Title Fight: Keith Rocco, Chase Dowling Ready To Battle For SK Mod Title At Stafford Speedway

An emotional Keith Rocco stands at the rear of his car after draping a Ted Christopher flag on it following his victory in last Friday’s SK Modified feature at the track

Ask Keith Rocco if he’s worried about his chances to grab his third SK Modified championship at Stafford Motor Speedway this weekend and the Wallingford driver channels some of his inner Ted Christopher.

The 32-year old Rocco takes a four point lead over 19-year old Chase Dowling into the championship deciding 40-lap SK Modified feature at Sunday’s NAPA Fall Final at Stafford Motor Speedway.

“I think I’ve got more SK [Modified] championships than that kid has wins in an SK [Modified],” said Rocco, who is also a multi-time SK Modified champion at Thompson Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. “So I think we’re going to be OK. … We’re going there on a mission.”

Dowling, of Roxbury, has four victories this year at Stafford, his first season driving for team owner Adam Skowyra.

Rocco came into last Friday’s event at Stafford 38 points behind Dowling, who was leading the standings. Rocco won the event and Dowling, of Roxbury, wrecked early and finished deep in the pack, allowing Rocco to take over the points lead.

“The bottom line I guess is that whoever wins the race is probably going to win the championship,” Dowling said. “I mean that’s going to be the goal for me, to go there and try to win the race. Keith is fast. He’s got [Christopher’s] setup in there now. He’s fast. Faster than he’s been in the past. We weren’t really worried about him before, but now he’s got that setup pretty quick. You can’t really think about it too much. You just have to try to go there and try to win the race.”

Ronnie Williams of Tolland and two-time defending division champion Rowan Pennink of Huntingdon Valley, Pa, also remain in the hunt for the title. Williams sits 16 points behind Rocco and Pennink 24 points out of the lead.

Rocco, who had SK Modified championships at Stafford in 2008 and 2010, is looking at Stafford as the first leg of a possible historic trifecta. He’s also leading the SK Modified standings at the Speedbowl and Thompson. There are two events left at the Speedbowl and one race left at Thompson.

Rocco said there were times during the season when he thought about skipping events at the Speedbowl, but the thought of pulling off the triple championship feat kept him going.

“That’s just one more thing to put on the list of accomplishments,” Rocco said. “I wish it would be all three tracks NASCAR sanctioned [the Speedbowl is not NASCAR sanctioned]. But just to do it would be a huge milestone.

“There were times that I tried to stay home [from the Speedbowl], but I just couldn’t do it. I kind of thought, this might be the only year to have a shot to win all three championships. I didn’t want to throw in the towel.”

Rocco and his team will be riding a major high into Stafford on Sunday. Friday’s first victory of the season for him at the track also proved the most emotional of his career. It was the first event back at the track since the death of Christopher on Sept. 16. Christopher and Rocco have been close since Rocco began working on his crew as a teenager.

Last Friday Rocco brought the car he normally raced this year at the Speedbowl to Stafford.

“To be honest, the way things were going, not winning any races, it would be kind of embarrassing to be leading the points and not have a win,” Rocco said. “But, being that we were 30-something points back and going there with a different car that was by far the class of the field, it really has got everybody’s hopes up and got everybody motivated again and puts us back in the hunt.

“After Friday night that car went home and got put on jackstands and it’s going back this weekend. We haven’t had a car that fast like that in years at Stafford. That was a brand new car we built over the winter. I think I ran it 10 times and I won seven races with it.”

Dowling exceeded the expectations of many in taking over the Skowyra ride for 2017.

“I knew we were going to be pretty good this year, but I didn’t think we would be this good,” Dowling said. “And we let some wins slip away for us. But we won four races. I think some people forget sometimes that I’m only 19 years old. But when we strap in we’re all the same when we go over the scales at the end of the night, so it doesn’t really bother me too much.

“I think we made a name for ourselves. I think people knew we were there every week. We were one of the top cars. No matter what, at the end of the day, win or lose the championship. I’m proud of my guys. … They put their hearts and souls into that thing. We had six, seven guys in the shop this week trying to get that car back together. There’s a lot of dedication from that team. You know, we won the [NAPA Spring] Sizzler, we won the [SK 5K]. Two of the big races of the year. That in itself is a huge accomplishment.”


  1. If his car was that good, why didn’t Rocco use that car all year at Stafford? Wasn’t it legal?

  2. Yes sir ree Mr Rocco you are pretty hot stuff. Having just unveiled that silver bullet last week that was dominant you seem to have a big edge. The Dowling car, pieced back together, a setup needing to be tuned from scratch is gong to be tough. But they’ll be a race anyway and stuff happens with aggressive driving and a loaded field in the last race. Perfect fall weather forecast. Can’t wait.

