Back In Time: Ted Christopher Protégé Keith Rocco Wins SK Modified Feature At Stafford

We honor and celebrate the legacy of one of the most legendary short track drivers in the history of motorsports. A giant in racing, and a true gentleman who had an impact on so many.

Republished from RaceDayCT from Sept. 22, 2017 

Keith Rocco (right) celebrates winning Friday’s SK Modified feature at Stafford Motor Speedway with Mike Christopher Jr.

STAFFORD – Ted Christopher was the undisputed, unchallenged king of the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway.

Friday at Stafford Christopher was awarded his final checkered flag in the division.

And in almost perfectly fated fashion, Christopher’s former crew member, protégé and close friend Keith Rocco scored the victory in what proved to be a 39-lap feature for him.

“I just knew I had to come here to win,” Rocco said.

Stafford Speedway’s regular 40-lap SK Modified feature was shortened by one lap Friday. After 39 laps the field pulled off the track and went to the pits as announcers called a final lap between Christopher and Rocco. On the scoreboard Christopher’s No. 13 was lit alone in the first place spot with the board showing 40 laps completed with a checkered flag flying for Christopher.

Victory lane was left empty on the track. Rocco celebrated on the midway with fans. He draped a Ted Christopher flag over his car and was met by Christopher’s nephew, Mike Christopher Jr.

An emotional Keith Rocco stands at the back of his SK Modified after draping a Ted Christopher flag on it

“I just had that feeling today, you know what I mean,” said Rocco, who worked on Christopher’s crew for much of his teen years. “You know, sometime you’ve got to take the black car out to be like Ted. We took the black car out tonight. We were on a mission. I had a mindset tonight that I was winning the race … I didn’t care if I had to ship somebody out of the way on the last lap. I don’t know.”

It was Rocco’s first SK Modified win at Stafford in 2017.

Christopher was killed in a plane crash Saturday in Guilford.

Christopher, 59, was the all-time winningest driver at Stafford with 131 career victories, including 109 in the SK Modified division. Around Stafford Speedway he was known as The King.

This season at Stafford Christopher had a division leading six victories in the SK Modified division. He finished fourth in the SK Modified feature in his final start at the track on Sept. 15.

The race began with a missing man formation and the pole position on the field left empty representing Christopher starting in the spot.

Keith Rocco embraces Stafford Motor Speedway general manager Mark Arute after winning Friday’s SK Modified feature

On lap 13 fans in the grandstands stood holding up one finger on one hand and three on the other for Christopher with announcers going silent.

Ronnie Williams went by Tony Membrino Jr. for the lead on lap 13. Rocco moved to second on lap 16 then went by Williams for the lead on lap 18. He never trailed again.

With two events remaining this season, Rocco came into the night third place in the standings, 34 points behind leader Chase Dowling, who was involved in an accident and finished 20th. Rocco jumped to the points lead, four points ahead of Dowling heading into the final event of the season at the NAPA Fall Final on Oct. 1.

“If Ted ever owed me anything he paid the favor today,” Rocco said. “Ted is up there laughing, staring down.”

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