Sick Run: Keith Rocco Wins Open Modified 80 At Stafford Speedway

Keith Rocco celebrates victory in the Modified Open 80 feature Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Fran Lawlor/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – The theme in 2019 at Stafford Motor Speedway has been battling the weather, week after week. 

Friday at Stafford there were seemingly no weather issues for track management, but for Keith Rocco it was the battle of being under the weather. 

But the sniffles and sneezes weren’t enough to keep Rocco from coughing up the chance at victory Friday. 

Rocco was dominant on the way to victory in the Open Modified 80 Friday at Stafford Speedway. 

“Been sick the last couple days,” Rocco said. “You really don’t feel like doing anything, never mind trying to finish a new car. But I’ve got a great team behind me. Last night I think we had 12 people in the shop working on it. Without them I wouldn’t be able to do it.” 

Todd Owen of Somers was second and Matt Galko of Meriden third. 

Rocco led most of the early going before pitting with the leaders on lap 37. Eric Goodale won the race off pit road. Andrew Molleur didn’t pit and assumed the lead under caution. Rocco restarted the third behind leader Molleur and Eric Goodale. On the restart Rocco made easy work of moving back to the lead. 

Goodale was able to get by Rocco for the lead on lap 47, but a lap later Rocco went back to the front. 

“These races are a lot of fun,” Rocco said. “It gives you something a little bit different. … You get to run 80 laps and pit for tires. It just makes it fun for me, for the crew for everybody that gets to go over pit wall. Stafford does a good job with this race.” 

It was the first race for Owen with a car he built specifically for Tour Type events in 2019. 

“To build a car like we did this winter, I’ve never built a [Tour Type Modified] before, I’m just real ecstatic for the way this whole team worked together to build this hot rod,” Owen said. “Keith is a tough customer and he had a good car. … All in all a great day. We were definitely in the hunt. We’ll bring it home and try to make it faster for the next one.” 

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  1. -rain may have not been an issue but that relentless wind did not make for the most pleasant night in the stands. Nonetheless it was a robust enthusiastic crowd considering.
    -No one comes even close to Doug Dunleavy in importance when it comes to support for modified racing. Not just in the current era but maybe ever.
    -SK Lights did it again. Producing a hair raising, crowd standing finish as Korner pulls a rabbit out of his hat for the win. Tough night for the Pearl/Narducci clan. They’ll be back. Under very difficult circumstances Bryan said all the right things.
    -sounded like Dodge was under the weather as well but soldiered through.
    -congratulations to Stafford for moving the program along and finishing in the sweet spot of 10ish. . No SK Light Consi was a good call and the 15 lap LLM race works out well for everyone.
    -no opportunities last night for the simmering Rocco/Williams feud to boil up but I’m betting no one has amnesia either. What was interesting was seeing the women swoon as Ronnie Williams made his way to be interviewed after his SK win. The guy in his perfectly form fitting, stylish racing attire and tight buzz cut could be a model for Simpson.
    -OK I’ll say it.The Open field was a disappointment starting the same number of cars as last year.. 10 entrants didn’t show. Were it not for Stafford SK regulars fielding cars it would have been an embarrassment. My view they simply have to be more aggressive with the money..
    -the flip side was the Stafford SK regulars were very impressive. Stafford should be giving Rocco stock in the track he has his hands in so many cars competing there. Owen’s new tour car was simply stunning up close and fast on the track. Galko also a bit of a shock powering through the field. Etheridge, Goodale and the 00 are all good cars butt the SK guys had them covered.
    -A lot of things change in racing over the decades and some don’t. Including the the new monument to beer the track built and planted in the heart of midway. More craft brewery choices for sure but hey man it’s still beer. Nice touch on the new hill pavement as well.
    -The LM race actually being better then the SK’s. Who’d a thunk it.
    -Wish Megan Fuller was not such a lady last night and had tippy tapped on Hydar’s rear bumper. Not a little more but like at all. She was clearly faster. Missed Cassandra Cole in the big SK Light Race.
    -overall a good if not great night of racing

  2. Still don’t get why you would pay a better purse for open mods than your weekly modifieds- it is no more talent, same cars just more HP. Take care of your own and they will take care of you. This is why there are not enough cars to have a consi anymore. Special thanks to Mr Donlevey for supporting the regulars

  3. Steve,
    You and I both know this isn’t just extra money lying around and someone says: “Hey, let’s take this bag of extra cash and put it toward a new race and give this money to other people rather than our regulars”. You know that’s not what’s going on here despite your inference of that.
    That said, I think Stafford does a great job in taking care of and promoting their own, top to bottom. They’re trying something new, which is something a lot of short track operators aren’t doing enough of these days.
    And let’s be honest, if Stafford management paid to open a school for deaf children you’d complain that they don’t do enough for blind kids. You go out of your way to find in fault in everything they do.

