Moving On: Keith Rocco And SK Modified Team Owner John Rufrano Parting Ways

Keith Rocco (left) and John Rufrano (right) (Photos: Jim DuPont & Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

It was a relationship that began as a stranger knocking on a door looking for sponsorship that blossomed into one of the most accomplished, dominant and long running driver/team owner pairings in the history of Stafford Speedway.

And it has come to an end.

After 13 years together, SK Modified driver Keith Rocco and team owner John Rufrano have parted ways.

Rocco said the split was an amicable one.

“What we’ve done over the last decade or so is for the record books,” Rocco said. “I can’t thank John and Maina Rufrano enough for everything they’ve done.”

Said Rufrano: “I take a lot of pride in what we were able to do together.”

Of Rocco’s four SK Modified championships at Stafford, three have come driving for Rufrano. Rocco won SK Modified championships at Stafford driving for Rufrano in 2010, 2017 and 2020.

Rocco was looking for sponsorship to race a car at Thompson Speedway when he arrived one day in 2007 at Rufrano’s business, Wheeler’s Auto in Hamden.

“I was at work that morning and didn’t really want to be bothered,” Rufrano said. “Sure enough he came knocking on the door hungry. He was looking for sponsorship to drive a car over at Thompson. I didn’t know him, but I knew he was. He told me he was going up and down the street looking for sponsorships and asked if I’d be willing to help him out. That’s pretty much how it started. The rest is history.”

Said Rocco: “It’s a pretty big deal because of that fact that I brought him back into circle track racing. John is a guy that I didn’t even know. I went down there and knocked on his door looking for sponsorship. Two years later the guy created a full-blown race team that we dominated with over the last decade.”

Rocco is second on Stafford’s all-time win list in the SK Modified division with 65 victories since 2005. Of those wins, 58 came driving for Rufrano.

They also teamed up to win two Open Modified events at Stafford and one Modified Racing Series feature at the historic half-mile oval. They also have two Modified Racing Series wins together at Thompson and two at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl.

Driving for Rufrano in 2010, Rocco won a track record 10 SK Modified events at Stafford and ultimately became the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series National Champion for his efforts at Stafford, Thompson and Waterford that year.

Rufrano will concentrate his 2022 efforts on fielding a team for his son Marcello, a regular in the SK Modified division and Open Modified events at Stafford Speedway.

“Just going to focus on Marcello for right now,” Rufrano said. “I don’t have any plans on recruiting any other driver. It’s not about doing that.”

Rocco will also be back in the SK Modified at Stafford for 2022.  

“We’ve got some stuff in the works,” Rocco said. Working on putting a team together here.”


  1. 1) Fighting in the Paddock is not consistent with the Rufrano/Wheelers Auto Service brand.
    2) In spite of the years of backing, Marcello was unable to win one SK race while Bryan Narducci won in a KRR rental.
    3) The 68 tends to fade as the race goes on while the 88 does not. Time to change the ingredients
    4) All relationships end in time and it was just time.
    5) Keith Rocco has spread himself too thin with too many responsibilities to too many people.
    6) It’s just time to make Marcello the primary focus and devote all the resources to his career.
    7) The Rufrano’s would like the flexibility to use other setup, chassis and engine resources other then those associated with KRR.
    8) Some or all of the above.
    9 None of the above.

    Question: what is the reason or reasons for the split?

  2. in the know stop the hate says

    Rufano went LFR. Rufano trying to follow in Loganos footsteps, should talk to Dave Garbo about what that costs ! Narduccis win was luck and track position with almost no cautions. Rocco is spread thin but people would be happy to have the results and finishes he has had in an “off” season while he earns a living racing LOL. no one in the future will match Rocco’s number of track championships or stats .stop the hate.

  3. “Rufano went LFR.”
    Rocco’s Troyer. Troyer and LFR are both under the TFR banner. So what’s the point?
    ” Rufano trying to follow in Loganos footsteps, should talk to Dave Garbo about what that costs”
    Be careful now. Don’t want to hurt yourself grasping for those straws. Read Logano’s history in Wikipedia then tell me exactly when that family supported any other driver for 13 years.
    ” Narduccis win was luck and track position with almost no cautions.”
    It was one caution early, he made one pass to take the lead then checked out in a KRR car he barely had time to get familiar with. Rufrano has been in a KRR setup and started at the front many, many times and not been able to seal the deal. I know it’s not the driver.
    “Rocco is spread thin but people would be happy to have the results and finishes he has had in an “off” season while he earns a living racing LOL”
    Are we talking about Rocco here or the cars out of his stable? I believe Narducci has the only win of the non Rocco driven cars, the issue I was underscoring. If you’re saying that he is a great racer with highly developed skills from the machine shop to the drivers seat with an entrepreneurial flare to boot I’d stipulate that to be correct but it’s not the point.
    “no one in the future will match Rocco’s number of track championships or stats”
    Now what exactly does that have to do with the Rufrano’s breaking away?
    “stop the hate.”
    And your comments regarding Narducci and Rufrano are what?

