Stiff Penalties Expected Involving Major Safety Issue For Two SK Mod Teams At Waterford Speedbowl

Keith Rocco celebrates his SK Modified win Saturday at Waterford, but was later found to have a major safety violation with his car (Photo: Mark Caise/Waterford Speedbow)

Keith Rocco celebrates his SK Modified win Saturday at the Waterford Speedbowl, but was later found to have a major safety violation with his car, according to sources close to track management (Photo: Mark Caise/Waterford Speedbow)

WATERFORD – A scary on-track incident during Saturday night’s NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature at the Waterford Speedbowl led to track officials discovering a major safety issue involving two cars in the event, including the race-winner.

Sources close to track management have confirmed that the SK Modifieds of Keith Rocco and Craig Lutz were found to be operating without track mandated wheel tethers following Saturday night’s feature.

Rocco, of Wallingford, won the event. Lutz , of Miller Place, N.Y., was involved in a hard crash two laps into the event, the result of which brought the tether issue to light for track officials.

After getting involved in the frontstretch accident, the right front tire from the car driven by Lutz came off, and took flight toward the catch fence.

Veteran starter Rich Keator and assistant starter George DeCoster were forced to duck to avoid getting hit by the tire on the flag stand.

“I just saw it coming at eye level and instinct took over,” Keator said. “That’s the first time I’ve ever had to duck on the stand.”

After track crew examined the tire it was discovered that Lutz did not have mandated tethers on his front wheels.

The Waterford Speedbowl rulebook states that: “NASCAR approved wheel tethers must be used on the front spindles/hubs.”

The tethers link the front spindles to the chassis and are in place to keep the tire and wheel assembly from flying in the event of an accident. The tethers became standard as a safety item in many divisions of racing after three fans were killed during an IndyCar Series event at Charlotte Motor Speedway in 1999 after a tire and suspension parts flew into the grandstands following a crash during an event.

During postrace inspection it was found that Rocco’s car also was not equipped with the proper tethers. Rocco, the reigning champion of the division and its points leader, was not disqualified from the victory, which was his third in seven SK Modified events at the track this year.

Waterford Speedbowl owner Terry Eames was unavailable for comment Saturday night after the event. There was no formal announcement from the track of any violations or penalties on Saturday night, though a source close to the track management said that substantial fines for both teams are expected.

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  1. Did they take them off after pre-race inspection or did they pass pre-race inspection without them? Pretty interesting as they aren’t too hard to miss on an open wheel car.

  2. And where all the so called tech officials earlier in the season. No one looks for this sort of stuff when the cars are inspected prior to the first race or do they not do that sort of stuff.. Stafford would never ever let this happen. The race director had better be looking for new officials. Seems that the ones they got would rather be doing something else. Totally unacceptable especially at a bull ring like Waterford.

  3. Heads up says

    Where does that fine money go? Terry’s pocket I’m guessing…. Expect huge fines to come!
    Did the rest of the field get checked? No performance advantage to not running the tethers so let’s here why Rocco didn’t have them now you haters.

  4. Same story says

    Wow, I wonder if they will fine guys for outdated driving suits/ helmets too. Clearly the pre race safety inspection is lacking at the bowl.

  5. .. post race? where’s the pre race inspection? This should be an easy one to spot before they turn a lap on the track..

  6. Rationale says

    Track officials at Waterford are there for looks and checking ride heights. They have turned a blind eye to this kind of thing for years. This is an inexcusable lack of track official awareness. The fact that the tethers were found post race is a huge issue since the tethers are supposed to protect the other drivers and spectators at the track during RACE CONDITIONS. The bowl has a reputation and is certainly living up to it. Officiating fail. If the NASCAR can’t make it safe, why go. There’s been enough tragedy in the racing world in the last few years. Looks like the bowl couldn’t care less. This tethers should have been found pre race not post race. They’re easy enough to see so they could have been picked up before the race so the cars should have been parked and the car owners fined.

