Winning On Empty: Keith Rocco Scores SK Modified Opener Victory At Stafford Speedway

Keith Rocco celebrates victory in the season opening SK Modified feature Saturday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – A student of the game, Keith Rocco understands that opening day events for the SK Modified division at Stafford Motor Speedway can often take a turn for the worse when it comes to wrecks and long cautions. 

On Saturday at Stafford figuring out the equation of needed fuel that comes with longer than typical events just nearly ruined the day for the Wallingford driver. 

Rocco ran out of fuel on the final lap, but was able to hold off Michael Gervais Jr. and Mike Christopher Jr. in a three-wide run to the checkered to win the 40-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modifed feature Saturday at Stafford. 

Rocco beat second place Gervais, of Southbury, to the line by one thousandth of a second. 

“We ran out of gas going into [turn] three [on the last lap],” Rocco said. “It’s funny because we went the first yellow and it seemed like it was going to be one of those races so I just started trying to save fuel. Not that we call it close, but I knew it was going to be one of those races. We lucked out tonight.” 

Rocco, who also won the season opening SK Modified feature at Thompson Speedway on April 7, once again showed his mastery of opening days at Connecticut short tracks. Winning the offseason and showing up for opening day better than anyone else is something he takes pride in. 

“I was always told races are won in the shop,” Rocco said. “Coming to the race track and winning races is all based on what’s done in the shop and how it’s done and if it’s done 110 percent. That’s what we strive for.” 

Rocco started on the pole and led every lap. 

On the final lap it was Gervais going to the outside of Rocco coming off of turn four, with Christopher looking to the low lane in the drag race off the corner to the checkered. 

“It didn’t shut all the way off,” Rocco said of the fuel issues on the last lap. “Going down the back straightway, right as I lifted [off the accelerator into the corner] it missed. I kind of coasted through [turns] three and four and when I get back to it it picked back up and just about 15 feet before the start/finish line that was it.” 

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  1. Bob Smith says

    Too long of a show 130 to 645 then rain ? no sk feature yet? really? that is uncalled for

    i won`t be back if that is there normal show


  2. Bob I agree , that’s when I left 6:45 reading it now who won SK and I’m not hours away

  3. The Donald says

    It obviously wasn’t a normal show.

    It was what was supposed to be two days of racing a week ago compacted into one day because on tomorrow’s rain.

    The Vintage race, the double laps for Street Stock triple crown are not weekly events.

    Also having 33 SK Lights and 31 SKs meant about 6 more qualifying races than normal (heats and consis)

  4. Yes – I left at 4:45, as I could see that it was going to be a long time before the SK feature was going to run. 2 SKL consi’s (after “features” started late, at 3:30) were a bit much, as Stafford had a rare bad day. Given the recent bad weather, the track deserves some slack. But, I hope some lessons were learned.

  5. Jim higgins says

    It was a good afternoon at the track but there is no doubt that they dragged the show on way to long! Could not imagine sitting that long on a Friday night

  6. I went to a Friday night show last year when there was threatening weather and they did a lot to speed up the program(like abbreviated victory lane celebrations). For some reason they did not do that yesterday. I could do without ever seeing another vintage racing feature again ever in my life. I enjoy seeing them on display so you can get a close look at the cars, but am not a fan of them on the track. I figured since it was an afternoon show I would be home well before the Bruins game began. Of course I ended up listening to the final horn sound just as I was pulling into my driveway.

  7. A cloudy day where the best that could be hoped for was for the moisture to hold off. Jam packed fields with many inexperienced rookies in many of the biggest fields. Multiple consi’s and full starting grids. And you knew Stafford would not run the LLM’s at the end.
    It had all the signs of being a marathon and it was.
    My hats off to all the guys and gals that proved to be the best fans. But it shouldn’t have to be an exhibition of an iron will to stick it out through the premier division feature.

  8. On top of all the other wasted time was a 20 lap limited late model race with 6 cars. Cut the laps in half with such a short field or run with regular late models. No fan wants to sit through 6 car features for a full season

  9. Hillary 2020 says

    They must have known it was going to rain at some point yesterday. Yet they dragged the show on like they had no clue. Nobody cares about the vintage mods racing. If they really want them to race then do it during warm ups. Move victory lane along or get rid of it all together. They’ve done it before. Stick a fork in the LLM’s, they’re done. You might hurt those 6 driver’s feelings but you’d be doing a favor for the fans. I haven’t been to Stafford for a “regular” show in years. I couldn’t believe how empty the parking lot was at 1pm and how the stands emptied out during the drizzle before the sks and stayed empty for the rest of the night. Yes we were there in the stands for 8 hours and it sucked but the real race fans were the ones that stuck it out. And let’s not forget, it was a Saturday. Not like most people had to get to bed for work the next day.

  10. if u don’t have at least 15 cars for a race, ELIMINATE the division completely!!! Real race fans ONLY care about the open wheel divisons. the only lower division they should keep r the late models and that’s’ asking for to much. pay these other divisions more money and let’s get home earlier!!!

