To The Wire: Todd Owen Gets Win, Keith Rocco Takes SK Mod Title At Thompson

Keith Rocco celebrates the 2017 SK Modified championship Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway

THOMPSON – The drama on Sunday at Thompson Speedway in the SK Modified division came down to the battle between Keith Rocco and Todd Owen for the division’s championship.

But it might have been a little bit of drama carrying over from Stafford Motor Speedway that brought even more feistiness and theater to the championship event for the SK Modified division Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Sunday.

Rocco looked on the road to celebrating a championship with a feature victory on Sunday, but a battle for the top spot between Rocco and Dowling changed all that.

In the end it was Todd Owen of Somers scoring the victory in the 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified feature.

After getting knocked out of the lead by Dowling, Rocco, of Wallingford, held on for a third place finish in the feature to edge Owen for the championship. Dowling, of Roxbury ended up second on the track.

“There’s a reason I’ve got more championships than that kid’s got wins,” Rocco said of Dowling. “That wasn’t really called for. But we pulled it off and we’re here with another championship.”

Said Dowling: “He gets mad all the time, he’s got more championships than I’ve got wins. But I wasn’t even in my dad’s thoughts when he was racing Modifieds, and he’s still in the [SK Modifieds]. It’s no big deal.”

Rocco came into the event holding an 11-point lead over Owen in the chase for the title at Thompson. Two weeks ago Rocco came out on top of a final race head-to-head battle for the SK Modified championship at Stafford with Dowling.

On lap 13 race leader John Studley got loose in turn four. With Ryan Preece checking up in second behind Studley, Rocco vaulted from fourth place to the lead.

On lap 28, contact between Dowling and Rocco sent Rocco out of the lead and up the track in turn two. Rocco fell back to fifth and Owen was able to make the move to lead past Dowling.

“I was leading the race and I know everybody wants to win, but that almost cost us big,” Rocco said.

Said Dowling: “I started 12th, I got to the front, we had a green flag run and we were catching him so we were faster than him. He’s running against the wall the whole race, all the way up behind the momentum line. I showed a nose and he put me down on the apron. So I wasn’t going to let it happen. So I just throttled up a little bit and we made contact and he went up toward the wall. His car is one piece, my car is one piece. He’s got a mature group of guys giving me the finger and stuff. It’s all good.”

Said Owen: “Just hard racing I guess. I don’t know if that went back to Stafford. It was definitely hard racing. I don’t think I’d want to be the one in the middle of the fire there.”

Caution flew for the stopped car of Troy Talman on lap 29, setting up a green-white-checkered finish.

On the restart Owen was able to hold off Dowling, with Rocco clawing back to third place.

“To be honest, I figured that Dowling would probably try to clean out Owen too,” Rocco said. “But he didn’t. So, we just knew we had to stay where we were. … That was it.”

It was the second victory of the season at Thompson for Owen.

Todd Owen celebrates victory in the SK Modified feature Sunday at the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing at Thompson Speedway

“We definitely can’t be disappointed,” Owen said. “I went into today know we had to win the race and whatever happened would happen. For next even expecting to be here, it’s pretty cool. We were fast. We won that race because we were fast, not because it was just luck.”

It was the second consecutive championship at Thompson for Rocco and his sixth overall. It was his 15th NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship overall between Thompson, Stafford Speedway and the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, which ties him for second all-time in Division I track championships in NASCAR history.

“They keep getting harder and harder,” Rocco said. “And with about two laps to go we really had to put on our game fact and get after it.”

Rocco is looking to become the first driver to win SK Modified championships at all three Connecticut short tracks in the same season. He will take the points lead into the final event at the Speedbowl next week. Because the Speedbowl is not a NASCAR sanctioned facility a possible title there would not count toward his Whelen All-American Series championship totals.

“We’ve still got one to go,” Rocco said. “Anything can happen. We saw what happened today and how close it came. Like I keep saying, you just need a little luck on your side and be on your game.”


  1. geoffrey doppelgänger says

    Get the man a box of tissues!

  2. Tommy crew man says

    Dowlings crew said they were there to ruin the championship for Rocco. They almost did. New rivelry brewing over there. If dowling was so much faster I guess he could of won the race instead of trying to wreck Rocco.

