History Maker: Keith Rocco Completes Stunning SK Modified 2017 Sweep

Keith Rocco and his family and team celebrate the 2017 SK Modified championship Sunday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl

Keith Rocco thought about winning three SK Modified championships in one season. Keith Rocco wanted to win three SK Modified championships in one season.

But on Sept. 16 that thought, that desire, became focused mission in memory of his mentor and friend Ted Christopher.

Sunday at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl Rocco completed that mission, in movie script type dramatic style.

First deflation for Rocco, then elation.

Kyle James of Ashway, R.I., the winner of the 80-lap SK Modified feature Sunday was first declared the 2017 New London-Waterford Speedbowl SK Modified division champion by track officials.

But upon further review, Rocco was awarded the championship by track officials.

“It’s pretty awesome to think about being able to do it,” Rocco told RaceDayCT. ” It kind of all flashed before our eyes there, basically a whole season with the opportunity to win all three and then it almost kind of came to an end. And somehow someway we pulled one out of our hat and was able to still make it work.”

After track officials declared James the champion, they further reviewed a late black flag issue with Rocco and it was declared that Rocco actually beat James by one point in the standings for the season.

“It’s obviously frustrating to be told one thing and then the other side pleading their case and getting a recount and then convincing the officials that a black flag was thrown on a lap that they said it wasn’t thrown on,” James told RaceDayCT. “It is what it is.”

Rocco, who already won SK Modified championships at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway, became the first driver in Connecticut racing history to win SK Modified championships at the state’s three short tracks in the same season.

Rocco dedicated the unprecedented sweep of championships to Christopher, who was killed in a plane crash while travelling to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on Sept. 16. The 32-year old Rocco was a crew member for Christopher as a teenager before becoming one of his toughest rivals on the track over the last decade.

It was Rocco’s seventh SK Modified championship overall at the Speedbowl. The 2012 season is the only year Rocco hasn’t won the SK Modified championship at the track since 2010.

Rocco’s seventh championship also matched the record number for the division achieved by Dennis Gada, and also matched Gada’s record of five consecutive championships. Gada won titles in 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006 and 2008.

Rocco, the track’s all-time winningest driver, also has four Late Model championships (2013, 2014, 2016, 2017) and a Limited Sportsman division title (2004) at the Speedbowl.

“The amount of championships we’ve won down there, it’s like realistically every year we’ve been in contention and leading the points,” Rocco said. “That one year (2012), we got thrown out [of an event], I think that’s the reason we lost that one. But, I just have a love for the place. I really enjoy coming here on Saturday’s and it’s just like a second home to me really.”

After rallying from a flat tire early in the event, Rocco was involved in a wreck while running tenth late in the race. Rocco was able to return to the track with a badly damaged left front suspension and finish the race on the track.

Immediately after the race the track’s electronic scoring system listed Rocco with a 14th place finish, but track officials deemed that because he was black flagged for damage and track officials stopped scoring him, he was dropped to 18th place.

An 18th place finish for Rocco gave James a two-point advantage in the final standings for the division.

James came into the weekend second in the SK Modified division standings, 16 points behind Rocco. James finished second in his heat race and Rocco finished first in his, putting Rocco ahead by 17 points at the start of the feature. The winner is awarded 32 points for the feature and 18th place is awarded 13 points.

But Rocco’s team argued over the exact timing of the black flag being displayed to them them and upon further review track officials deemed that Rocco finished 15th instead of 18th based on when they were shown the black flag and how he was eventually scored. It gave Rocco 16 points for the race and a one-point advantage in the final rundown for the season standings.

“We could only control what we were going to do and that was to win the race,” James said. “That was goal No. 1. I couldn’t control the fate of the cars behind me. The way the cards fell, it seemed to all go right and then they’re doing recounts. And I don’t even really know what happened because I didn’t see any of it. I don’t even have a case and I’m kind of in a place where I don’t have anything to say. I really don’t know what to say because if I watch the race and I might have a better idea of what really went on. I couldn’t count his laps down, I couldn’t see his tire, I couldn’t see when they threw the black flag.”