  7. Just another day at the Bowl says

    If that is what was being teched last night and its not there he should be disqualified not fined. Gotta love the politics of the Speedbowl. If that was any driver they would have been disqualified and not just fined

  8. Right on Goldy! When Keith’s car came back there from being destroyed 3 weeks ago, the officials should of been all over it to make sure it was all set as far as safety. Where’s the fines for the officials? Stop trying to find the trick things and get back to looking at safety issues.

  9. DQ Rocco!! Lutz got into accident don’t do anything to him

  10. How did NASCAR miss an obvious infraction, or are they just to lax on certain race cars and drivers. Looks like not everyone is equal there.

  11. The track should be embarrassed… Shame on the 88 and 36 teams for not having them in place, but there is zero excuse for an oversight like this by the track. It is one of the easiest safety items to check on the modifieds. A quick visual walk-through of the paddock is all you need and it will not take more than 10 to 15 minutes. I blame this on lazy officials more than anything.

  12. What about all the improperly installed seat belts? Theres a lot of them in ALL divisions..

  13. shawn monahan says

    I must say. With car counts dwindling, the penalty should go to the staff to do there job. If Lutz has a destroyed car and a penalty I am gonna bothered. Rant over

  14. Wow this is unnacceptable! Although not a performance damper, it’s a safety issue. Priority one is the safety of the drivers, track crew and spectators. The fines Nascar hands out doesn’t go to the track owners, it goes to the sanctioning body. The tech guys did not do the right thing here in overlooking something that could have killed someone. KR should not be dqd because he’s just the driver, but his and Lutz’s crew and car owners need to have some discipline for this.

  15. The reason why this is a big deal is because the tire came off the 36 and could’ve hurt somebody. Officials should be removed immediately for letting this go in pre race inspection. They probably have been running like that all year. No excuse other than its Keith so well just let it go. If someone got hurt because of there carelessness of the speedbowl officials it would have a new owner right now. No wonder Terry didn’t respond. Can’t come up with an excuse this time.

  16. Jen Woodward Jr says

    Wow, tech started off strong, but now is petering out. Wtf

  17. A legend driver says

    both drivers should be disqualified. also waterford should get some new tech officials. how do you miss a car not having wheel tethers??? Its not like they’re hard to look at, its an open wheeled car!

  18. SAFETY is an issue? Really? The last time I was there, they had taped-off major sections of stands that had been condemned! The track fence is decrepit and I fear for anyone sitting down in front (especially the children), because it is only a matter of time before a car or pieces from one come through and kill or maim someone. The health department should check out the bathroom facilities, too! GROSS!! Now for racing…..they have to pay a fine for passing inspection, how does that work!? How do you go about collecting fines from these owners for safety violations that never should have gone unnoticed in pre-race inspections? Oh, that’s right, you have to pay, because they say so. Safety isn’t really the issue, if you look at the facilities as a whole or should I say hole?

  19. They both should be suspended for the whole year! What a big safety issue here. Could of killed many people.

  20. Mike Geer says

    Safety inspection is typically done before the first race if the season and in new cars as they show up. So if they had them on at the opener they’d be checked off as passed inspection. Did either, or both cars have the wheels ripped off? Tech inspectors should have been doing a walk through look of every car before practice. I can see how tethers could be forgotten to be put back on when putting new A arms on. Fines are the right penalty. There is NO competive advantage to not having tethers. DQing Rocco for this would be like throwing out the winner for the wearing the wrong shoes.

  21. I am not justifying not using safety tethers (i use them on my car) but the main reason people that race modifieds do not like them is the fact that in a wreck instead of the wheel coming off the car it swings back and causes damage to the chassis.,,

  22. are you kidding mark geer….if i had a nickle for every time someone mentioned how great the crew is on the 88 i would be a millionaire.. forgot.???? how many crew guys look at that car in the pits every many times does a crew member go to adjust the collar on the shock.. how about the driver or the guy checking the torque on the lugs.. you dont see a tether????..inexcusable.. should be dq`d ..PS after seeing the incident with lutz I thought the hub broke and went with the wheel..if a driver chooses to not protect himself its on him..but to ignore an issue that is PARAMOUNT in NASCAR is inexcusable… PS ..Rocco said we finally got the car straightened out after wrecking it.. yeah all that work and no tether or perhaps not a proper tether ????.the track made a huge error here .. the officials are incompetent …

  23. Tech does not do inspections at any track prior to the races so its not only one track..

  24. Pre race inspection with a written check sheet and sticker for the week is the way to go.
    If safety is number 1, then penalize the offenders, fines aren’t going to have much impact.