    Of course none of it is hate, that’s just short hand hyperbole that’s leveled at people that don’t share the same views. It’s more like needling or being snarky. A rich tradition between fans. Trash talk if you will.
    I’ve been an admirer of Rocco for years observing his full array of skills on and off the track in wonderment of one so talented. He lost me when he threw the punch in Narducci’s pit. A judgement reinforced after seeing some of his other antics this year. Including driving Owen, who was in a points battle at the time, up the track at Stafford and driving Williams into the wall at Thompson.
    Forgetting all that I like the idea of an independent Rufrano team and Rocco forming something new. Between KRR and Chassis Pro we’re getting a little top heavy as far “stables” go and this will mix it up a bit.

  4. I am no Kieth fanboy but I do appreciate him going door to door to find a sponsor,lots of these guys now have no idea what that is like. The fact a complete stranger opened up his wallet and then stuck with him for 12yrs is a great story. People forget KR didn’t have nothing handed to him, he worked his way up. He might be the last of the old school era even though he’s not that old.

  5. Keith’s brother has been working on Rufranos car for a few years now and before that Jimmy Fuller, don’t think that’s a Rocco rental , your missing a lot from the barkalounger , take a ride over the hill once in a while

  6. I believe it’s a combination of 6 & 7. Why wouldn’t you want to put all your resources ($$) behind your kid ? Just need a crew chief to set up the car.

  7. masks optional says

    EVERYONE knew this was eventually coming, as soon as Marcello started racing

  8. ” don’t think that’s a Rocco rental ”
    So I guess you’re saying if I go over the hill which is actually several hills I’ll be in a position to not know as much as you?
    The Rufrano’s are listed as the owners of the 88 and 68. The KRR rentals are owned by Rocco. I certainly don’t know who specifically sets up the entire fleet but one might presume that whomever it is it certainly gets ample input from the guy with the most experience and success. You know the guy with all those wins and championships. Really if you’re funding a guy why in heavens name would you not be using his guidance the association is the whole point. And it isn’t working.
    The needling about going over the hills is fun but irrelevant. I was being snarky in my little list but the fact remains the relationship is not resulting in wins for Marcello. No matter how close you are to the 68 or 88 I doubt you will be in any better position to find the actual reasons for the split but please share if you do.

  9. As someone who is personal friends with Rocco and Rufrano, I 100% believe this decision should’ve been made years ago. Marcello has been looked at as Keith’s prodigy for years, which is not a bad thing considering the kid looked up to Keith through his own career. But Marcello is a now a 21 year old man. Personally, Marcello is one hell of a driver, and he has many good people behind him on his team.

    “In the know,” you’re not really in the know if you think Marcello is trying to be like Logano. As someone who actually IS in the know, quiet down. For you Doug, most of Marcello’s problem is mechanical for falling off most races. But, Marcello also needs to work on his patience behind the wheel in this division. He’s easily angered and flustered when something does not go his way. Truly, I can understand the reasoning why, but I hope he can regain the patient aggression he had in the SK Lights.

    As for Rocco, he will be fine on his own. John and Maina have done wonders for Keith over the years and I’m sure it was never due to any of the recent events in the past few years. Keith started his rental business, has been very respectable in giving drivers rides after have been shuffled out from their big headed car owners.

    I excited to see where this leads Rufrano and Rocco.

  10. You just keep thinking and presuming on the barkalounger , you’ll be fine .by the way Phil Moran is also listed as owner

  11. How stupid are you people?

    Was it too obvious that the father (owner) was going to make his son the top priority and KR was going to have to be moved out of the seat?

    Just how stupid are you people?

  12. Am I on trial again? Got it, I write too much and it’s annoying that’s your real point isn’t it. Totally sympathetic with that I annoy myself at times.
    I provided the Barkalounger euphemism, you added the over the hill imagery and it was a good one. I’ve got another one that perhaps you can work into your act I sold my chairback. That’s right might not physically go to another race again. You’d think I’d at least try to hide or be defensive about it but here I am giving you material to mock me.
    I would presume that because Phillip Moran is listed as the owner of the 10 in the NWMT results you’re using that as evidence that ownership references are unreliable and at times they can be. However instead of casting doubt using a reference that is in a completely different series most know is more of a non monetary honorarium why not say specifically what you do know about the ownership of the cars at Stafford and what exactly I said that was wrong.
    You’re confusing me with someone that takes himself seriously. I’m more a racing geek and perpetual troll. In this thread it encouraged Oracle to weigh in with some interesting observations.
    Not ideal but we gained some insights on the topic didn’t we?