  1. sour grapes of wrath says

    I have no skin in the game /favorite here …put all the emotions aside.. the track is not sanctioned by NASCAR.. the race director/scorers again messed this up beyond recognition… if the race director or scorers are consistent , he and or she could have made the right decision the first time saving everyone the roller coaster ride and the sour taste that is sure to remain .
    damaged car returns to track, makes some laps and is then shown the black flag. if the driver doesn’t exit the track upon being shown said flag at some point they stop scoring said driver yes????. this is how they decided a championship??? so they make a hasty decision, award the title to James and then decide after review and or questions from the reigning champion to change their minds and then award the title to rocco… looks bad..it just looks really bad.. there will always be an asterisk on this championship and that’s not to take anything away from rocco. whomever made these decisions was too quick on the trigger ..sorry that’s how I see it.. would any other driver have been allowed to run a car in the condition Rocco’s was in when he returned to competition??? not sure on that one…I know race director/scoring is a thankless job but was this the right decision.. sure to be debated for many years to come..

  2. I never saw a Black Flag at all?

  3. Normally they do stop scoring after a couple or few laps of the black flag. Question is how many laps were left when he first got the black flag? I thought maybe 3,4? I’m not sure. When he first came out of the pits the car looked OK to be on the track to me. Then something broke and the tire was smoking. Then got the black flag but never slowed down and neither would anyone else if they were so close to a championship. They did take some time to figure it out and said Rocco lost by 2 points. That’s probably when Rocco and crew plead their arguments. Who knows.

  4. I’d like to hear a better explanation myself.

  5. I agree 110%. I am a Rocco fan but a ModFan first and I think James got the screw job of the night and season. I was listening to race control with 5 to go black flagging Rocco, then to the point of yelling to Junior, his spotter to get him off the track. He should not have been scored if he was black flagged but the pathetic officials caved in and screwed James. With illegal spring rubbers at the Fall Final and This monstrosity, this is a VERY TAINTED TRIFECTA. Kyle James, you are the champion. You handled this situation with class .

  6. Agree, SKModFan. James definitely got the screwing on this one. I get the whole he’s going for a championship, but the track proved their favoritism for him tonight by allowing him to do what he did and then changing their ruling. If after two laps of being given the black flag you do not exit the track, you are no longer scored according to the bowl’s rules. If it was any other driver, championship or not, that had a car like that on the track – no wait, that wouldn’t happen except with Rocco. This will leave a sour taste in the mouths of many for quite a while and will probably cause them to lose racers when they really can’t afford to.

  7. The black flag rule is 3 laps then they stop scoring

  8. You are allowed to be scored for 3 laps once shown the black flag it’s right in the rule book.

  9. Man that’s unfortunate for James. He handled it about as good as anyone could expect. The consensus is that Rocco received special treatment by management that needed him to win the championship and they bent the rules to make it happen after Rocco’s people made their case. Not buying that. Sure would be nice for the race director to address racedayct directly or maybe comment here to state specifically how events unfolded, the timing and how they concluded what they did.
    Judging from this and comments in other articles race director is the worst job in the world.

  10. Jerrypopadom says

    Tom s, you can read the rule. After the completion of the second lap you are no longer being scored. So two laps

  11. Henry Lecomte says

    It happens in the best yesterday in F1 max verstapn was given third only to have it taken away after the race so we as people make mistakes

  12. guess this is one of the reasons why that track IS NOT a Nascar sanctioned track. They can pick and choose who they want to win!

  13. WRONG. Tom S, in their General rules 1.5.10 under flags they state, any car getting the black flag must act immediately to get off the track and consult an official AND will not be scored after the SECOND COMPLETED LAP. All tracks in CT follow that rule and Rocco knows that.

  14. Regardless of the controversy at least we had racing this season…. Thanks George. Let’s not forget the delayed start to the season.. Congratulations to all the speedbowl winners!!