  25. Paul thats to bad if the thethers cause damage to the cars its better that than ending someones life

  26. K, the stands have been repaired and are now all open. Nothing to do with this incident so why bring it up?

  27. I be willing to bet $$$$ to donuts that all of these Waterford and Terry haters will be the first to cry about having to travel the extra distance to race if Waterford closed down. I’ve heard the complaints for years: “Seekonk is too far”, “costs too much to run Thompson” and “Stafford is too far and you have to take route 32 to get there”….

  28. both teams should be suspended for the remainder of the year . what would of happened if a fan got hurt or even killed? replace the officials and suspend the drivers. unfortunately the track will never penalize Rocco as he is running for national points and the track wants their own to win

  29. Rich– because “safety” is a big deal according to NASCAR and Waterford is why I brought it up. Have all the wooden stands been replaced? Fence? Didn’t think so.

  30. Excuses, Excuses, Excuses! Again, The Team that runs The Bowl failed! But, what’s new? It’s my home track and I find it to be the poorest run track. Terry’s reputation and lack of leadership is causing this track to fail. What Terry doesn’t realize is there is some of the best mechanics which would make the best officials sitting in the stands. Just like our new Flagman. He was in the stands waving those flags forever. And, I mean waving instead of chopping the flags. Now Rocco, I’m a fan and this fan is embarrassed that you allowed your team to possibly hurt your fans or the workers at The Bowl. You and I know a DQ is in order. If you are The Man we fans think you are, You should volunteer a DQ. You and your team should show your young & older fans that you take the punishment like everyone else and you don’t believe in favoritism. To me…You were not the WINNER!!!!

  31. K, the stands are fully repaired and open. I don’t think there’s been any sort of mandate that fence must be fixed. It might not look the greatest but I don’t know that there is any known structural damage with it.

  32. The officials need to be suspended for missing the problem. Lutz shouldn’t get a pentacle cause his car is destroyed but Rocco should get atleast a hefty fine cause he won and take points away from him that’s my fall

  33. Andy da woodchuck says

    The two teams should be penalized and tech guys should give a public statement explaining why they never enforced simple safety rules not only to protect the racers but the fans in the stands then fire them.

  34. K, I’m pretty sure the town of Waterford closed down the stands until they were repaired. Now they have been repaired, inspected and back open. What would you like them to do. Tear them down?

  35. Shawn — Have all the old wooden stands been replaced? No. Do you really believe the fence will withstand a hit from an open-wheeled modified or better yet supermodified? I seriously have my doubts. I’m not talking structural damage either. What is the safety rating on the fence? When was it last tested for durability? How about age and the breakdown of material from being exposed to the elements? They weren’t painted that color, it’s called rust. The stands are less than 20 feet from the fence in some places. I notice no one has found fault with my comment on the rest room facility. Nuff said.

  36. K, not trying to get into a back and forth here, but the repairs have been to the grandstands to satisfy the demands of town inspectors. Again with the fence, no, it doesn’t look good and yeah, it’s probably something that needs to be replaced at some point, but you also can’t make a blanket assumption. I don’t know you’re background. I’m not a structural engineer, I can’t tell you what would happen. The stands have been in the same place from the track since the track opened.

  37. K, The place is for sale. If you think it is that bad why not buy it and fix things up to your liking! Just think about all of the $$$$ you will be able to put in your pockets.

  38. These guys race for points not money. 100 point penalties.

  39. sam-missle says

    This is short track racing, no fines, suspensions are in order. The track is ultimatly responsible for this. They should educate the workers. But if things are as corupt as is said. Maybe nascar will look into this, or maybe an e-mail to the tracks Ins. co. is in order!!!!!!!


  40. Julio Botz says

    I read the posts and find them too funny. Instead of addressing the safety issue of not using the tethers, folks are trying to find someone to blame. Those who didn’t follow the rules are the ones who are to blame, not the track or the officials.