  4. Typically I hope for a no caution limited late model feature as there is so little excitement generated by 6 car feature. Last night we got the no caution feature everyone hopes for and actually had a pretty good race for the lead with Daughter Fearn and the 59. That is a bonus in my eyes. Quote of the night. They reduced them to 15 laps that is good. “Yeah reducing them another 15 laps would be better. They should run them on Monday night on the mini mile with the Go Karts that would be best”

    Late models and Streets. Late models had a good race, they had some good battles deep in the field and the race for the lead was good. Did they go green to checker? Pappa Fearn still looking for his first win I believe. His son almost won before him. I wonder what the Vegas odds on that would be. Streets I am a fan of Bassett Jr so it was all good in my book. He said he is planning on going SK light next year. I really enjoy the Street stock division probably my third favorite division there.

    SK lights was the most interesting feature of the night. Everyone around me was disappointed that Narducci got a flat tire on the first lap. We were looking forward to him coming through the field. Stafford really has to allow these guys infield pitting for tire changes, Its a shame to have the best car out on lap one with some so easily fixed. The 55 gets his spot back as a leader after getting involved in a tangle with a lapped car? I didnt see the whole thing but people around me questioned it. Overall best race of the night,

    SK’s were not that exciting. It doesnt seem like there is a lot of passing out there. Ronnie Williams straight checked out and without a caution late in the race to bunch up the field, he won going away. It seemed like they were single file most of the race. I am wondering if the new rubber the Late models are on may be causing an issue with the raciness of the SK’s. If so they may want to run the full fenders after the SK’s going forward. This is only the first SK race I have seen there this year so maybe it was just an off night. Though, I am pretty sure Reen’s and Roccos win was from near the front. I defer to regulars on whether or not the SK’s are less exciting this year.

    Tour Type open was a disappointment. While they got about what I was expecting for car count the depth of the field wasn’t good. There was only a handful of cars we thought had a legit shot at the win. No Mike Christopher, wasn’t he on the list and he was there in an SK. What’s up? Their was a decent race for the lead with Rocco and Owen but for much of the race there wasnt much going on. The tire strategy doesn’t really provide any excitement if everyone pits for new tires at the same time. How about the 59 Goodall tour team showing everyone how to do a pit stop and winning the battle off a pit road. Anyone know what happened to the 9, he was one of the guys I thought had an opportunity to win? That Owen tour car is a nice piece.

    I had two people come up to me and say did you know it was a 30.00 show. They thought it was a little over priced. I kind of agree, I probably will not go to another open tour show at Stafford. They ran the show off pretty quick, considering the wind and temperature I think everyone was happy with that. I have never been so happy as when I put on my jacket and found a knit cap in the pocket. Overall not a bad night, It was good to see all my race friends, talk some racing and see some racing. I will probably visit Stafford again in the not too distant future, It was much improved over the Saturday opener I went to.

  5. Fast Eddie says

    If I figured this right, there were 8 no-shows from the entry list. 4 are also entered in the TriTrack event Sunday, Mediros, Jankowiak, Savory, & DiMatteo. Maybe it wasn’t feasible for those teams to do both events. Griswold had a bad wreck at Thompson, which might explain his absence.
    Great racing overall, well worth the 2-1/2 hours of traffic for my 1-1/2 hour ride to get there. Nice to see a good LM field on a Friday. As a credit to the LLM’s that had to be the best 7 car race I’ve ever seen. great battle for first and third through most of the race. A little surprised to no see more SKL’s with the Dunleavy $$ up for grabs. A HUGE thank-you to him for ALL he does for Modified racing! We were talking about it in the stands. Someone was wondering how many teams he is involved with. We came to the conclusion it might be easier to count the ones not on that list! His involvement is a tremendous benefit for everyone! Three full fields of modifieds, great racing, and no rain!!

  6. CG,
    Quite a few issues here. First, Alexandra Fearn and Ryan Fearn are not the children of Tom Fearn. Stuart Fearn, who owns Fearn Motorsports, is the father of Alexandra and Ryan Fearn. Tom Fearn is their cousin.
    There is nobody racing at Stafford named Bassett Jr. Look to the K&N Pro Series East for Ronnie Bassett Jr.
    Teddy Hodgdon was not an accident car in the incident on lap 38 of the SK Light Modified feature. Avoided the spinning cars and never stopped his forward motion. Not a caution car, didn’t cause the caution, keeps the lead.