  15. Thanks to rest of the speedbowl staff as well… At least there was a close points race… it’s no fun to watch when someone is running away a division. Finally thanks Shawn for the awesome work you do for race fans like me😁

  16. darealgoodfella says

    Hey, it’s Waterford.

    What do you really expect?

  17. And he was black flagged for THREE LAPS. He did do a great job driving a car with one broken wheel but he should not have been on the track after he was black flagged. Favoritism was showed here. Three laps and your score card is ripped up for that event. A slap in the face to all the other drivers who would not have been given the same decision.

  18. The really sad part about the whole thing is here is a guy that wins everywhere.He will never get any thing besides bragging rights from it his career will go nowhere that’s sucks.

  19. I always said it’s all on who you are. Black and white writing is for everyone else except for the special people that are favored drivers to the tracks. I think that’s awful to tell someone they have the title then take it away. Cuz some body is crying to officialls . Bunch of cheaters for sure. Certainly not well liked. I only like real race car drivers that don’t cry likre babies

  20. In The Know says

    What a joke!!!! Waterford race director and officials should be ashamed of themselves. No James fan but he really got screwed and didn’t get what he deserved the championship. The track management went above and beyond showing their favoritism toward Rocco. What a shame to say the least.

  21. Someone has to have a video somewhere from which we can discern the number of black flag laps for which the 88 was scored…

  22. I wonder why more time is not taken when things become cloudy.Seems this kind of stuff doesn’t happen only at the Speedbowl.As far as winning the title “for my friend and mentor”.I overheard a discussion at Monadnock a couple of years ago between Rocco and Goodale.I was walking right next to them.Rocco was holding his child and Goodale said “why is Teddy racing at the bowl tonite?Rocco said
    “because it’s the only place he can compete”.I think he had to have seen me walking along right next to them but said it anyway in front of a stranger with big ears,a long memory,and a big mouth.I know my friends and family don’t talk about me like that. I hope TC thought about his friends the same way.Some will say this post is in poor taste.Maybe so,but it was a conceited and nasty remark and people should be more worried about their stupid words coming back to bite them.He didn’t say this anonymously,he said it out loud and in person.

  23. Herbie Hubris says

    Who had the hubris to make up a four championship banner before the race? I can’t think that thing was made up in the ten minutes after Team Rocco begged Waterford officials to change the scoring. After all, how could they let such a nice banner be wasted?

  24. James Scott says

    Why do people think if the track was NASCAR sanctioned their would be no favortites or no scoring issues. Hopefully the Bowl will be sold to somebody who will keep the track operating and make improvements.

  25. what about the 3 cars rocco had park so he can gain more positions. He was 8 laps down with 9 to go and had 2 of his cars pull off, and the 3rd dq themselves for not going to tech.

  26. So Seekonk is not the only one that plays that game

  27. He doesn’t stop being scored until after he receives the third black flag. Just like the rule states. He gates the black flag, when he completes that lap he gets black flagged a second time. At that point he has only completed 1 lap after the initial black flag. He goes around again and gets black flagged for the third time. He is scored up until that point as he has now completed 2 laps after initial black flag. After he received the third black flag is when he is no longer scored. That is when he has completed 2 black flag laps as is stated in the rules. Not a Rocco fan but any means but he will should be scored until he takes the third black flag as stated in the rules.

  28. Hey dareal;getreal.240 race cars using a great facility with tons of fan access on a beautiful weekend is what I expected and received.So much great racing,so few boneheads(Hadley,Monahan,Rocco).I do not believe you were there,nor should you be with your anti-Speedbowl message thrown every chance you get.Contrary to your morose predictions,the Speedbowl lives on.

  29. darealgoodfella says

    And does anyone wonder why Rocco is and always will be an off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-off-Broadway driver? This sort of thing is probably why he hasn’t had a NWMT ride.

  30. Will Waterford open next year? Asking for a friend who said you were very knowledgeable and would know.

  31. I wanted to see James win for the record. But here we go, Rocco’s a cheater, not a real driver, didn’t really win a championship at all 3 tracks, pays money for the track to favor him. Watetford’s had different owners, promotors, operators, officials. All in the bag for Rocco.