  41. Doug DiPisa says

    First, stop blaming officials and track. Second, the cars were teched at the beggining of the year. Third, it’s not the job of officials to babysit teams to see what safety issues are with each car every week. Fourth, it’s a BLATENT disrespect to the track, officials and everyone in charge in making racing safe for the fans. If you didn’t have teathers on your car then you are guilty as sin !!

  42. If it was the mini stock class they would be DQed.

  43. Both of these drivers should be DQ’ed without $$$. Yes the inspectors should have caught it but they can’t catch everything. Are they supposed to hold the driver’s, pit crew chief’s, and owner’s hands like little kids??? Fines for all three! It’s their fault and no one else. Not smart on their part. NO BABY SITTING HERE!

  44. This track owner is famous for not paying the competitors. This is just another excuse for not paying, or taking back money owed to them. These guys spend tons of money to compete here. Just make sure the officials look at these items before the event (would you let a driver compete without a helmet?). Take about thirty seconds to check this infraction and don’t let the car on the track if it doesn’t comply.

  45. Doug, that’s the dumbest comment ever. The officials aren’t there to babysit what safety items the teams are and aren’t using???? The hell they’re not. That’s the very definition of their job. I grant you that they can’t catch everything every week but they caught this one. Sure, the teams are responsible for the infraction and should be DQed but to say its not the officials job to catch this is moronic. A rule is a rule. Safety or performance rules should be dealt with the same way and its up to the officials to keep all teams inline with all the rules. This is the tracks premier division no less. If that tire goes into the stands I’m sure the lawyers aren’t going to say it wasn’t the tracks responsibility to monitor the rules.

  46. Doug Dipisa is spot on, this conversation should end with that post. Lack of safety items is a complete disrespect for the sport, the track, and the fans. A nascar national champion without tethers!? wow. Nascar should step in.

  47. Doug DiPisa says

    Mark, have you ever owned a car or in charge of the safety of a car that races at a track ? Do you even know how to install a wheel teathers?

    You pretty much said 2 different things in your argument (Sure, the teams are responsible for the infraction and should be DQed but to say its not the officials job to catch this is moronic. A rule is a rule) And don’t even go into the legal part with me. You’d be surprised what your signing when you enter the gate to watch a race.

    The officials did their job in the beggining if the year, on a part which rarely ever gets damaged in a wreck. To leave it out is arrogent.

    Again, it’s out of RESPECT to the track name and public safety, that you should have an important safety device on YOUR car !
    Or maybe in your theory you think your too good to need it ?

    Bet your into nanny state politics also, huh ?

  48. Stop blaming the track and officials start blaming the drivers and crew chiefs that put a car on the track with safety issues. Someone could have been killed and this needs to be addressed. What should the penalty be both drivers should be fined and DQ’d also a two race suspension. This will show the racers that the track and officials are concerned about safety for drivers and spectators.

  49. Think about what youre asking says

    a DQ for a safety violation after the race is absurd. This should of been caught before the race, and lutz and rocco shouldn’t of been aloud on the track to begin with. If you DQ someone after the race for a safety violation where will it end? People will be protesting guys if their lead doesn’t have their number on it or the wrong size bolts. You could protest an out of date fire extinguisher or a seat belt mounted wrong. I think the track is handling it correctly because a dq would open the flood gates on post race stupidity. Something like this is always a fine in nascar. No doubt those guys are dummys, but don’t open the flood gates on a field full of cars that have questionable safety items.

  50. Doug,

    When Kyle Larson’s car ended up in the grandstands last year at Daytona who got sued? The lawyers lined up to go after Daytona Speedway. Kyle Larson didn’t get sued. The guys who built the car didn’t get sued. The track has ultimate responsibility.

    BTW, I do indeed enjoy my nanny state politics. I was a political science major in college.

  51. Doug DiPisa says

    “The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event, and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers, and directors of Daytona International Speedway, its affiliates and subsidiaries, are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence.”

    Pretty much sums it up Mark. But when suing a track fails, theres always the competitor that again, I say BLATENLY ignores a safety rule.

