Traveling Man: Keith Rocco To Make ARCA Menards West Series Debut At Phoenix Next Week

Last week the Connecticut short track racing season came to an end for veteran racer Keith Rocco. 

But it doesn’t mean the Wallingford driver is done for 2020.

Rocco had been scheduled to make hit NASCAR ARCA Menards East Series debut for Venturini Motorsports on Sept. 12 as part of the Full Throttle Weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

That event ended up getting cancelled, but that cancellation didn’t wipe away Rocco’s opportunity with Venturini Motorsports. 

Instead of making an ARCA Menards East Series Rocco will make an ARCA Menards West Series debut for the team in the Arizona Lottery 100 on November 7 at Phoenix Raceway in Avondale, Az. 

Next weekend’s trip will mark Rocco’s first visit to 1-mile Phoenix Raceway. 

“I’m looking at it as a final chance opportunity for the 2020 season,” Rocco told RaceDayCT. “2020 has been one heck of a roller coaster. You can’t be greedy, you’ve got to take what you can get. Obviously we would have liked to do something where we had a few laps, but we’re going to give this a shot.” 

Rocco said he was offered other chances with Venturini Motorsports after the cancellation of the NHMS event, but all conflicted with his schedule at Stafford Motor Speedway, where he won the 2020 SK Modified division championship. The title marked Rocco’s 18th Weekly Racing Series Division I championship, which set a new NASCAR record. Rocco had a focus on chasing the record in 2020. 

“New Hampshire got cancelled and there was a few other races that popped that they wanted to do but they conflicted with [schedule at Stafford Motor Speedway],” Rocco said. “I really wanted to get that 18th [NASCAR Division I track championship] just to set that record because who knows what’s going to happen in the future with NASCAR and everything else. … I didn’t want jeopardize a Friday night. If we had to we could have rolled it over to next year, but this race just happened to pop and we were able to make everything work and get one last race in for 2020.” 

Rocco’s twin brother Jeff worked to bring the deal together with Venturini Motorsports. Nic Moncher, vice president of Marketing Partnerships for Venturini Motorsports, said Rocco has been on the radar of the organization’s developmental program in the past. 

“We were looking to get one race in this season in the hopes of building something for 2021 with Keith,” Moncher said in August of the original deal to race at NHMS. “… When we do our searches as part of our driver development program we do it with Toyota and others. The big thing we look for in drivers is their commitments to what they’ve done in their past histories in racing. Obviously Keith is a well-known name. When Jeff called we immediately knew who he was. He’s somebody we’ve looked at in the past and for whatever reason we just never got anything to come together. I know he’s tried to do some stuff with [Kyle Busch Motorsports] in the past. But we know Keith is a guy who has really stuck to the [Northeast] with the Modifieds. When I brought this idea to [team owner Billy Venturini] he was really excited and that’s when we really went full bore in trying to make sure this happened.” 

Although Rocco’s focus for the bulk of his career has been driving open wheel Modifieds, he has plenty of experience running full-bodied cars. He has four Late Model division championships at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. He has multiple Late Model victories at the Stafford Speedway, the Speedbowl and Thompson Speedway. 

Comments

  1. Venturini always fields fast, well prepared cars. This is a great opportunity for Keith, hope he has a great showing. GOOD LUCK KEITH

  2. Curious George says

    dareal, will this put him on the State of Connecticut’s 14-day quarantine watch?

  3. Give it hell Keith Rocco

  4. Stuart Fearn says

    Ya imagine that, Keith will have to stay at home 14 days continuously in the shop!
    Best of luck and we’ll be watching from back home unfortunately I think this year

  5. 🌈🦄2020 says

    Good question curious. Dafella should be with us shortly with all the answers. Stand by.

  6. Viva race fan says

    He drives the heck out of a pro stock . Make the best Kid . Your getting old quick . Kids are all over the sport and its not a bad thing. King Rocco will always have a home locally but we all want our drivers to excel . GL Kid

  7. Really the quarantine is a joke. Rocco in Berlin with a family to consider just south of New Britain and west of Cromwell both red hot now with infections. Yah good one.
    “I really wanted to get that 18th [NASCAR Division I track championship] just to set that record because who knows what’s going to happen in the future with NASCAR and everything else. … I didn’t want jeopardize a Friday night.”
    The 18th race part is clear. It’s the questioning what’s going to happen with NASCAR part that seems curious. Is that a reference to the status with Stafford, pandemic related or something else?
    What’s the end game here or is there any? Rocco may be the “Kid” but he’s no kid he’s 35. A development deal? Develop the family man for a full schedule gig in the series? The mere idea of splitting or losing the attention of the KRR stable of cars must be unpleasant to Stafford.
    Sure good luck to Keith he like Preece is one of our guys.
    It is however yet another question mark with implications for next year.

  8. Doug,
    I don’t think Keith is heading down south to race full-time anytime soon. I think where he says “who knows what’s going to happen in the future with NASCAR and everything else” was a reference to him wanting to get that 18th Division I track championship in the face of the possibility that he may not have had the opportunity going forward. Obviously NASCAR is out at Waterford and has been for a few years. There are no guarantees that the NASCAR sanction will be in play in 2020 at Thompson or Stafford. I think that’s where his quote was going.

  9. NASCAR running at non-sanctioned tracks was a bad move on their part. Now tracks can refuse to take on a sanction role. Any track that can run will be an option for NASCAR, sanctions are a non-issue while this is going on.

    Until the pandemic is over, that is.

  10. So combining the most recent update on the status of next years season, Rocco’s reference to it and Stuart Fearn’s comment that they all know what is at stake here. They all have been consulted, they all are providing input but can’t be specific at this particular juncture. Am I close? Don’t answer that.
    Best compressed season and best post season drama ever.
    The game is afoot. I like it.

  11. Stuart Fearn says

    I believe what Keith was talking about was the fact that it wasn’t too long ago he was racing at 3 tracks weekly for the div 1 NASCAR championship. That’s how he got to 17 so quickly, Thompson and Waterford almost every year champion and a few at Stafford thrown in. Now 2020 comes along and it’s down to 1. Next year looks no better. At all three open NASCAR tracks his chances at 1 championship were at say 95%, two 70%, all three, maybe 15%.
    Historically speaking Stafford was his worst track in terms of championships. Well now that he only had one to focus on this year we saw the result! Look out 2021 and good luck in Phoenix

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