the speedbowl tech guys because they never would look for something like that.

  19. what about the un approved balancer? I would think this is a bigger deal than the flex plate. If it was just a flex plate they should have said don’t bring it back, have a great night.

  20. Mike Bernardi says

    Disc clutch assembly that will be the ACT Late Model approved clutch:
    #QUA 298103A – 7.25 2 disc-V-drive set up #QUA235170 – Throw out bearing
    153 tooth stock flywheel flex plate

    No part number no weight listed. Stock for what? Tilton stock? I’m pretty sure Gm never used a 7.25″ multidisc as a stock option.

    Further more not giving the guy who took the trophy,most money, and most points the same exact tech as the car that crossed the finish line first is crap. It’s lazy half assed officiating. Exactly what I would expect from Tapley.

  21. warren lally says

    if the part was “illegal” so be it ..Mr Fern don’t waste your time arguing…Taply is incompetent. Never heard a more ridiculous statement about tech …I wouldn`t subject a hard working crew or invested sponsor to any track inspection he was affiliated with PERIOD!. in the past the top finishers should or would have been ‘corralled” .the same parts would be inspected ..equal application during inspection. I recall one particular time the issue was intakes…if I am not mistaken they took all three intakes and no one went home with the intake they came with..(shell game). the finishing order stood.. by the way all three intakes were of course supposed to be stock or unaltered ..I would guesstimate based on the engine builder for the Fearn/Rocco car he may have an issue with tech at other tracks besides the bowl.. I am not pointing a finger here just my opinion. By the way Keith did NOT dominate at Thompson.. he didn`t have an opportunity to do so as his charge to the front was due to attrition. This wasn`t the case at Waterford where he embarrassed the field. I want to believe its due to Rocco`s team having more knowledge of the American racer ask just one of the top three to disassemble the car or remove parts in tech is a disgrace no matter what track does it !!!! P.S. the fact that Vin Beedle sponsored these cars means nothing. these teams were already front runners long before Mr Rooter came on board ..Stafford might have the most consistent tech inspection but that isn`t without its politics either ..I wont spend another dime at Thompson

  22. The balancer is simply a small piece of sheet metal (less than 4 ounces) that is placed between the flex plate and the crankshaft to balance the harmonics created with the standard flex plate. These are required on a 86 and up Chevy engine block. It has nothing to do with the harmonic balancer on the front of the engine.

    Also, the GM flex plate that is “approved” weighs 6.25 ponds, not 15.

  23. Lets get real says

    I will give Andy the Woodchuck $500 if he can present a flexplate that weighs 15lbs that fits a ZZ4 crate motor. They dont run flexplates out of Diesel pick up trucks. You continue to make silly uneducated comments about subjects you have no business discussing. Please attend at least one race before you come on here and embarrass yourself. Also the external balancer in question was the one attached to the flexplate.

  24. Andy da woodchuck says

    ACT legal ZZ4 are internally balanced and don’t require external balancing… but if you’re running a 400 crankshaft now that needs to be externally balanced via a balancer but heck just bring it to Bulter McMaster/RPM and hae them look at it. Now that would be interesting story.

  25. Josh paradis says

    I’m happy the late model got caught. Now what does the sk have? That makes me wonder. And the lightweight flywheel would make the clutch engage better.

  26. Ricky Brooks always takes his winning cars down to bare bones and it is always substantially more than any other car in the top 5, just ask Chase Elliott. Should the fact that the ACT tour determined the part to be illegal be completely brushed away?

  27. Mike Geer says

    I’ve witnessed many tech inspections growing up. Mostly at Waterford and Stafford, since my Dad was the tech inspector. I can’t ever remember them checking different things on the winner than the rest of the top 5, unless there’s a protest. And always check the top 5 in the race. Checking different things on different cars is basicly the track saying ” we know this is where you’re cheating and that’s where he’s cheating.” Tech should be done All cars the same all together all at the same time every race.

  28. warren lally says

    excellent point Andy !!!

  29. all 86 and up flexplates are externally balanced. you guys are thinking to hard lol

  30. Andy da woodchuck says

    Ok 15 lbs is high but if the flex plate isn’t stock its illegal.. the ACT tour ruled get over it. I wonder what else is illegal on that car?