  3. Just a fan, it was a new car,it’s usually set up for Waterford, that’s why he hasn’t used it at Stafford.

  4. ModFan Homtracks says

    It’s going to be a great race. Rocco best not rest on his laurels. His set up was great last race but the Fall Final is a day race and that can open the door. Don’t forget about Williams. He finished a strong second last week and he could make it interesting. And Chase, yeah winning 4 races at 19 is great; Williams won 6 at age 18. This will be fun to watch!!

  5. Hey Ray W, your explanation is confusing. If it was a “new” car how was “it’s usually set up for Waterford” ?? If you mean new to Stafford and he has been running it at the Bowl, it still begs the question why he hasn’t been using it at Stafford if it is so unbelievably good. It was in a class by itself like NOTHING else all season. I, and everyone around me on Fri, agree with Just A Fan; verrrrry interesting.

  6. Dougdacheater says

    That is a brand new TA1 car that was built this year for Waterford that is owned by Rocco. The car he normally races at stafford is owned by the Rufrano family. That’s the reason this car hasn’t been there.

    I think the car Dowling drives is a TA1 Troyer as well. maybe they are just better cars.

  7. I remember Ryan Preece being asked at Waterford at an SK150 a while back why he wasn’t running his Stafford car there. He said that with all the suspension components that would need to be changed to set the car up for the different track, it was at least full day’s job.

  8. Give me a brake says

    For your information that car is Keith’s own car, the car he has been running at Stafford is owned by John Rufrano and through numerous efforts by many ,the car would not turn, so Keith made the change

  9. Must be some kind of conspiracy. Needs a special investigation. Of course, when you’re playing for all the marbles, you bring your best piece.

  10. Using the same car at the two tracks in a pain. Gear, spring, stagger changes back and forth and a lot more. It’s nice having a car for each track. It’s worked out perfect. It’s unlikely anyone knew the new car would perform so flawlessly. It just did and the timing was sublime. I’m still rooting for the kid. Gotta love the young up and coming, refreshingly humble challenger to supremely confident veteran.

  11. They need to start teching Rocco’s motors and cars a bit better that they do..

  12. As we speak darealgoodfella is hunting down clues that Rocco colluded with the Russians when building this car

  13. The car he won at Stafford with was the Waterford car. The next night he won at Waterford with a different car, not the normal Waterford car. Not sure which car it was except it looked similar but not quite the same. As far as Tech goes, think of the hundreds of times between the 3 tracks he’s been in Tech. Not saying there’s anything to be found, and they haven’t found it yet, they never will.

  14. (MIKE) LOL funny!!!

  15. sour grapes of wrath says

    rococo won at Waterford in the past with a Thompson car. ..couldn`t get this car to turn?? perfectly logical. rocco is a very good chassis guy with many people to bounce ideas off of.. he running for a championship. so he has another car in his arsenal… stop bashing him.. he has earned every championship and win.. he started with next to nothing.. hard work pays off.. should be an exciting weekend.. as for tech..of the three tracks in question Stafford seems to have the most scrutiny when tech inspections are done.. ask preece….. saw them rip that car apart a couple years back when he couldn’t`t be beat…finding the offense has never been an issue at Stafford.. however sometimes how that offense is handled IS.

  16. There’s a void. Because of the tragic death of the king I no longer have a bad guy to hate. Just to be clear we’re not talking about evil hate but racing hate. That is more like admiration run amok and turned back into dislike for the sake of rooting. Enter Keith Rocco. Yes I know it’s weak, really weak but he’s my new guy in the black hat and here’s why.
    First there’s the winning. Way to much of that and at too many tracks. He’s the top dog now. Always more fun to root for the plucky young up and comer. Then there’s the nickname. Kid Rock. First he’s not a kid and second copying the name of a Detroit recording artist is just unimaginative. And Mr. Rocco is a bit of a self aggrandizing lecturer in the winners circle with the focus generally always circling back to himself. Like here reminding everyone of all his winning and not giving the kid a nod for being in the hunt. Kind of insecure. Like I said weak right?
    Talented, hard working, a great wrench and completely legal after having his equipment teched to death, makes no difference. Although it would help if he was put on probation more and dented more rear bumpers. I get to chose my guy with the black hat and he’s it until someone better comes along.

  17. Not Fred Lorenzon says

    Doug, You’re right, very weak. And in very poor taste.

  18. It was tongue in cheek Fred, meant to be light hearted and in many ways poke fun at the superficiality of fans using myself. If I failed by not making it simple enough for a person such as yourself that takes it all so serious my apologies. I would also add that if you are the Poor Taste Police of this forum you may want to look into some of the other more egregious entries that may offend you delicate sensibilities.

  19. If it takes all day to switch over a Stafford car to Waterford, how did Rocco switch over a Thompson car to Waterford in a couple of hours, start dead last and win?

  20. Are you saying something is amiss rich or marveling at the expertise to pull it off? Either way it’s a good point.

  21. I’ve always heard that a Stafford and Waterford car is much more similar than a Thompson car. It was an amazing feat for sure.

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