  32. Mark Andrews says

    The mistake that was made here was that the officials didn’t take the time to review the final finish and check all necessary scoring etc,Before announcing who was the Champion.I guess the need to create some type of drama or celebration outweighed the obligation to all the competitors.So sad….I cant say as im surprised with this considering those involved.It has happened before at this track with other regimes and officials.I applaud the Whitneys and any others involved in opening the track this year and doing the best they could.They were behind the eight ball from the very beginning and this is the end result.I hope they can learn from some mistakes and correct them and move forward.Kyle James deserves huge kudos for running as well as he does on a limited budget.And I cant recall any time during the past 2 or 3 seasons where I have seen him intentionally wreck or run drivers high or low,Even after being a victim of this from various drivers many times.He will win Championships at some point and is always a threat to be on the podium.Well Done.Keith…..Well what else can you say.Last Night as every night he races to win…Period.He could have laid back throughout and won the title with no question.Could have declined to Lease cars to other drivers and made it easier on himself.He declined.I saw him literally drive the wheels off last night driving to the front.Say what you want about him…..his crew and whomever.His record speaks for itself and will continue to do so.Lets not forget Todd Owen who was a welcome surprise this season.My hope would be that after the emotions subside he relinquish the title to James.Will He?i don’t think its ever been done ,but it would be a class act.Now that’s a Story!Years ago in NHRA Blaine Johnson was dominating Top Fuel.He was tragically killed in an on track accident.Kenny Bernstien……a guy with many Championships was second in points.At the season ending banquet Bernstein accepted the Championship trophy and then asked Alan Johnson to come on stage and accept the Trophy.Bernstein is a Racer.he knew if Blaine had not passed away…….as good as his team was….they were going to lose the Championship to the Johnsons.He accepted that and showed true dignity and honor to Blaine and the entire Johnson organization and Family.Alot of people will never forget that.Im not comparing the two but it should be said.The officials made a mistake by announcing the results too soon.This can be corrected and no one will suffer or lose sleep over it.

  33. darealgoodfella says

    It was dark, nobody could see the black flag.

  34. Mark Andrews says

    Da real what?fool?Rocco has a full time job at a top shelf engine shop.Races at 3 sometimes 4 tracks a week, services and sets up numerous cars for others, and leases cars out for others to have an opportunity to drive.Add to that hes married with two very young kids.Are you kidding me?I have no doubt that if he wanted to give it all up and concentrate soley on a tour that doesn’t pay squat to win and does not support its competitors he would absolutely dominate.He has had some races with some different teams, and as I understand it was not in charge of how the cars were prepared or what equipment he was using, i.e chassis ,engine combos.For the few…..and I mean few races he did run he qualified and ran as well as expected for the equipment and amount of seat time he had at different tracks,so please get a life.I suppose you would run your yap about guys like evans,stefanik,ruggerio,and others who untimately decided to stay close to home.

  35. Thanks for the correction on black flag scoring. I remember something similar to this at the bowl in the late models between Phil rondeau and Allan Coates. Late 90s I think??

  36. I do believe the kitchen sink has been thrown into the mix. From hearsay about what Rocco may have said about Christopher at Monadnock forever ago to an NHRA anecdote to the suggestion that Rocco relinquish his title to James. Most entertaining string ever.
    Ding! Did I just hear the bell of sanity. Sonny’s comment caught my eye. Sounds like it could be correct.
    Mark Andrews with some great observations and perspective. Waiting, reviewing, analyzing then announcing clearly would have been wiser. Mentioning Todd Owen who most times seems to be the invisible man he’s so uncontroversial. But relinquish the championship? Say what? How about some proof be put forward that the wrong decision was made. James wouldn’t take it anyway unless there were uncontrovertible proof that a mistake was made. So far we all share one thing in common. We have opinions backed by virtually nothing concrete. In the next day or two Robert Bagot of Motorsports Productions may post a video of the race on youtube like he has so many times with Speedbowl races. Maybe something will show up on that we can have fun with.
    And for those history buffs you may want to revisit the 2001 Speedbowl championship controversy involving Phil Rondeau and Allen Coates. Where race director Bill Roberts inadvertently deletes video evidence of a photo finish, the championship taken away from Rondeau and given to Coates. All incorrectly according to some people that witnessed the finish.