  7. It is true we would complain if Stafford opened a school for deaf children. The complaints would be not only about the blind but 20 other things that we felt didn’t measure up. Complaining about $30 for two specials combined is the proof in the pudding.
    Stafford is trying something new and in my view on the whole it’s terrific. In my view opens are the future of Northeast asphalt modified tour racing. I also think it’s a work in progress so I would ask Mr. Courchesne who obviously knows all the people that count at Stafford a few questions if you would be so kind.
    Are things going as expected? Does the change in mix in the field with so many traditional SK teams and fewer invaders have any longer term meaning to the events? hDo you think there is anything Stafford could do to enhance the events and attract more outsiders or are things satisfactory with the way it is?

  8. wmass01013 says

    After resisting last yrs OPEN shows at Stafford I decided to give This race a try, and while the whole nite was not a bad deal, $30 FOR THESE open shows will not work unless STAFFORD UPS their purse, 32 cars pre entered 23 show, while the race had some ok moments it was not really very exciting, I agree with others on the other track races were pretty good all in all, I love MODIFIEDS and thank u to Doug Dunleavy for support but please Stafford either up the purse or go back to reg races!

  9. cg stands corrected says

    Thanks for the clarification. I didn’t know about the Fearn family tree in fact I had it wrong. Does Stuart Fearn own all 3 cars including Tom Fearns. I assumed last name was the same and Ryan ran same number in limiteds last year as Tom that they were Tom’s kids. Did Stuart Fearn race in the past? He should be given a medal for keeping the full fender LM divisions going at Stafford.

    The 39 Street stock of Bessette Jr is he the son of a former pro stock race they called Mad Dog who used to run pro stocks at Thompson. I think it was the 15 pro stock and the 39 earlier in his career. I meant the young kid in 39 who won the street stock championship last year certainly wasn’t referring to some guy on the K&N series coming to Stafford to run and SK light next year. I think he might have his aspirations set higher, though the racing is more entertaining in the SK lights.

    I am getting old I am now rooting for kids of people I rooted for 15 or 20 years ago. The 2 in Street stocks Meghan fuller what is her relation to the former modified drivers Jeff or Rick Fuller. Pearl is he related to the pearl who ran 71 sk’s at Waterford. I just assume same last name similar car number has to be their kid. Probably should ask.

    Hodgdon 55 sk light I didn’t see how it started but a person I was sitting with was surprised he got the lead back. Now that I think about it, he slowed but did not stop. It made for a good finish. Sorry for the inaccuracies thanks for keeping me honest.

    Did they stop doing the in race driver interviews? I know at the first race I went to they said they were planning on talking to some of the SK drivers during the feature. I had to leave before the race started but thought it would be interesting addition to the show. I didn’t notice in race driver interviews last night, did I miss it, did it not work out?

  10. CG,
    Stuart Fearn does own all three cars. Stuart has raced in the past. Meghan Fuller is the daughter of Rick Fuller. Alexander Pearl is the son of Jeff Pearl and the grandson of Jerry Pearl and the cousin of Bryan Narducci. Maybe it’s time I should do a Stafford pit area family tree story.

  11. Rafter fan says

    A+ to Stafford for the 9:45 pm end time last night. I know a lot of luck (very limited wrecks/yellows) was involved, but it was a HUGE improvement over the first Saturday event.

    The Open 80 was underwhelming, but the concept shows promise. With no Tri-Track semi-conflicts, the next 2 events may draw better fields. If the Stafford SK regulars are going to be featured, I’d rather see Twin 40 SK races.

  12. wmass01013 says

    Doug I THINK Stafford has an advantage that other OPEN comp tracks don’t have in that they have a field of SK’s willing to try open Comp racing, even the King of open comp races TRI track has seen a lower car count because I think of all the MOD races WMT, MRS, ROC, TRI TRACK, BULLRING, plus add RIVERHEAD, BOWMAN Gray, $$$$ are important which I don’t see STAFFORD caring about, as I stated a while back they are running a MODIFIED race to draw fans tooo without PAYING a WMT OR MRS sanction fee!

  13. and how many CT based teams will be in Claremont NH tomorrow?? The answer will be telling. Stafford doesn’t make backgate money when the open field is full of regulars. Those guys are already there. That so called advantage is a major disadvantage. Time to change it up. Maybe twin 35s for the open. Three opens going back to last year and all of them with less than desired results seems like. Recent history has shown most open shows fail. Thompson, MTS, Islip 300 potentially. The next Stafford Open is the same weekend as the Bullring Bash. One of them is going to come up short. Which one I do not know but one will. The promoters need to hustle between now and then to get cars. At this point I don’t trust the opens because I never know how many cars will be there. The tour races are expensive but I know I’ll get my money’s worth.

    I do agree Doug Dunleavy is a great asset to our local modified racing.