  31. The flex plate in question is literally 1/2 pound lighter than the “stock” flex plate “allowed” on the ACT style LM. Also, for all you know it alls that actually don’t know anything, the “legal” flex plate only weighs 3.3 pounds. It’s not a weight thing that got Fearn and crew DQed, it’s a crack in the rules that will have to be filled in now that someone read into it and decided to pursue it.

  32. I am not going into the technical end of for the fact that I do not know the exact rule, hey if they found a crack in the rule and it helped them then so be it, they got caught. I think the major issue here is that the win was given to a team and car that never got torn down or inspected aside from going over the scales and maybe checking ride heights. If Tapley and crew DQ’ed a team on a grey area then shame on them, if it was a blatant rule violation then the right penalty was handed down and I am sure Mr. Fearn and crew would of been more accepting if the team that was handed the win had to go through the same tear down and inspection as the #1 car did. I also agree Stafford has the best tech policy the cars get impounded in a common spot and that is where tech is done no matter what, and they always hold the next finishing car outside the tech area (not saying this is fool proof or there isnt politics involved because of that) the whole fact of “tech at the trailer” is the biggest joke ever, several times in several different divisions I have seen this technique used and the official comes over tells you what they want to tech or look at and they walk to the next car, now you are going on the honor system they wont quickly swap out parts while the inspector is under another car or distracted by another team and there is no official watching the team tearing down? If the honor system works there, why not just use the honor system and trust everyone when they say “my car is 100% legal”?
    If Mr. Tapley wants to stand by his word that “the highest paid car gets torn down the most” wouldn’t it only make sense to do a thorough tear down and inspection of the next finishing car if you are taking the win and money from the car that won on the track? Again the #3 Late Model at Thompson this past weekend had NO tech done at the teams trailer or pit stall. Like i said before the only sort of official interaction with that team after the race and the car returned to the trailer was the official asking the late model teams to clear room so they could line up the pro stocks. This just adds to the list of shady tech practices of Tapley from the Speedbowl to VMRS and now to Thompson.

  33. Wait A Minute says

    If Stafford always does the same tech to every car then why was Preece’s 40 stripped apart and the only car remaining in the pen a year ago and Gray’s LM had interior tech while being the only car remaining in tech?

  34. Mr Tapley thinks he is a god among the race
    driveres and his ego shows that.I feel tha he is having a conflict of interest being the race offical for for thompson and holding the same position for the VMRS. There is not any way a team in VRMS will get an even chance for tech or any trhing else. He has muffed a few times on the series allready so why does he gut to wear 2 hats? I think that the drivers at Waterford here happy to see him leave that track.I suggest that he gets a copy of the rulebook from VRMS and Thompson and read the rules

  35. Hate to say it but a legal race car in CT is few and far between, its only cheating when somebody decides to enforce the actual rule, if somebody tore down a full car sk late model strictly etc and checked everything carb,motor,shocks,gears etc 9 out of 10 would fail!

  36. racing guy says

    I have never heard of the winner getting teched more than the top 5…wherever I have raced the top 5 all got teched the same…that is a BS statement..I hope it changes FAST!.. he is going to get a lot of racers mad!

  37. Does anyone know if that was the same car from Waterford he ran the night before?

  38. Eric Lynch says

    It was the same car but they had to change the gears and the flexplate to race at Thompson. They run a larger flexplate at Waterford to help with corner entry through engine breaking.

  39. What happen to the good old days at Riverside where if an official didn’t like a part or something was deemed in the gray area, the officials would tell the team not to bring it back. In that case you don’t piss off all the competitors every week with disqualifications and such. That used to be the case around short tracks in New England. Now it seems officials are out to catch everybody of cheating. Finding the limits and pushing the envelope is what makes this sport great.

  40. Without getting into the particulars it seems pretty basic situation. Thompson
    Late Models follow the ACT rule book. ACT was contacted and deemed parts in question illegal.

  41. If it was the same car and they are allowed to run a different flex plate. Is it possible they “forgot” to change it or didn’t have time to change it and didn’t think anyone would notice? None of that was mentioned in their remarks so I’m assuming it’s not the case.

