Gotcha: Keith Rocco Outduels Mike Christopher Jr. For Sunoco SK Mod Win At Thompson

Keith Rocco celebrates victory in the Sunoco SK Modified feature Saturday at Icebreaker 2021 at Thompson Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

THOMPSON – Fans itching for the start of the 2021 short track racing season in Connecticut didn’t have to wait long for edge of the seat drama Saturday at Thompson Speedway. 

Feature one of the Icebreaker 2021 served up a lead swapping showcase between Keith Rocco and Mike Christopher Jr. Saturday.

When the dust settled it was Rocco, of Meriden, celebrating victory in the 30-lap Sunoco SK Modified feature at Thompson.

Seeing Rocco win Icebreaker Sunoco SK Modified features has become about as common as the sun rising in the east. 

“[Christopher] put a little fear in our eyes today,” Rocco said. “He had us worried a little bit that he was going to steal our thing and break our streak.” 

Troy Talman of Oxford, Mass. was second and Todd Owen of Somers third. 

The boos rained down from the grandstands toward Rocco following the aggressive 10-lap battle at the front of the field to close out the race. 

“The last 10 laps we were racing real good, real hard,” Christopher said. “It’s just the product of this race track. There’s always going to be an asshole coming out of it, whether it’s the guy that won or the guy that’s second. There’s no way to pass here unless you really get the guy and move him up. This time it was Rocco getting me, but I’m not going to not admit it I was moving him up and we were racing hard. That’s Thompson racing.” 

Christopher, of Wolcott, ended up fourth. 

Rocco went by Talman for the lead on lap 10 with Christopher moving to second four laps later. 

On lap 17 Christopher took his first shot at Rocco and from there the battle was on. On lap 23 Christopher got under Rocco out of turn four, but Rocco fought back to hold the lead on the outside. 

On lap 24 Christopher grabbed the lead off of turn two but it was Rocco grabbing the top spot back off of turn four. Two laps later Christopher went back to the front briefly into turn three before Rocco wrestled the lead back off of turn four. The next lap it was Christopher winning the drag race off of turn four to take over the top spot. 

On lap 28 Rocco went diving into turn three to grab the lead back. On lap 29 Christopher used the low lane off of turn two to go back out in front. Rocco used a diving move into turn three to get back under Christopher. Through turn four Rocco drifted up the track and contact between the two sent Christopher into the marbles and falling to fourth place. 

“That was a lot of fun racing with [Christopher],” Rocco said. “He had a stout piece just like us. At the end of the day it comes down to who’s going to lead the last lap. It’s almost like watching a [Whelen Modified Tour] race at New Hampshire [Motor Speedway]. It’s crazy racing here. It’s all about the slide job. [Lap 29] I expected him to cross me over and he hung out there and we made a little contact and that was the difference between finishing second and winning.” 

Said Christopher: “[On lap 29] he caught the left front and jerked it out of my hands and up into the marbles we went. I hate racing like that and I hate how you have to do that to win here, or to pass, but it’s just a product of the race track. At the end of the day, the last two laps, someone is going to get got. Unfortunately that was me. Other than that it was a fun race. It just didn’t work out this time.” 


  1. The Atomic Punk says

    Best Track in Conn.

  2. Stuart Fearn says

    Hats off to Christopher for being very understanding of the situation and giving a great interview after what I can imagine is a let down in defeat. Lot of credit to Jr for that maturity I guess I’d call it

    I’m not there and didn’t watch but sounded like a great race

  3. solsticeson says

    Too bad are only 6 shows there this yr, A great thing for Stafford, and that Waterbowl, geezs gittin goin on a Wednesday evening?

  4. Mark Fisher says

    Shawn , any updates of a Thompson on heat races etc.

  5. Bill Realist says

    I don’t know what more you could want. That was a classic Thompson showdown/slug out if I have ever saw one. I feel lucky to have seen it.

  6. Mark,
    Trying to keep with covering all the features here so not much on heat races.

  7. I think Mike took the hi road on this one. Not one person were I was sitting up in turn 4 though Rocco raced Mike clean on that last pass. It’s kinda funny Mike said it’s the product of the track that brings on this type of racing when they had crossed each other over probably 5 or 6 times without enough contact to disrupt the cars but Rocco couldn’t seem to do it on that last pass without putting Mike in the marbles. So it can be run clean it’s the drivers who decide the level of aggression and some use more than others.