  14. Solid point wmass. Glad you decided to go. . I guess we get what we get. It is Stafford after all. Although they did change it up on the LLM race and shorten the length so maybe they do listen on occasion. I’ll go to the Opens no matter what the field is showing. Very much like wall to wall features.
    Also like the tire change. Not big last night but it was huge last year. VMRS kind of boring without it.

  15. Stuart Fearn says

    I was about to give you grief for messing up the facts but then you said I should get a medal so now your my best friend.
    Continue on

  16. JMO Shawn – why is there only one high paying sk event a year now? Can only race at 3 local tracks if you count the Bowl? We used to race at riverside, Seekonk, Lee, Flemington etc. extra with sk’s. Seems like the sk is now the red headed step child. IMO the sk and skl are the most competitive divisions in the north east but they get nothing for it.

  17. Steve,
    You’re going a bit off the reservation here. The purse that pays the Open races isn’t sitting in some kind of surplus vault in the back of the office waiting to be spent on whatever management deems to be deserving of. I know that you understand the financials at play here and you’re just looking to take a shot at management. Virtually every comment you leave here is something critical of the management at Stafford Speedway, and in most instances the criticisms are usually matters of petty nothingness or just beyond the scope of making sense.

  18. Yes I have been on the sharp end of a Courchesne spear and am sure to be again soon. But I’m loving the engagement, correction and fact checking by the most knowledgeable guy around.
    Screw the forum self policing.
    Facts are facts. Let-er-fly.

  19. Great idea Shawn, something I personally would find interesting.

  20. Even though there are allot of regular SK drivers in the open shows,the cost for them ain’t cheap. Case in point, the #50 Williams/ Skowyra team. They built a brand new car to run the open shows, and maybe some VMS shows. Although maybe only a few teams built cars to run the open, down the road other series may benefit from it. And for the record, I always thought Tom and Stuart Fearn we’re brothers, now I know better.

  21. Congrats to Keith and his crew.

  22. Crazy in NY says

    The Opens going against the much better paying and easier on the car TT events is never going to shine.
    Even if you don’t wreck your stuff on Friday if you’re out of town it’s a hassle to redo, scale and change over a car to run two tracks so dissimilar. The 80 laps however is perfect and I hope Stafford can find a weekend(s) to schedule around the TTOM next year. That might help the car count.

  23. “Crazy” We all love the rendition by Patsy Cline don’t we but did you know Willie Nelson wrote it?
    OK I’ll bite. Much better paying no one will dispute. But how is bull ring racing easier on a car then the wide open spaces of a half mile?
    It’s a little condescending saying Stafford should schedule around the TTOMS. Nonetheless it’s a great point were it true.
    Fridays event was a rescheduled event bumped because of weather and the Sizzler. Stafford is going up against the VMRS at Claremont and Lee in early June and July with the TTOMS at the end of the month.

  24. Dramabaga says

    Congratulations Keith Rocco and the entire Nº 57 Team. Well deserved. Some good battles with Rocco, Owen, Goodale, Galko with Dowling on the move and McDermott in the mix. How about Molleur with a top 10 finish even with cement tires. Thanks Doug Dunleavy for sponsoring a fun night of racing.

  25. I guess Fuller’s notebook isn’t good at a open show. Chase was a non factor.

  26. wmass01013 says

    Crazy, I don’t think whether Stafford has a wide open weekend that it would change the entry list, been about 20 cars for all 3 open races with the 24 k purse, the teams have been just about the same each race, again does Stafford want more? who knows, the crowd fri was a lil above average I would say, Not packed by any means, but better than a normal Friday I would say, would 50-60K BRING IN BIGGER NAMES? I don’t think that will ever happen from the Arutes but who knows!
    Ronny the 00 is a troyer so what would Fullers notes matter?

  27. Going to mildly disagree that the teams have been the same each race unless you’re speaking in terms of numbers or overall quality. Galko, Owen, McDermott, Schnieder, Williams, Pederson, Accardi, Zachem, VanHouten, Rufrano……..half the field was different. The Stafford Sk driver flavor completely changed the landscape in my view.
    Interesting anecdote. Cooler temperatures probably helped but the times for this just completed race were a lot faster then last year for the first 9 cars. Speed wise the quality didn’t drop off at all and may have improved.
    Agree on the crowd. It’s been average plus for all three so far so money is being made and that’s good. Actually with that pesky wind and less then idea conditions I was impressed that the late arriving crowd filled in fairly well.
    The TTOMS did well yesterday as usual with a strong if not lights outs field of cars. Many of the names like Silk, Pitkat, Jankowiak and Hossfeld I wish were at Stafford made the Claremont show. Good for them.
    Hope springs eternal. The cost to sign up was cheaper if you bought the three race package then two individually so perhaps there will be fewer no shows next time. We know Tommy Baldwin will be there…..hopefully.

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