  11. Richard says

    All you people do is bitch bitch bitch. Be happy there was racing.

  12. Real fan and fool are interchangeable words Do you get a prize for sitting there for 8 hrs? Nope. Nobody cares then.

    A day race should never end past 5:30 pm. I don’t care if it’s a Saturday or Sunday or if it’s April, August or October. Thompson has run the World Series in one day and still been done by 6pm. You telling me Stafford can’t run a weekly show in under 7 hr’s? They were probably thinking more people would show later in the day. Drag it out and make money on concessions.

    Very rarely do tracks do well on shows run on their non traditional day of the week either. Stafford is off to a rough start this year. I may pass on the tour race this week. Seekonk and Thompson are only a few weeks out now. I’ll let Stafford get their stuff together.

  13. If they keep the limiteds (hope they don’t) run them last. And running heats with less tha 12 cars is not to bright and run only one consi unless you have more than 24 cars in the consi. What is the reason to run with qualifying races with less than 12 cars?

  14. Bob Smith says

    bitch bitch bitch, no not really – too long of a show and why have the headliner last?
    do we need to interview the top 3 every race ? especially when weather was iffy ?
    I was happy there was racing and really enjoyed it
    and you know what? i had no place to go Saturday night so that has nothing to do with it
    Just too long of a show
    But the beer stands were pretty busy

  15. I’m very hurt. Finding out that I am not a “real fan” because I opted out of Saturdays event…..devastating. But I shall soldier on.
    Joke is on all of we that depend on race monitor when we’re not at the event. It’s like all the teams had a 70’s era key party, threw their transponders in a basket and drew them out randomly.
    Here’s the deal. I don’t know why Stafford didn’t see the writing on the wall and respond over the winter regarding the LLM’s. I don’t know why they have ignored all the feedback that started years ago regarding the LLM’s downward trend. Hand writing that our own Mr. Courchesne suggested years ago on a Youtube video where he may have been the first to suggest running the LM’s and LLM’s together. But when you commit to a division, print rules, people spend a ton of money trusting they can race you don’t go screwing them before the season really gets started. On the other hand I don’t see why you can’t run them last. It’s not like an unpopular division has never run last.
    Stop the whining you say. Stafford is losing and will continue to lose butts in seats for regular shows by their singular stubborness in ignoring fan feedback regarding the LLM’s. I know this to be a fact because I am one shriveled old butt that now is a huge fan of Stafford Opens mainly because Opens are mainly about features. Go ahead Stafford, increase the Opens to 6, offer an Open season ticket and sign me up.
    If the chat is about the length of the show and not the results of the show there is a problem.
    I really wish people would stop using the “real” label. You’re not a real Republican or Democrat, a real American, a real Christian, a real race fan. It’s thread bare and self serving.

  16. cg couldnt complete the staffford marathon says

    I was disappointed with the show yesterday. I thought to myself should I go or not, the bruins are playing at 7.30pm. 6 hours to get in a regular show should be no problem. I haven’t made a race yet, lets do it. Man was it the wrong decision. The person I sat next to cant make it on Friday nights because of work and they were shocked how long everything was taking. I said yeah it isn’t going well at all and I have to leave no later than 6.30. There is no way I am going to see the SK’s. He goes they will move them up. I just laughed and said yeah right, oh that’s right you don’t go here Friday nights. Then as it was becoming obvious I wasn’t going to make it, he was joking that they were going to do outside driver intros for the remaining divisions. I said I wouldn’t put it past them, but please don’t give them any ideas. Anyway, I left around 6.30 with rain falling having not seen the best division they have to offer, the SK’s. Someone in the parking lot said, they must have seen weather coming, with the poor crowd they had did they purposely run the show long waiting for rain so they didn’t have to pay the SK purse. I was thinking no they wouldnt but to myself on the way home maybe they did because they certainly did nothing to make it go quicker. Now I know they did get the SK race in, was there anybody left in the stands because I wasn’t the only one leaving? what time did you get out? There is absolutely no reason a weekly show should not be completed in 5 hours under the worst of circumstances. If it cant you have too many divisions, run too many laps, need to punish drivers for stopping on the track and bringing out cautions. They should aim for 3-4 hours. It sucks because the one division I wanted to see I didn’t get to see. It happens I knew rain was a possibility at night I just didn’t think it would go that long. From now on, I will make sure I have a full 7 hours available for any future regular show at Stafford I want to attend. I don’t think Stafford made many fans with yesterdays show,

    I can only imagine what time they are going to get out on Friday. A regular show plus 200 lap whelen race and I don’t think they qualified last week. Lord help you. What time is their curfew? If its anytime earlier than no curfew you are in trouble. Don’t worry Stafford will run every division they have before the tour race. Probably look at the crowd and decide to run an exhibition for the Monday go karts on display in the midway before the main event thinking if we wait a little longer more people will show and the people we do have are held hostage, we can sell more concessions. Why didn’t they run the entire sizzler on Saturday? They would have had more time on a Saturday with the day and night then they will this Friday night. By the looks of it they need as much time as possible. Unfortunately, I have plans Saturday afternoon, so I am not going to be able to risk going to Stafford Friday night. Good luck.

