Rooting Interest: Keith Rocco Gets Bumpy To Win SK Modified Feature At Stafford

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

STAFFORD – As the laps wound down on the SK Modified feature Friday at Stafford Speedway fog began to overtake the track. 

But what was clear even through the blurred site lines was that Keith Rocco set a tone for high drama late on the way to his second consecutive victory at the track in 2020. 

Rocco moved Todd Owen out of the lead in turns one and two on lap 39 and held on to win the 40-lap SK Modified feature at Stafford Friday. 

“We’re here to win races this year and we’re going to do what we’ve got to do,” Rocco said. “I enjoy racing with [Owen] but he wasn’t giving me much room or many options to get by him so I kind of had to make one.” 

Woody Pitkat of Stafford was second and Mike Christopher Jr. of Wolcott third. Owen, of Somers, was forced to settle for a fifth place finish after barely keeping his car out of the fence in turn two on lap 39. 

“It’s not how I was brought up to race,” Owen said. “I’m not going to sit here and bad mouth Keith because that’s not who I am. I’m better than that. But, I just kind of, I expected him to hit me a little bit, but he damn near fenced me.” 

Owen went to the lead past Christopher on lap 33 with Rocco following to second. 

Rocco hounded Owen’s bumper for the next five laps before the pair headed into turn one on lap 39. In the foggy corner Rocco gave Owen a bump sending him wiggling high up the track toward the wall. Rocco came out of turn two with the lead while three more cars got by Owen while he got his car back under him. 

“It’s just hard,” Rocco said, “I’d got to the outside and he’s doing what he has to do to protect the win. It’s just, we’ve all done it at one point or another. The days of finishing second and being a nice guy was for last year. Last year we’d bait ourselves to the outside against Ronnie Williams and get run up and hung out there. I’d rather ride in second and try to root the guy out of the way than finish second getting hung out.” 

Said Owen: “I gave him the whole outside the whole time. … I have respect for Keith for what he does and I race him clean. Was I slowing down and jamming the bottom? Probably, but with two [laps] to go what are you going to do? I gave him the whole outside, I never took that away from him, and he never even tried to go out there.” 

As far as Rocco saying last year Williams would bait him to the outside to hang him out there, Owen said: “Then you finish second. I guess that’s just kind of how you’re supposed to race.” 


  1. Pee Dee Drain Auger Services, a division of Pee Dee Excavation says

    Welcome to the club Keith!

  2. Arch Stanton says

    I don’t think Richie Evans would have punted Owen for the win. Nor would George Kent, Corky Cookman, Ed Flemke, Mike Stefanik, Reggie, Charlie J., Steve Park…

  3. Slowing down is like blocking on a Superspeedway. Never ends well. If you have to slow down to protect the lead you probably aren’t the fastest car anyway. It is racing after all.

  4. wmass01013 says

    Seems to be a epidemic of bump and RUNS happening

  5. SK ModFan says

    Well Kid Rock, you told and demonstrated to your competitors how you want to race this year. I can’t wait to see you lose by the Dump ( not bump) and Run. Standing in turn 1, I don’t know how Owen kept it off the fence. After the race, Rocco admits he was losing to Williams last year by being out smarted by him so this year, Rocco is going to just drive through the leaders to get the win. Anyone at Stafford listening? The race and the officials were in a fog last night. The late restart with Williams leading, the 82 so clearly jumped the restart and it doesn’t get called back? I know they were trying to get the race in before the fog but come on! The Race upfront was great with the 50, 82, and 88 battling it out. I even heard the 82 spotter Waddell tell Jr. To jump the start, he does and no call back. Then Williams falls back to 4th, gets punted into the infield the next lap by Woody in the 10A, (no call) and gets finished off by who else the 17 of Reen who was trying to cut under the 35 of Moeller and Williams on the last lap turn 4 to try to get 8th place. Both victims of this great move ended up in the wall. Williams great run last night was killed by bad officiating and the Horsepower Hill gang. By the way, Reen was parked right next to the 50 team! There was no fighting but the tension during the loading process could be cut with a knife. If the officials don’t start officiating soon, the SK’s at Stafford will be the best and most expensive Demolition Derby around! Plus, these shows are running until midnight, can’t we get the schedule moving?

  6. Hey Arch, did Blondie find the all the money? I agree with your points, but, I was a Christopher fan. So my opinion means nothing. I did say when he did something stupid. Which was about 33% of the time the crowd booed him.

  7. JD’s description is accurate as far as blocking the faster car.never ending well. Rocco was clearly the faster car. Both did what they had to do in trying to win. Another exciting finish for the SK’s at Stafford

  8. So you call the bump and run racing? Really? More like the last resort to making a clean pass.

  9. Jimmy King says

    Can anyone win a modified race without slamming the leader?

  10. Jimmy King says

    Can anyone win a modified race without slamming into the leader?

  11. As long as bump and run doesn’t become dump and run. But you’ve gotta remember paybacks a bitch.

  12. 🌈🦄2020 says

    Looked to me the 82 clearly jumped the restart. They let that go. Then the 10 booted the 50 to the infield. They also let that go. Must have not seen anything due to the fog. Hard hit for Dowling. He looked shaken up.