  3. I think we have the making of a new F1 team orders in the Sunoco Modified division at TSMP ! What really happened with the #3 ?

  4. geoffrey doppelgänger says

    Keith will bring 3 cars and 653 tissues to Waterford.

  5. I suppose it could be true that Dowling wasn’t in his dads thoughts when Rocco was racing modifieds. But Rocco is a young man at 32 with many championships in the book and long career ahead if he chooses. If he he follows through his list of victories will be epic. Dowling is a teenager at 19 with nothing but a bright future cause the kid is talented and willing to mix it up. Mixing it up is good.
    Sadly there is no more Ted Christopher. Rocco is the new king of the hill in SK’s and he needs to expect that young lions will be nipping at his heals. In a way Christopher was a shield of success that kept the spotlight off Rocco. That’s over.
    Congratulations to all.

  6. sour grapes of wrath says

    there are many young drivers out there however NONE has the smarts to set up, repair, drive and build engines along with running a profitable race operation ..rococo deserves his championships no matter how much jealousy and hate is sent his way.. deserves all he has earned and as you said he`s just a young guy .. congrats to rocco. these kids coming up have no idea what hard work really means..not yet anyway

  7. Preece fan says

    Geoffrey, what’s Rocco got to cry about? He wins again. Dowling tried to wreck him and Keith laughed in his face again. That guy has a way of getting in everyone’s head.

    Lol what is with the 3. If those are F1 orders they were pretty bad ones since Rocco was leading when he stopped on the track. I think Rocco’s other car wrecked with like 5 to go and cost him the win and almost the championship. Crazy

  8. Theodore Kristopherson says

    Excellent race, great job by Team Rocco

  9. Good call sour grapes. Isn’t Rocco a machinist by trade? He’s not a good wrench he’s a super wrench. But don’t write off all the other drivers especially one very talented builder of cars Mr. Todd Owen with his own customer list of cars to keep on the track. At 40 plus not a young lion but every bit the old school racer Rocco is.

  10. Henry Lecomte says

    Good for Todd one of the good guys

  11. The SECOND time the 3 stopped on the track it was pretty obvious what was happening. That was right after the 57 got bumped out of 1st and the 81 took the lead. The officials parked him for that one.

  12. Rocco will never be a TC, too much of a cry baby at 32 years old. Keith complains to the track officials like he owns the track. He does not mentor young drives like TC did he just complains about other drives do to his own misgivings. He drives folks into the wall or this case right over them. (MRS race and the 17). If you study his driving skills he hits drives in their right front coming out the turn to knock the toe off, nice clean racing indeed. At the bowl this year he stuffed the 21 in the wall twice the officials did nothing. Then he complains in victory lane about the handy cap system. I have stopped going to the Bowl because he’s just a cry baby, has favoritism and just not fair to the other drivers.

  13. For every action the an equal or opposite reaction. Rocco drove chase low so chase sent him back up. Pretty obvious what Talman did. Actions like this is why Rocco will only be a SK driver. He has no respect for the sport, just his ego.

  14. sour grapes of wrath says

    agree ..owen has really stepped up his game and deserves his success as well.

  15. it sounds that chase dowling dosen’t want to stay in the sk’s. i suggest he uses his words or comments differently if he wants higher divisions to give him a break! Your no TC, your no KidRock, your no Woody Pitkat, u have a long way to go son!

  16. Didn’t Dowling replace Pitkat in the SK and didn’t he do better at least at Stafford this year? Anyway you’re right mike, Dowling is still an embryo as far as wins and reputation go in modified racing. With regard to the comments he and Rocco made we all hear a different tune. The one I heard Rocco play was the same as Stafford. Sighting his record and comparing it to the embryo seemed irrelevant and a bit insecure. Dowling clearly had heard it before and had his come back that I thought was snappy if not smoothly delivered.
    Dowling MAY be the next TC with regard to cat like moves on the track that are God given reflexes you cannot learn. If sparks fly between the embryo and the accomplished veteran isn’t it just one more thing to look forward to over the long winter?

  17. Todd great job again! Hard work pays off keep it up.

  18. Am I the only one that watched Rocco do NOTHING on the tour? The guys has tried and failed at racing with the Big Boys several times. That is why he watches real racing from the stands. Chase passed more cars than anyone Sunday and almost won the race. He is a threat to win every tour race he has entered this year. People need to wake up. Teddy was great because he could win in BOTH divisions. Keith will never do that once let alone as many times as TC has or Chase will. Wake up people.