  8. solsticeson says

    I was no fan of Uncle TC, but I do miss,,, a bit,,,,,, the meyhem hed cause weekly, Lets hope Mike keeps up his great clean driving style.

  9. wmass01013 says

    I think a smart move by MC knowing its the 1st race of many against Rocco this yr, Now you can do the same to him to win a race and say HEY remember what he did to me at the ICEBREAKER instead of getting out of the car and making all kinds of threats and comments of payback to heat things up, doesn’t mean there won’t be some shoves and pushes then but it is the 1st race.

  10. OLD SCHOOL FAN says


  11. In Hockey. when someone delivers a hard hit on you, you GET HIS NUMBER #57 , Then the next opportunity I get , I will deliver a CLEAN HARDER HIT in return…. SO it goes thru the rest of the game, So it goes the rest of the season when you meet again. You say NICE HIT you caught me . He says NICE HIT in return, and you move on. no hard feelings, no baby talk, you just simply take your HIT like a MAN !!! More people need to realize its the way it is… This is Sportsmanship !!! NO CRYING !!! HIT FOR HIT and when it happens to you, you do and say what Christopher did!! YOU COMPETE !!! Enough Said !! Play with Honor!!!

  12. 🌈🦄2020 says

    15 cars for the icebreaker is sad.

  13. What Suitcase Jake said.

    Great hockey analogy.

    Be careful what you give out, for you will get it back when you least expect it.

    TC was funny…. he wrecked cars any chance he could get, his own and that of others, all while relentlessly playing the victim card. If you listened to him, it was never his fault.

  14. Stuart A Fearn says

    Suitcase, that’s also called a HIP check lol

  15. Stewart Fearn : Yes Sir . a lost art in Hockey … Johnny Bucyk played 22 years in NHL one of the best Hip Checkers ,& Cam Neely &, Don Awrey played 19 years , Fantastic Hip Checker .Known for BONE JARRING BODY CHECKS .. TOO BAD Neely got hit by Samuelson of Toronto and wasted his hip . only played 13 years NEELY was one tough HOMBRE …LOL . I played for 20 Years , Great Game Hockey is. You need more wind than Football { I played Both Sports } Football you get a whistle every 7 seconds or so ,,,, Hockey you can be stuck out on the ice for more than 2 – 5 minutes killing a penalty or double minor or just pinned in your end and your bench is at the far end of the blue line and you just can’t bail out of your zone . each period you swap ends .. Man alive you just can’t explain to non Hockey Players the Cardiovascular Endurance you need to attain to be a top level player… I guess Soccer would be really tough too depending on your position and you don’t get to change players on the fly like Hockey…

  16. Sportsmanship, play with honor. What are these strange new words being spoken?
    Two great hockey movies. Paul Newman in Slap Shot and lesser known but entertaining Goon.
    Two year’s ago Ronnie Williams did the Stafford version of this to Michael at the end of an SK race to take the win. Victory lane Michael whined a bit and perhaps found out it’s not a good look no matter how valid. That lesson may be in play here.
    Rocco is legend. He will stretch the boundaries further then just about anyone if that’s what it takes to get the win. Christopher is not his uncle, dad or Rocco. He’s just not there yet and may never be. That’s not necessarily bad it’s his own style and fans seem to respect him for it.
    I don’t recall payback with Ronnie Williams and I doubt there will be any here.

  17. Many years ago Geoff Bodine turned Richie Evans coming off the final turn at Martinsville and Evans literally road the wall to victory by a nose. The last turn fireworks have been going on forever. Its a part of racing. The only place that may have limited it somewhat is Stafford.

  18. 🌈🦄2020 says

    This was the classic Thompson move them up the track pass. Happens every single race. Sometimes it’s for the win, sometimes it’s for fifth place. I do seem to remember the track trying to police it one time. I think they dq’d the guy or put him to the rear. Not sure why people act like it’s the first time they’ve seen it happen.

  19. That Sunoco Modified race was one of the best of the weekend, makes it all worth while!

  20. Fast Eddie says

    Despite the short field, great race until the end. Apparently the spirit of TC jumped in Rocco’s car on the last lap. Iwould suggest that mike jr might want to watch some of his uncles thompson expliots for future reference. If rocco is going to play that hard then others will have to as well.

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