  13. Fast Eddie says

    If Owen was slowing down in the process of protecting the bottom, why couldn’t Rocco get a run on the outside to get by? Rocco’s bump reminded me of Pennick’s retaliatory bump of TC that prompted a fight in victory lane. Owen got hit so hard he was passed 3-wide! Great job by Owen to keep it off the fence, but Rocco certainly has enough talent to not have to drive like that to win. It’ll be interesting to see what happens if they end up near each other tonight.

  14. Congrats too all winners as far as sk race I wish faster drivers could find easier way off passing I was sitting in turn 1 with my sister that is a big Todd Owen very scary we thought he was going straight into wall one off the best saves i seened

  15. Like it or not the precedent is set. Williams knocked Kopcik out of the way on the last lap last year in an SK race and nerfed Christopher out of the way in another. The NWMT race and White Mountain and TTOMS at Monadnock this year reinforced the tactic. You’re going to have to spin the leader to have the win taken away.
    Owen and Rocco were a few hundredths of a second apart yesterday. There was no outside move for equal cars. It’s what happened or a good sport mailing it in for a second. Owen slowed down to make the guy go outside when he should have raced as hard as the car could to the checkers. TV showed it perfectly. Rocco was tapping him constantly for several laps. Same thing as Hirshman, you have to know what’s coming depending on who is doing the tapping.
    By my count that’s Williams with two great starting positions and nothing to show for it. Clipped at Jennerstown and a meh finish in the 25 at Monadnock. Seeing him skating through the infield was fun but fact is he was a tenth off the leaders anyway and wasn’t contending for the win. Might want to put a hold on that next great driver thing bandied about last year. Four for unimpressive so far this year so tonight is a must do well race.
    That’s the second SK race Pitkat was a tenth off the fastest cars and he still maxes out what the car is capable of.

  16. Well disciplined crowd last night and Ben Dodge gave them a thanks on a couple of occasions. A couple winners wearing masks in victory lane was a good example to set. Not including Durand or Rocco making a fumbling effort to show he didn’t like doing it. Hey guys, put the freakin mask on we can hear you fine and no one will say you’re less of an American for doing it.
    It may get ugly tonight. All the outsiders not used to playing by the safety rules. Very ugly. Ben could be in for a long night of reminding.
    TV coverage was outstanding with the exception of 8 10 minutes when one camera went down leaving one to swing back to pick up the action. One guy on Facebook whined instantly about wanting his money back. Say what you will about PPV vs being there but there is no question in my mind the product Stafford is offering gives unprecedented views of the bumping and grinding going on in the trenches. For my money they got the announcing and track sound background mix perfect last night.
    Facebook views from Maine, North Carolina, South Carolina chiming in saying how they enjoy seeing the races they once used to view in person but can’t now. Magic Shoes touching base with Ben Dodge.
    Who know if it’s working money wise but the vibe so far are pretty swell.
    Tonight may be really terrific.

  17. Arch Stanton you might want to reconsider Steve park in your comment, remember him at Daytona ,Stefanik wanted to kill him , a little closer look and maybe there’s a reason the 10 wasn’t put to the back

  18. Remember fans this is not racing; it’s entertainment brought to you by Stafford Springs Enterprises Inc.

  19. Yeah, I get it. New norm like bump and run. Used to be, if you were leading With 2 laps 2 go at nh, you expected it. Now it seems, in this covid year, if you are leading with 2 to go Anywhere, you are fair game.
    Elect, very fair comment. But for me, prior to larry foyt ending park’s life, ( no fault of foyt, please dont get me wrong) i found park to be extremly talented, and clean. Just sayin.

  20. There was absolutely no reason to wear a mask on the driver introductions tonight other then to set an example. Thanks guys.
    Nocella for the win.

  21. 50 spins on lap 73. How sweet it is!!!

  22. Bobf I agree , I was a fan of Steve park and its to bad it ended the way it did . I was just reminding that even some of the good guys had some bad days , we all have our favorites and tend to see things a little different when they are involved in a incident .

  23. Thomas Barmstarn says

    Hey Doug, You are beginning to be just about as annoying as the dareal dummy. Shut up already about the masks and talk about racing. Did you even go or did you hide in your basement and watch it on tv? Really tired of all the ridiculous comments from people that do not even leave their house.

  24. Sad chain of events to see a driver as talented as Keith use his bumper to win an event. This guy is too good to drive like that. Too bad he has stooped this low . I always looked at him as a clean, good driver. I guess not. Seeing it often in the Tour races as well. Anyone who plays this type of behavior should be put to the rear of the lead lap. I guess NASCAR rewards WWF type racing. Glad I don’t do this anymore.

  25. getserious says

    Rocco, Lutz, Bonsignore, and others that are not fast enough, nor skilled enough, to pass a competitor without pushing him out of the way could never have any wins in drag racing; you have to win WITHOUT interfering in the other guy’s race. Pure quipment and skill, only. There’s a piitiful, bull-headed mentality being allowed lately. Hey Stafford, if you don’t put an end to this stuff in the SKsthey will turn into the smash-em, crash-ems of the Late Models a dozen years ago and disintigrate a good division, as the majority of drivers bailed out of a wild-west division.