  17. getserious says

    First off, replying to “The Donald” This WAS a normal show, just like any Friday night program that they run off in just under 4 hours, week after week. Heats, regular length features, and a little extra, like go-karts, fireworks, extra distance race; yesterday it was a vintage race. (Stupidly, two of them) There is absolutely no legitimate excuse as to why a that show went 5 FIVE hours before the SK feature got on the track, just as theexpected rain got there. That was one of the most poorly run shows I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot. Everyone with a brain knew at 1:30 that there was the possibility that it would rain later. So, a smart move would be to run as expediantly as possible throughout the day. A couple minutes speeded up all along the way and we would have seen the whole show and been out of there by 6PM. If they ran a regular Friday night show like yesterday’s show, we’d be watching the SKs get on the track at 11 PM and leavinng after midnight. Again, everybody knew the rain was coming, so speed it up from the beginning, not just start hurrying ten minutes before the rain !! Just a pitiful showing for Stafford. They better get their act together by this Friday, but no, they’ll drag it out as long as possible.

  18. Slapnuts says

    Or your whinny butt could just stay home. If you don’t enjoy a strictly stock race you aren’t a race fan. People bitching about this and that all the while the race teams are spending time and money to read comments like the racing sucks or everything that’s not open wheel sucks. How about they all stop trying and just let racing die. Stupid is as stupid does huh.

  19. Agree with Richard and Slapnuts…whiners can stay home with a box of tissues. Geez

  20. I should think a better way to create a better impression of racing nobility among those whining about the whiners would be to make comments about the race that took place.
    The way I score it is 18 to zero. Whiners of all stripes vs race commentary.
    Nary a “real” race fan in the bunch it would appear.

  21. getserious says

    Only back in Feb this column wrote an editorial about how wrong it was to ignore a failing promotion in the fear that any critical talk would be bad for racing. “Screaming that only positive opinions should be shared or disseminated through social media is like putting duct tape on a leaky pipe”.
    I guess we found some of the whitewashers in Slapnuts, Richard, and Scott. When I spend my money, whether it is for a steak, brake pads or a racing event, a defective product needs to be called out, not toughed out. (And that’s not even taking into account spending my whole Saturday afternoon) I guess those three writers just take whatever crap someone feeds them and swallow it with a smile. Stafford can do better, and usually does. But they need to be reminded that fans do appreciate the difference between the good and the bad.
    Yeah, we’ll be back this Friday and expect that this one strike will only focus them more on continuing what has been a great racing program. If not, Strike Two.

  22. ” a defective product needs to be called out, not toughed out”. That was good, very good.
    I try to get a grasp on who is generating the best speed and it usually stays pretty consistent over the season. Last year it was Rocco, Williams, Berndt and Christopher. Christopher coming on as the season progressed.
    This year it appears the Gervais who couldn’t get over the hump last year is now really fast. In fact recorded the fastest lap which is to say Rocco cars recorded the fastest two laps. After them it’s a muddle. I count 7 cars with what looks to be winning speed. Gervais, Rocco, Owen, Williams, Cipriano, Christopher and Rufrano in yet another Rocco car. Oh sure, you’ll say it’s just their fastest lap but it is usually pretty accurate in determining who can win in the future.
    Other then Rufrano looking pretty racy until his race ended another rookie Moeller looked sharp with a 7th place finish.
    So what’s up with Berndt? No speedy 66. Racing what I assume is the family owned 54. With or without Stash’s help? 10th might not seem that good considering last year but it actually was a noble effort coming from 26th and behind the 8 ball all day.
    Other movers and shakers included Moeller +15, Salva +7,Cipriano +13, Galko +16. In the second 10 Membrino, Spiers and Catania all moved up sharply so good for them.
    Viewing the team listing I was excited to see Dowlings ride from last year listed as well as the 99,
    Peninks old ride. Was hoping they would show, especially the 99 but it was not to be. Oh well.
    You know that consistency you were looking for Glen? This wasn’t a good start. Fingers crossed next effort will work out better. I’d love to see the 17 consistently on the podium.
    Freakin Rocco. How’s he do it. Three of the fastest cars plus Cassandra Cole in the Lights to keep an eye on so the guy is up to his eyeballs in commitments. How do you not respect the heck out of that? My take it’s toll over the season though.
    Still looks to me Rocco and Williams are the main threats to win every week and Christopher just the thickness of the chrome on the chrome horn behind them. We’ll see.
    Friday’s weather report grim once again. Big surprise there. May flowers my foot.

  23. To say Fridays weather looks grim is an understatement. The Arute family has been good in the past about calling the event, sometimes only to be sbakebit. Let’s hope they do their best, to not have fans sitting in the rain. By the way last Saturday was supposed to be sunny and warm, with a morning shower. Don’t blame the track

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