Opening Weekend Disqualification Opens Many Questions About Short Track Post Race Procedure

Late Model team owner Scott Fearn

Late Model team owner Scott Fearn

It’s not anything anybody in short track racing wants to see.

A successful driver with a team coming off an ultra-successful season at another facility visits a track for a season opening event, wins and then gets disqualified.

All of the sudden the chorus of naysayers and critics only gets louder. So successful at one track, disqualified at another? What gives?

That’s the dilemma facing Wallingford driver Keith Rocco and his Late Model team owner Scott Fearn following their disqualification from a victory in Sunday’s 25-lap Late Model feature at Thompson Speedway.

Last year Rocco, driving for Fearn, left the rest of the field far behind in his wake week after week after week in the Late Model features at Waterford, as he rolled seemingly effortlessly to a track championship.

Saturday night Rocco opened defense of that championship by winning the season opening event at Waterford. And Sunday he came to Thompson with Fearn and won the Late Model feature there.

But on Monday it was announced that Rocco was being stripped of the victory for transmission issues found with his flywheel/flex plate and an external balancer.

It’s hardly a secret around the Connecticut short track racing scene that Fearn isn’t the most popular car owner amongst his peers. And Fearn has never been one to even lobby for any sort of Mr. Congeniality Award

He’s mouthy, brash and seemingly fearless about any consequences his words will bring forth. He’s says what’s on his mind, always unfiltered, and a lot of people around the pits don’t like that.

Over the years, first as the race director at the Waterford Speedbowl, then as the series director for the Modified Racing Series, first year Thompson race director Scott Tapley has proven himself to be one of the most consistent and fair officials in the New England short track racing scene. Consistency is his calling card, he doesn’t stray from that.

But the fact is, Fearn, in the defense of his team and the penalty handed down to them Monday by Thompson Speedway, – whether one thinks his team was cheating or not – has raised some legitimate questions about how procedures were handled after Sunday’s Late Model feature at Thompson.

Fearn seemed to have a fairly decent argument in stating that the American Canadian Tour regulations, which are used to oversee the Late Model division at both Thompson and Waterford, leave a lot of gray area when it comes to the flex plate that he was called to be in violation of. But that seems to be a matter he won’t be able to fight with ACT administrators, who told Thompson officials that the part was illegal and also suggested that use of the part by the team was on a level of highly egregious violation.

It’s getting to that point, where ACT officials were actually looking at the part in question thanks to photographs from track officials, that had Fearn raising what seem to be very legitimate questions.

Fearn questioned whether or not the second through fifth place finishers in the event were even made to go through a post-race tech inspection by track officials. Fearn’s car was parked in the paddock at Thompson Sunday in an area where most NASCAR Modified Tour teams were parked. He was allowed to park there because Rocco was also competing in the NASCAR Modified Tour event and the SK Modified event Sunday at Thompson.

The bulk of the Late Model teams competing Sunday were parked in the far back of the paddock area at Thompson, a long distance from where main area set up for tech inspections.

Tapley said track officials conducted the bulk of the post race tech inspections on the Late Model competitors at their respective trailers in the pit area. He said track officials did that to accommodate teams, so they wouldn’t have to bring tool carts from the back pit area to the standard inspection area in the paddock.

The issue that action brings up is transparency. Doing tech inspections in a set area for all cars involved leaves the process open to all eyes in the area. Moving tech inspections around to uncommon areas of the track opens the door for suspicion.

On Tuesday and Wednesday three owners of cars that compete at Thompson Speedway, who asked to remain anonymous, said the practice of inspections taking place away from a consistent inspection area leads to suspicions no matter the circumstances involved.

While it might not be convenient for all the teams to take part in the inspections process in a set and consistent area, it’s the only fair way of going about the process. And really, isn’t being fair the reason why there even is an inspection process?

Tapley said Monday that Rocco’s car was the only one to have 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.”

This raises another issue. By Monday afternoon, Rocco wasn’t the driver counting the most money or the most points after the race, Glenn Boss was after finishing second on the track and being named the new “winner” after Rocco’s disqualification.

Therein lies a problem with stating that the car that wins the most money and gets the most points should be the most inspected, because suddenly that’s not close to being true any more.

The only fair way to go about the post race is to have consistent inspections. And if inspectors decide they want to take things further with a winning car, the only fair process is to keep the second place, and probably third place cars there, to be in line to do the same inspection should the first place car fail.

Disqualifying a team for an illegal part found because inspectors dug deeper than they did on everybody else’s car leaves the inspection process looking more like witch hunt than balanced and equal.

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  1. Jeffrey Barrows says

    FYI Glenn boss tranny is a sealed tranny by a act tour dealer. So he would not have to have his tranny inspected. There for the winner of the race after the disqualification did all the inspection needed to be declared the winner of the race.

  2. That’s BS! I agree with you 100%!

  3. All the inspection needed? So what was inspected on Boss’s car?

  4. Jeffrey Barrows says

    He and the third place car pulled there tranny!.

  5. fyi friends. rocco wasnt DQ’d for his tranny. I suppose you will say boss’s flex plate was sealed? lol

  6. Jeffrey Barrows says

    Say what you will but I have never seen a track dq someone that was legal..

  7. Did Boss disassemble his clutch? why was his flex plate not compared to rocco’s? what should the flex plate be stock to? camaro, corvette, impala, etc… what does the tranny being sealed have to do with a starter flexplate ring. all seems odd….if all 5 flexplates were out and one was different, i dont think this would be a story. what will people say when Rocco runs up front saturday?