  37. Mark Andrews says

    Doug I was simply stating my opinion isn’t that what this blog is about/my belief is that a complete review of the entire race……from the green, to laps down, black flags ,and the like, is that james may have been declared the victor.im just sad that because of the track and officials most will feel that the championship would be forever tainted.

  38. darealgoodfella says

    🏴 🏴 🏴


    🏴 🏴 🏴

  39. I feel bad for Kyle James, but this wasn’t a matter of cheating, crying, or favoritism…. this was correcting a mistake that should not have happened.

    Art you are a real piece of work. You hear what, 10 seconds of a conversation and you come on here and post something to trash Rocco. That must have been the July 2015 race, the only time I went to help out at Monadnock. Ted was teamed with Robert Katon on the tour, they wrecked at Loudon the week before and chose to skip the race. That may have been the last race before Rocco broke his wrist, and Ted split from Katon and took over the Chris Our 22.

  40. Hey Mark Andrews don’t get me wrong, I’m a fan. My view you wrote one of the best most even handed comments I’ve ever seen here. Especially liked how you laid out racing from Rocco’s perspective. There are those that thrive on diminishing him for not being on the tour full time. It is as you say in so many words. He has decided how he will race in a way that is consistent with his work and family obligations. If that’s not good enough for some I’m pretty sure he doesn’t care.
    As for the controversy there may be none. The track has video of everything I am almost certain, may have had meetings to review how events unfolded and likely have been in contact with Rocco and James. These aren’t evil, conspiratorial people. Mistakes were made. It was a monster weekend of racing, they had their hands full and may have not been at their best toward the end. In my view all the talk about bending the rules to make Rocco the champ is nonsense until someone comes up with some facts to back it up.
    Keep em coming big guy you’re serving up some good stuff.

  41. I read an article on another site. I don’t blame Shawn if he won’t post this but basically Jeff Rocco brought the black flag rule to the attention of the race director. After further review of the rule book, they brought both Keith and Kyle into the booth and re-did the math. After all was said and done it came down to one point in favor of Rocco. I’m no expert or Rocco fan but in the end I think the track did the right thing. I imagine if Rocco didn’t wreck and finished top 10 or whatever, things would have gone much more smoothly.

  42. I like daidiot, but dafool also works.

  43. Simmer down he won and that’s all that matters Yiyr a bunch of little babies

  44. Seems to me like after they changed race directors, things were much improved. I think the officials were trying to be fair about it. But, it will forever be a controversial call. I give the officials the benefit of the doubt. That said, it was a fantastic end to a turbulent season. Great weekend of racing!

  45. Iron mike.
    About the race,nice run by Doug and the 13 crew.
    Young gun lzzo ran a great race, nice job
    Can we see this team in 2018 ?

  46. Iron mike says:
    About the race, nice run by Doug and the 13 crew.
    Young shoe Izzo drove a steady race to finish 3rd
    Can we see this teamin 2018 ?

  47. SK ModFan Roccos car in post race tech at Fall Final had 2 spring Rubbers. Stafford does not have a rule on number of spring rubbers per spring so even if you revert back to Tour Rules you are allowed 2 spring rubbers.

  48. Two things that have been lost in the controversy. The awesome race that the Moeller kid had. Did anyone here ever expect him to finish second in the biggest race of the season? He ran up front for the entire race. Plus he’s only run a handful of sk races so far. That was the shocker of the day for me. Second was the scary crash the kid from Seekonk had driving one of Rocco’s rentals. Kid went head on into the concrete. Glad he walked away, hope he’s okay. I was told he was the legend car champion up there. I’m assuming this was his first modified race.