  26. Keith said he is there to win races, isn’t the reason why all competitors show up at the race track?. For a chance to win? Do it the right way and you have the fans respect.

  27. There it is again that basement thing. What’s up with that Thomas? Is that some take off on the talk radio bit they do mocking millennial’s living in their moms basement? Why would people watching races anywhere on TV in the basement or living room be hiding? Were I in my basement watching the race on big screen with a cold beer in one hand and a Hot Pocket in the other why would that be a bad thing?
    Not at the race you say Thomas………so what. I spent enough time there. I’ve had a young Steve Chowanski beating the snot out of my back bumper in the Streets on starts long ago so I’m familiar with the excitement and emotion of being there. If you’re somehow trying to connect race fan manhood to actual presence at the track you’re wasting your time on me. Fact is if you are seeing the race on TV and monitoring the lap times on Race Monitor you have a far better vantage point then being in the stands.
    I like PPV. Over two days paid $50 to see races at Stafford. That’s the goal isn’t it to have people pay to watch the races to help the track make money and build the bonus pot for the teams. How is that a bad thing? How is some guy named Thomas Barmstarn discouraging people from enjoying the PPV offering by connecting it to negative imagery of basements and hiding advancing the sport at all.
    OK the mask thing was a bit much but it was short and I didn’t ramble on for three paragraphs about how we’re all doomed because of the pandemic. It was hot, I know a lot of the guys don’t like wearing the masks so I simply wanted to say I appreciated the example they set.
    Am I annoying Thomas? Most of us are annoying to someone else. You chiming in complaining and saying nothing about the race or Rocco taking up space complaining is annoying. Some guy on Friday complained about a 10 minute gap where one camera went down wanting his money back and another on Saturday bitched about the $30 PPV price after the race started saying he wouldn’t pay it. You’re that guy Thomas. First instinct is to complain.

    Now everyone is celebrating the great race that Marcello Rufrano ran in the Open 80 and it was quite a black swan run. They are also saying he did it clean whereas Rocco did not like it represented some kind of universal conduct every driver should live by. There is no right answer on the bump and run. You like or not and a lot depends on if your guy is the aggressor or the victim. What is true is that the elite cars in the SK’ s are in a 40 lap sprint and are so equal the outside is simply not an option at the end of the race often times. I prefer it be done with laps to go so there can be payback and not on the last lap but it is and always has been a tactic in racing that will not be eliminated. It’s hard to do well, it gets fans worked up. we need bad guys as well as good guys so get ready to get mad again because it will happen again.
    Good for Rufrano but while you are trashing Rocco keep in mind that were it not for Keith Rocco who has partnered with John Rufrano for a really long time in a very productive symbiotic relationship young Marcello would almost surely never have come as far and as fast as he has.

  28. What’s up with the food prices in the pits ,stands are probably the same but I haven’t been there , $5 for a hot dog , $3 for a water ,2 bottles sold and the case is more than paid for , I’m going to have to be starving before I go back , not a good move I don’t think

  29. Congrats congrats congrats to Marcelo rufrano in the open 80 what a way to get the first win also noticed Keith Rocco wasn’t there last night But did notice Keith‘s crew what is there to help rufrano to the win I also love Saturday night racing I miss Waterford dearly but under the current condition Stafford is just fine please have a lot more

  30. Keith Rocco was there just no car , not sure why

  31. Engine wasn’t ready according to Stafford Speedway response on Facebook.
    Maybe he was busy getting Rufrano’s ready.

  32. Surprised it’s taken so long for people to realize that Rocco drives dirty. He’s done it allot in the past at both Thompson and Stafford, even at Waterford. Some day he’s gonna end up hurting someone. But remember, paybacks a bitch, and I’ve got the feeling he will get paid back probably when it counts the most.

  33. Here it is. All these racers from yesteryear WOULD do the same thing for a win. Keep in mind you used to be able to buy a Hutter engine with a new Troyer and have the best of the best so you didn’t have to move anyone. Now everyone has the same chassis and same engine so the competition is way tighter now. Richie was the best yes but he drove the best as well. Different times.

  34. Elect:
    Sorry I did not get your point on my first go around. I stand corrected, good point, I agree.
    Park sure could run with the best in Joe Brady’s 00 in the day. Miss those days. But, things change, time moves on, and bump and run new norm. Realist point about equipment being so equal for a lot of teams now, (as well as savvy crew chiefs) makes sense why there might be more of this in the future. Like they say, you are only as good as your last run, so to speak. Lot of pressure to get that w….

  35. 🌈🦄2020 says

    Food prices are ridiculous and the food is nothing special. The track and it’s vendors are obviously trying to make up for lost business from the late opening. Get used to it. No variety either. Chicken, burger, dog or fries. Didn’t Stafford sell pizza before? The stands seemed pretty crowded for a 25% crowd. Maybe it’s an optical illusion. If they ever get to 50% the place is going to look packed.

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