Keith Rocco Rewriting The Record Books

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Keith Rocco celebrates victory in the SK Modified Nationals feature in October at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Keith Rocco celebrates victory in the SK Modified Nationals feature in October at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

With the level of accomplishment Keith Rocco has reached at just 31 years of age, the Connecticut modified standout is on pace to set records that may never be touched.

After a period of recognizing regional crowns, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series returned to a U.S. state and Canadian province championship structure in 2007. Woody Pitkat captured the first Connecticut NASCAR title that year. Rocco has been at the top since.

In nine years under the current format, Rocco’s eight crowns lead all North American competitors.

That’s far from the only category in the record book in which he’s pulling away from the field.

In mid-May Rocco broke New London-Waterford Speedbowl’s all-time feature wins mark, which now sits at 121 across multiple divisions. The ensuing fifth SK Modified title in the last six years also gave him eight division crowns there, a record for the 65-year-old track as well.

“It’s a huge accomplishment,” Rocco said. “I remember being there as a kid in the grandstand when Phil Rondeau broke 100 feature wins. I was able to reach 100 wins and break the all-time record this year, so to be able to do it at this age is pretty awesome.”

The Wallingford, Connecticut, native isn’t necessarily chasing history though. He sees it as more of a byproduct of what he puts into the sport.

“It’s impressive for the record book,” Rocco said. “It’s a lot of work and a lot of time to race three nights a week, but in the end it seems to really pay off.”

In addition to his regular Saturday night participation at the .375-mile Speedbowl, Rocco also races Friday nights in the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway as well as the full Sunoco Modified schedule at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Success at all three Connecticut tracks through the years has allowed him to stay atop the state’s Whelen All-American Series standings.

Chasing points at the state and national level – he’s also finished top-five in the overall Whelen All-American Series standings nine years running – certainly adds another layer of motivation, but Rocco would race multiple times a week even if there wasn’t anything on the line.

“Whether this format was here or not, I’d be racing the same amount that I am now,” Rocco said. “I drive for the love of the sport and the fun of it. It’s just what I do. Whether chasing a national title is an option or not, it’s not going to change how I race.”

Rocco recorded his record eighth Connecticut crown with 11 wins, 34 top fives and 41 top 10s in 48 starts for 660 points. One of his modified mentors, Ted Christopher, finished second with 626.

The race was a bit closer for Rocco for the New London-Waterford crown. He missed two races during the season to participate in NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour events and trailed Tyler Chadwick heading into the season finale.

With heat race points on the line at the Speedbowl, Rocco made the tough decision to back out of participating in the Whelen Modified Tour’s afternoon race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that same day so that he wouldn’t fall further behind before the final feature.

“I was able to win the heat race and gain a little bit of steam,” Rocco said. “Come race time it was a race to the front. I got out front real quick in the first five laps and never looked back from there.”

In the end Rocco edged Chadwick 622-619 for his fifth SK Modified title.

His five SK crowns actually aren’t the record. That mark sits at seven and is held by Dennis Gada.

Still at a relatively young age, it seems inevitable that Rocco will catch and surpass that record as well. He’s not putting the cart before the horse though.

“The competition at Waterford is pretty stiff these days,” Rocco said. “The last two years it seems everybody has really stepped up their game.”

That said, Rocco hopes to continue at his current pace. His 11 career NASCAR track championships were the most of any driver who won a Whelen All-American Series Division I crown in 2015.

“We’re always going to race to win, and the points come with the wins,” Rocco said.

Rocco co-owned his No. 88 Mr. Rooter Chevrolet modified with Vin Beedle. In addition to family and friends that contributed throughout the year, Rocco also received support via sponsorship from Cordone & Son Construction, D&G Paving and FMR Racing.

Rocco intends to continue with the usual schedule of competition at New London-Waterford, Stafford and Thompson in his bid for ninth-straight NASCAR Connecticut crown. His first feature of 2016 will take place on April 10 in the 42nd Annual Icebreaker weekend at Thompson.

The Speedbowl’s 2016 season will commence on May 7 with the first NASCAR Whelen All-American Series features of the year.

Established in 1982, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is NASCAR’s national championship program for weekly short track auto racing. In all, 57 paved and dirt tracks throughout the United States and Canada participated in 2015.

Connecticut-based Whelen Engineering is the series’ title sponsor. Whelen Engineering is a leading manufacturer of automotive, aviation, industrial and emergency vehicle lighting. NASCAR tracks and pace cars are among the many showcases for Whelen products.

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