  49. Oh wow wTerfprd is back racing

    I.eent by there on my wY to my yatch
    Seen cars bit thpught they were having a swap meet
    Good to know they r open
    Hey dareal you said some good stuff till.You tried to.kill rocco. Again
    hater I.bet you got all his tshirts too

  50. Your all a bunch of idiots Rocco won fear and sqauare

  51. darealgoodfella says

    Okay, now we can transition to discussing if Waterford will open in the Spring, and who will be the new owner, who will be the management team, race director…

    Talk amongst yourselves.

  52. Speed 51 gives a more complete account of what happened should anyone care.

    My view Rocco is champ fair and square. The staff must have been pretty tired from the monster schedule of races when this thing broke out. Give them credit for getting both drivers together, explaining it all and coming to some kind of conclusion both teams could accept. Sounds like the opposite of blatant favoritism many accuse the track of. Sounds like good people struggling to do the right thing while a storm rages around them.
    Like Rodeau in 2001, Speedbowl legend will reflect how James handled the mix up with calm and dignity saying just the right things. Myself I don’t like the way Rocco threw his win record at Dowling after wins at Stafford and Thompson and the banner he had ready. Under the circumstances they could have left the banner in the hauler. The good news is it will be fun hating Rocco next year. That’s race hating not to be confused with actual hate.

  53. Following up on rich’s reference to Moeller he indeed had an impressive finish in the SK’s He also raced in the MTS and the SKL. He and his family also have a history.
    A parent with deep pockets pushing a kid to compete with adults having learned few of life’s more valuable lessons. How cliche.

  54. Crazy in NY says

    Kyle James……please call Steve Harvey

  55. Congrats to Keith Rocco. I don’t have to be a fan of his but I do respect the way he just goes out and does it. Not a lot of glitz & glamour. Just success.
    And I don’t really mind if he takes a verbal swipe or 2 at a young challenger. If we’re livi g in the time that Doug Coby is now the grand old man on the Nascar Modified mountain and Keith Rocco is chafing about these young whippersnappers then holy cow I must be getting old. I remember when Doug and Keith were teenagers in Street Stocks.
    Kyle James has come a long long way. He’s almost there, in terms of challenging Rocco on a weekly basis. At least, as close as there is these days at Waterford.
    At the moment he thought he won the title he was classy, and handled the loss of the title with class too.
    The drama of the point tallying was a typically Speedbowlian way to end a typically Speedbowlian year at the Speedbowl.

  56. They should of thrown a yellow with all that smoke. I’m tired of seeing Rocco win every week. I think I’m done. Very sad

  57. congratulations Keith!

  58. From what I was told Rocco was aloud back on the track with the wheel broken,which is way wrong.The official at the gate let him go.He should have never been scored from that point on.Am I wrong?

  59. darealgoodfella says

    Kevin T., how loud was Rocco? Is there a rule about being too loud?

  60. Tough call all the way around, but the picture from speed51 the officials let that drive around the track??!!! Championships aren’t decided in one race, but let’s do it right Waterford.

  61. Kevint is wrong says

    Kevin t, Rocco’s car ran 5 laps at speed before the left front broke off. So you can’t pretend the track let him out with a broken car.

    Even after the left front was hanging off the car Rocco was running less than 1 second a lap slower than the leader. To put that in perspective, there are tour drivers that qualify and are aloud to race that are more than 1 second a lap slower than the leader. Was insane to watch, kid did all he could.

  62. When he came out of the pits his wheel was straight. After the green, the repair/weld broke. That’s when he got the black flag.

  63. Thanks, wasn’t there.

  64. Bob Freeman says

    The biggest mistake I see here was made by the Speedbowl in the rushing to announce a champion. The race itself presented enough “red flags” to warrant a full review prior to such an announcement. In the end, I believe they did the right thing by pulling Keith and Kyle in to explain the calls, but that really should have been done prior to the announcement.

  65. Thank you Bob Freeman for posting that. I posted a similar statement yesterday that still has not made it to this section. Congrats to Keith on the championship and sorry to Kyle that the Speedbowl made a rash announcement without knowing their own rules on black flag scoring.

  66. Front Row Racer says

    Rocco has Rubber Springs

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