  19. Facts Are Cool says

    Hey TimH, your point is stupid.
    Do you know TC got his first Modified Tour win 16 years after he began racing in SK Modifieds and he ran his first full season on the Tour 17 years after he started racing SK’s?
    Keith won the championship this year at Stafford. Look at the field there. Top to bottom it’s a far more competitive field week in and week out than the Modified Tour. Look at the Modified Tour standings this year, 10th, 11th and 12th were Craig Lutz, Wade Cole and Calvin Carroll. None of them would have a chance winning with the Tour or at Stafford in an SK Modified.

  20. Wow Rocco can knock guys toe out off the corner without wrecking them. He must be the best ever. Very talented indeed. We should all study his skills. Thanks for the input Mr. Buzel.

  21. Don’t you realize Rocco doesn’t seem to care about the tour? Rocco seems to only be looking to get paid. If that guy could make as much money tour racing as he does sk racing I’m sure he would be doing it. He is the only guy I know that turns down rides constantly. The only tour rides he ever took were ones that paid him. Word on the street is he said no to a free ride in the 00 this past weekend.

    Let kids like dowling buy their way through the ranks. Maybe next year SS asphalt can buy him a stafford championship. He’s the best.

  22. This thing about Rocco and the tour doesn’t seem fair. Rocco has a business plan that involves doing a lot of his own car preparation and providing equipment and expertise to other owners including car leases. He’s got three great tracks in his backyard, wins at all of them and deserves his top spot. The WMT, a completely different animal. Transporting a car, equipment and crew to Daytona, Bristol and all over the Northeast. He’s a family man and maybe that sort of commitment on the road is simply not for him. Maybe he just likes racing multiple times a week. So he races here and there in the WMT, it is less then ideal and some conclude he’s not up to snuff.
    If nothing else, Dowling, Christopher, Pitkat, Pennink, Preece and others have proved there is zero difference in ability in the SK and WMT drivers. The difference is the cars, money, commitment and experience. I have no doubt if Rocco committed to the tour full time with first class equipment he would be in the hunt for the championship right from the get go. In my view anyway.

  23. Man wake up. So Keith doesn’t care about the top of the Modified world. Give me a break. He doesn’t care because he can’t do it. If you think there is more talent in the SK field than the tour go back in your hole. Your living in your own little world. So Coby, Santos, Solomito, Silk, Pickat etc aren’t good enough to win in a SK. Bahahahahahahahahahaha. They don’t waste their time. Wow.

  24. darealgoodfella says

    Rocco has been in numerous Tour mods. He is a perennial off-off-off-off Broadway mod driver.

  25. Fast Eddie says

    This is becoming the sequel to “The Matt Hirschman Story.” I’m guessing Rocco has put himself in a position where he can make a living, support his family, and RACE. The best shot he had on the tour was replacing Tommy Barrett. He only got a couple of races in before breaking his wrist. I think with the right WMT team he would do well, just like Hirschman would and has in the past. They choose to race the way they want to and it works well for them. It’s not a talent issue, it’s a financial issue. If you’re good enough to race at the WMT level, there’s nothing that says you have to. AND if you don’t, that does not necessarily mean you’re not good enough.

  26. Rocco is likely to win the third championship in CT this weekend. And apparently this means nothing to some of you fools. I guess daidiot thinks everything besides the WMT is off Broadway or whatever that stupid analogy is he loves to use. At times I’ve seen 3 better sk races in one week then I’ve seen in a season of the tour.

  27. In the “higher division” he ran better than all of the guys you mentioned

  28. Christopher was a pretty fair driver with a tour championship, chose the SK’s to run on a weekly basis and was not always the champion. Preece raced in the SK’s this year and didn’t win. Dowling charged through the field in the WMT to come in second in the World Series. Pennink 4th in points in both the SK’s and the WMT final standings. Crossover abounds with no clear conclusion to be reached as far as drivers go. Fast Eddie is right. It’s financial. Drivers pick the series that suits them. There is so much cross over that the argument of one over the other from a pure driver talent basis is a mirage. If you WMT only fans want to claim superiority you have it with the core teams. Some that have been doing it for decades, have the best equipment and deepest pockets and will travel anywhere to race. You win that argument every time. Doug Coby and Keith Rocco are marching toward significant legacies each in their own way and both deserve a fair share of respect. Why does one have to be diminished to make the other more legitimate?