  13. It’s not like Keith has no car to drive, he’ll be fine. John has every right to back his kid over Keith. His resources allowed Keith to accomplish allot over more than the last Decade. If it weren’t for John I don’t think Keith would be where he is, and this time has allowed him to build his own successful race team. He’ll be fine.

  14. We tend to simplify racing. There are so many variable’s it would make your head hurt trying to list them all. Like someone said Rufrano is only 21 years old. He’s got a lot of years to race if he chooses, and not that many years behind him. For someone to win races, the variable’s I mentioned must all align. The important thing is that the Driver have confidence in their car, and themselves. Like I said, the kid is only 21, and theoretically at the start of his driving career.cJohn deciding to part ways with Keith, gives him more funding for the kid, in hoping that someday soon he will have confidence in his car and himself, and that all those variable’s start lining up.

  15. You may write a lot but I usually read what you have to say ,May not always agree but that’s ok , I never said you were over the hill since I’m thinking we’re about the same vintage. I’m not Keith or Jon Rufrano so I don’t know who owns what , but I have noticed that Jimmy Fuller first and then Jeff Rocco are working on car along with the Rufranos ,not so much Keith . Sorry to here you won’t be taking in any races in person ,enjoy from home

  16. Oracle expressed the opinion with regard to the Rufrano/KRR relationship that “100% believe this decision should’ve been made years ago”. Three years ago Rufrano had just won the SK Light championship and was headed for the SK.s. I would think that would be the worst time to split from KRR so I’d be curious to know what benefit a split at that time would have had.
    The observation was made that Jimmy Fuller and Jeff Rocco have worked on the 68 at one time or another. The implication being that the knowledge base and philosophy of the setups were fundamentally different then those of Keith Rocco and the lack of wins not gravitating to Rocco alone. I guess my question would be don’t they all fall under the the KRR/Troyer umbrella with regard to basic setup philosophy?
    Jeff and Keith are close not just by blood line but in race setup philosophy. Jeff was the winning crew chief for the 57 at Thompson.
    The dots for Jimmy Fuller are harder to connect but are there. He’s listed as the crew chief for Meghan Fuller’s SK Light. There is a relationship between KRR and Fuller.

    “Positive Spin: Meghan Fuller Turns Dreadful Night To Promising Chance In SK Light Mod At Stafford
    October 13, 2020 by Shawn Courchesne

    “Meghan Fuller will drive a Keith Rocco Racing prepared Troyer with her uncle Jimmy Fuller as her crew chief. She said her cousin, LFR, Troyer, and TFR Distribution owner Rob Fuller, orchestrated the plan to get her on track in the SK Light Modified. “

    The 02 in the race last fall and the one campaigned this year may be different cars or not I don’t know but they all came out of KRR did they not? I don’t see any advantage to taking a KRR prepared car with a the history of success then mucking it all up based on a completely different configuration. Are the KRR and Jimmy Fuller approaches to setups fundamentally different I’d ask?
    All that brings me to my main point. As a fan it may be a mirage but I want to divide the SK’s up into different Houses as it were. The House of KRR, the House of Chassis Pro and now the House of Kopcik being the main players. I want not just the drivers but the Houses they represent to be part of the interest in watching races next year.
    Rufrano had a new car at the end of the season they were ironing the bugs out of and as I understand it, it was an LFR. Forget the fact that both Troyer and LFR are under the TFR umbrella I’d like to think they have basic differences with regard to setup characteristics requiring different philosophies to make each go fast.
    As a fan I want the KRR/Rufrano split to have greater intrigue going into next year. The reigning LFR expert is Kopcik. He has his own car obviously but also the Puleo entry as co crew chief with Ed Puleo a former modified driver and setup guy in his own right. I guess I’d ask is there or will there be any connection of the Rufrano clan to the House of Kopcik going forward? Or will John Rufrano be a true independent like the Skowyra 50 with no association to any of the multi car SK Houses at Stafford.
    Don’t bother saying I don’t know what I’m talking about I will stipulate that to be true and to be fair I did confess to being a troll. What I’m after is to establish if there is a House of Kopcik and is the LFR brand gaining momentum with he as the guru. If I see the 88 and 68 fighting for position next year am I also seeing a bit of a competition between competing brands that formerly were allies?

  17. Let me rephrase and add to this Doug,

    I meant splitting within the past year and a half for Rufrano. Secondly, Jimmy Fuller actually has not touched Rufrano’s car since 2019 when he was fired from the team, that is why Jeff Rocco is his crew chief. Jimmy has also had differing opinions with the Rick about what should be done to the car. Jimmy has been working with the Talman’s rather than his own Niece Meghan this past year.

  18. Thanks Oracle. Hope you post more in the future.

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