  8. Jeffrey Barrows says

    If you have ever worked on a act car you know the clutch is only 8″ round mad he flywheel is almost a foot if not bigger. When you look in the big hole where the tranny is slid into you can see everything. That’s y the 1 car was further disasabled. People use some commen sense. There nothing to hide.

  9. fill us in? says

    so barrows, what flex plate are u supposed to have?

  10. Josh paradis says

    Everyone needs to stop hating on my good friend Scott. It was not his fault that Rocco’s team decided to run the illegal parts.

  11. Many well spoken points. I think no matter what people will have bias views. I think the real question should be if that’s the same car that won the previous night at the Speedbowl which does many time in a year how is it that the Speedbowl officials never find anything wrong with cars. The last time a car failed post race inspection was Ryan Waterman opening day last year for an illegal carb which bye was borrowed and put on last min. Not to mention it was his first race ever there. Not just a car but a driver that has so many wins can be caught at other tracks but not one where he dominates most. Could his cars be 100 percent legal. Possibly. It’s hard to say when in tech it seems of there is a part on question it’s never the tech inspector that makes the call it’s the track “owner” “promotor” blah blah blah. Making the final say. What’s the point of having a tech inspector when the track owner needs to have a meeting and the final result is don’t bring that back next week. Great article. I’m sure there is a lot of mixed conversations due to the popularity of the driver but from a racers stand point who has been on these races been in tech side by side. You can tech any part on my car and I know I’m good. I feel if it was reversed roles and I was in another drivers shoes if be tossed because my name doesn’t have as much credit ability. Not taking any talent away from anyone. Guy can drive anything but everyone is racing for. 2nd esp when it seems the track his on his back pocket. Why are people afraid to raise these questions. Think about how much time money and emotion we put into our cars to literally not have a fair chance. It seems. It’s nice to see tracks make calls that honor the integrity of the sport. Even worst case other teams can feel that threat that maybe we shouldn’t mess around. I think it’s a free for all at other tracks. The worst thing they will say is don’t bring that back next week. Hey I could be wrong or right. But it’s a heavy reason why I decided to gnomes racing. Despite it’s more competitive and we will be racing for top 10s it’s a more honorable series that go by there rules. It’s infortuane that drivers do what they do because it’s all they got and can afford knowing what they are racing against.

  12. The track should have said, thanks for the flex plate, we will investigate the part (legal or not) and let you know in a few days. After a decision is made the part should be available to all to view on their web site and an explanation as why it was deemed Illegal or not. very simmple and fair. Everyone makes such a big deal out of this – people forget that this is a hobby and this is only a support division.

  13. ^^^^^^ agreed!!!!!!! Run there bodie thru the mud with facts not questions about the parts.

  14. This was an easy find for most tech guys. Fern and Rocco knew exactly what they were doing. Any part of the drive line that is rotating effects how quickly a motor will rev up. The lighter the parts, the quicker the motor will respond. As was stated I. Another thread on this site fern changed the flex plate after they ran at Waterford. He knew exactly what he was doing. Tapley is right, the first place car should be etched more then the others. If buss wins the next race then he should get the extra tech. The flex plate was an easy find. I would put $ on that if tech goes deeper they will find more lightened parts on that car. Look how good Rocco foes on the whelan tour. Nothing special because he gets a legit tech. If he caught there is an actually penalty. Time to dig a little deeper into his mods as well as a few others.

  15. Is it true Rocco was told not to come back to Thompson for the next two races in his late model? If so why come at all for what there would only b two or three races left.

  16. lot of laughs here and some good comments. FYI, the car didn’t leave the trailer between Waterford and Thompson I can assure you! No changing parts (or tires for that matter) between the two tracks.

    Also, Driver X, do you really think Rocco has Waterford officials in his pocket? Don’t be so short on memory and intelligence. I think it was two years ago he was thrown out for the remainder of the year in the SK, surely costing him the championship and many more wins.

    Outsider that comes in, starts last, and wins is going to get dragged through the ringer. Thats real life boys.

  17. Earl,
    He was stripped of the victory and there was no further penalty beyond there. There is no suspension of any sort.

  18. Jeffrey Barrows says

    Shawn you might want to check into that… I

  19. Jeffrey,
    I was told by Thompson general manager Josh Vanada on Monday that there would not be any sort of suspension from competition for Rocco or the team.

  20. Jeffrey Barrows says

    Ok good hate to lose a car and a good one when everything legit.

  21. Andy da woodchuck says

    Keith was thrown out of the speedbowl in 2012 by Scott Tapley for fighting with his old car owner Mike Pane in the pits and not for a tech violation.which if you had issues with that person all year up until that point like shawn wrote in the article, why would you park next to him every week doesn’t make sense. .

    Also to add, they did have to change the rear end gearing from waterford to thompson so they did change something between sat and sun.

  22. Sonny could not be more wrong.

  23. Andy Boright says

    Tapley’s comment about checking the first place car more than any other car is just as stupid as his comment calling Todd Szegedy a modified “legend”.

    Every reputable race track and series I have ever seen has checked the top 3 or 5 finishers evenly when doing a thorough tech inspection. Just because a car wins doesn’t mean it was the most illegal car in the race. If the 1st place car was legal, but 3rd and 5th place were using illegal parts, officials have an obligation (well, apparently not in Scott Tapley’s eyes) to the rest of the competitors to flush the cheaters out.

    It is stupid decisions like this that are driving fans and teams from race tracks. Thompson doesn’t have the soundest car counts anyway, race track officials not using common sense isn’t going to improve the situation.

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