  29. Rocco will hack his way to the front at Waterford this Sunday.He has trashed/bashed Kyle James three times this year.Rocco cannot beat James in a clean race.In fact,Rocco should be embarrassed at his marginal points lead over Kyle James(a fair and square driver wheeling a bent up old race car).

  30. Front Row Racer says

    That is the most ridiculous comment yet. I think James finished all the races, wasn’t roccos destroyed one week? If James’ car is all bent up maybe he should use the other one he has for sale. Why do you want to take away from a bunch of hard working guys like james’ crew. Im sure they work hard and bring the best they can every week.
    If I won 9 out 14 races like rocco i don’t think id be embarrassed about my point lead, it is what it is. Most of the problems James had this year was crossing over with a car underneath him. Maybe not his fault, maybe the spotter.

    Here is the truth though and we all need to suck it up and realize it. When Rocco was parked in the front row for one week we got to watch what those guys do. He changed 3 springs after one practice, 2 after another, and 1 before the race. He was the fastest in all those practices. The car Im with was 4th fastest and we never thought about changing a spring. I was amazed at the amount of changes those guys make.

  31. Toe Master says

    Why on earth would Rocco ever you tour racing? If he did, there wouldn’t be all these awesome comments on here. That guy breaks everyone’s stones non stop. He must sit at home on a pile of trophy’s and just laugh and laugh and laugh when he reads these comments.

    That is after he knocks guys toe out on the race track inconspicuously.

  32. It’s kind of nice the way Rocco slipped into the top dog position as far as emotional responses go. Formerly held by Christopher it’s a badge of honor and helps make racing at the Ct tracks especially more fun. As opposed to Todd Owen whom this article also mentions. A guy every one respects, drives about as clean as anyone ever has in bull rings, avoids controversy and never has a word said against him. Racing is tight at the Speedbowl. Owen has been there all season and raced up front and barely gets a mention from fans. He’s one of the elite drivers and Ct tracks and is virtually invisible in racing chatter. It’s great he races but thank God the entire field isn’t comprised of people that race as squeaky clean as he does.

  33. getserious says

    Doug, You know that if Owen had won 9 of 14 races this year, and won 3 championships that the comments would be about him. Good guy, or not. And I am a fan of both, FWIW.

  34. Couldn’t agree with you more getserious.
    In the way of wild speculation though I wonder if a guy like Owen the fabricates his own chassis is less willing to take risks then others that just buy what they use including Rocco. All that fabrication, bending, notching and hours with the TIG lit and carefully laying beads that you know have to be good enough to protect you.
    Here’s what I know. A little spice makes my spaghetti sauce better. For me that’s all the usual ingredients and a jar of salsa. Rocco and Dowling had a little friction going in the Stafford and Thompson finales. My view, it’s good for the SK’s. As a fabricator I deeply respect Owen but in my view he will never be the spice in the spaghetti sauce. Nothing wrong with that but we need spice don’t we?

  35. For reals???? says

    Wow Owens car is a complete copy of a spafco car, Right on down to the body. Let’s not pretend that Owen and butch Shea came up with a home grown chassis. They buy clips right from spafco and weld them on. What amazing innovators!

    Also don’t insult Owen by saying he isn’t taking risks. He is doing everything he can to win, I guarantee it.

    For reals

  36. Try reading my comment again For reals. Wondering if he is less willing to take risks isn’t “saying he isn’t taking risks”. Not accusation, speculation. Comprende amigo. Copying Spafco. Buying clips. No matter if true. Jigging up the components, keeping it within tolerance, allowing for movement from weld heat and all that time meticulously crafting flawless welds with a TIG. Fabricating body panels, and all the piece parts. I’m exhausted just thinking about it. Still a master craftsman.
    Anyone that straps into a race car is taking a risk. But on the spectrum of drivers from steady and competent to edgy guys with lightning moves like Ruggiero and Christopher were, Owen is the former. I know you must agree.

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