    Here’s my real question. Why if you have one division running at two different tracks running the same rules as ACT do you allow anything other than a gear change? Seems simple to me.. why do all these tracks have to believe they are so much smarter than everyone else. Follow the rule book that had been set out for you and there is no gray area.

    As far as Keith goes. He’s is an Great driver. There is no need for cheater crap in your car. Don’t tell me he didn’t know or scott didn’t tell him. These guys have been racing for years so I don’t accept the ignorance is bliss approach. My two cents. ..

  42. Vermont Racer says

    The funny thing to come out of this is that Keith’s car doesn’t have a reverse starter bell housing with a triple disc clutch. Maybe Ricky Rolf will think of somthing else to blame his cars’ poor performances on.

  43. Andy Boright says

    The ACT rule book has left a lot to be desired recently. Some rules were vague, others omitted, and still others not enforced.

    ACT used to require a stock 153 tooth flywheel (flexplates are used in automatic transmissions) to weigh 20 lbs. Now nothing???

    Another example of ACT creating big cracks because of apathy.

  44. If it’s a gray area (or a crack in the rules) as admitted by Richard Sprague in his post above, There should be no DQ. The team should be asked to fix it, a tech bulletin should be put out before the next event so teams know and the rules should be made more specific overall.

    Racing is about finding the gray areas and taking advantage of them. Unfortunately the Tech Officials do not like it when you find loopholes in their rules… I know this from experience.

  45. From what what I have heard without reading the rule itself, the rule states “you must run a stock 153 tooth fly wheel” now the biggest part to this whole thing is the word “STOCK” because it does not say stock OEM, it just says stock which could mean you can run an aftermarket 153 tooth fly wheel as long as it remains stock and unaltered from its original state. Mr. Tapley probably does not realize the difference between “stock” and “stock oem” sounds to me like ACT needs to or should give a fly wheel weight and or specific part number or numbers you are allowed to run. And unless there was an ACT official at the speedway how can someone make a decision over a phone call as to if a part is legal or illegal, could it of been possible the official from ACT on the phone was misinformed of the part he/she was inspecting from miles away over a telephone? If the track is that uncomfortable with making the correct call or determination of if a part is legal or illegal for a series they run at their track full time and have just as much access to the rule book as the competitors have then maybe they should familiarize themselves with the rule book or there should be an ACT official on hand whenever the late models run at the track. When you break a rule at a track the Tapley is running his famous saying is, “thanks for playing but, its in the rules i suggest you familiarize yourself with the rules before you return” well Scott, why don’t you take your own advice and have your tech inspectors do the same. I find it hard to believe any person or persons can enforce a rule of any type and not even know or understand it themselves without having to make a phone call.
    The thing I wonder is what tech would of consisted of had the 1 car not finished in the first, or if the winner will always be torn down while the rest of the cars will pass tech as long as they meet their weight requirements and frame height rules. Hope the VMRS competitors take notice of this, you might be better off to finish in second to avoid any sort of tech and have to spend time tearing down your race cars and then putting them back together while the rest of the teams stand around and watch or go enjoy a beverage. This all just seems bogus to me and now Tapley is trying to make himself look good with his stupid witty comments “the winning car always gets torn down more” since when? It was never like that in any other series or track you have run now all of the sudden thats how it has always been in all of racing?

  46. Wait a Minute, to answer your question about the Preece car at Stafford last year, the track was looking for traction control because several other teams were accusing the 40 team of running some sort of traction control, and as far as the 97 late model I am not sure of what they looked for on that car so I do not want to comment on it, but judging by how Stafford usually runs things I would assume some of the other late model teams were complaining about something, and with the 40 that total inspection was on top of the other inspection that night that the rest of the top 3 (I believe) had to also complete.

  47. Josh paradis says

    Why are people hating on Scott tapely. He is a good freind of mine, and it was not his fault or choice that Keith decided to run illegal parts. Back off of him and go after the real problem which is whoever put the parts in Keith’s late model.

  48. Not abolishing any fault in Keith but hasn’t he won three recent nema races with two dqs for illegal parts!! Blame the teams involved. If the driver knew he’d never tell anyone anyways.

  49. wrench man says

    nobody likes going through tech , but its about time they check something on that car . part numbers are the way of act . so be it

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