    It is’t only the track that might be a defendant. In one Florida suit resulting from a race track accident with debris sailing over the fence:

    “A Citrus County man and father of three, Lake Wilson, suffered a major head injury in 1990, when the hood of a race car at Citrus County Speedway sailed over a fence and struck him full force. Wilson was in a coma for 10 months, emerging brain damaged. He won a settlement of $2.7-million — not from the speedway, but the company that distributed the pins that failed to hold the car hood in place.

  52. techmann says

    You have to understand that it is the teams owner and driver that are at fault we don’t know that they where not on there the week before. but we do know they were not on there sat night.As a nascar TECHMan my 1st call will be to the person at nascar that I know will take care of that problem.2nd I have lost all respect in the tech dept at the bowl. And the winner should have been DQ and fined and probation.And the same for the other car.I do not care who the drivers are when you don’t put safety 1st in any division you do not belong racing. we have enough problems with local tracks trying to fill the stands and pits we don’t this.

  53. techmann says

    I don’t understand why some people are mad at this .Suppose somebody or the Flag man got hurt or killed we then would be sad come on people this is safety we are talking about .the drivers and owners new the tethers were not on there we cant give them a break on this. Im sure they read the rule book its in there.our fans and everybody else that was there that night are worth more. SAFETY FIRST and the tech department shame on them also. come on people look at the big picture here.

  54. techmann says

    We all know that once the ticket is purchased what the rule is . Its not about the ticket its about the car owner and driver to make sure everything on that check list has been CHECKED and then The tech dept to make sure that the car is 100 o/o up to safety standards. And they were not plain and simple. so will Thompson step up how about Stafford lets see.Its only for our own safety.

  55. OK, here it is right out of the Waterford Speedbowl SK modified rule book for 2014:

    D) NASCAR approved wheel tethers must be used on the front spindles/hubs

    This is not rocket science. This is the rule every competitor and tech official must follow.

    Enough said, case closed, end of story!

  56. “The holder of this ticket expressly assumes all risk incident to the event, whether occurring prior to, during or subsequent to the actual event, and agrees that all participants, sanctioning bodies, and all employees, agents, officers, and directors of Daytona International Speedway, its affiliates and subsidiaries, are hereby released from any and all claims arising from the event, including claims of negligence.”

    The above is not legally binding – it will not/does not stand up in court. For one, no signature by ticket holder (which in many cases is NOT the purchaser of said ticket) required to even acknowledge and accept the assumption of risk. not a legally binding agreement.

    Also, on the Citrus County hoodpin example, a couple of things were in play: 1) There was enough evidence that existed that the lawyers for the hoodpin manufacturer / distributor, and their insurance company, felt they would lose in court and thus settled for 2.7 Million; and 2) The lawyers for the plantiffs went for where the money was – not going to get 2.7 million from the driver/ car owner, and not going to get it from the track owner / insurance company. Both of those parties ALSO would claim they were not in control of the hoodpins, and had no way of knowing of the potential issue and take precautions.

    Not trying to argue with Doug or anyone here…just saying any disclaimers you see on tickets, etc. will not hold up in court – it’s a long standing scare tactic…

  57. Bob Freeman says

    JR is correct. All of the legal disclaimers that show on tickets, pit sign-ins, etc. will never stand up in court. The track would ultimately be liable since their rules stated that tethers were a safety requirement for the expressed purpose of keeping the wheels on the cars in the event of an accident for the purpose of protecting others from injury. The track employs a tech team to ensure compliance with written rules. In this case, these rules were not followed and every attorney I know would gladly take on an injury case under these circumstances. Fortunately, the catch fence did its job in this case protecting fans. Frankly, I believe the greatest probability of such an incident would be to another competitor with a wheel flying into the windshield during a race potentially causing even greater harm to the other driver. I am not here to place blame as it could have been an honest mistake since there is no competitive advantage to not having the tethers. Safety measures that are in place to protect OTHERS during an accident should be a high priority for all teams competing. If I chose to not fasten my seatbelt and got into an accident, my negligence would not have an impact on the other person(s) safety in the accident, but might result in greater harm to myself. My bad, maybe I will have a chance to change my ways. But there ARE potential liabilities here and it is foolish to think there is not.

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