Digging Deep With Denise: Visiting With Marcello Rufrano

“Digging Deep With Denise” is a semi-regular question and answer feature with local racers and racing personalities produced by RaceDayCT’s Denise DuPont

Marcello Rufrano (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

Marcello Rufrano – We can be superstars for the night

22-year old Marcello Rufrano was introduced to racing by his father John – owner of Wheelers Auto Service in Hampden – who has always had a passion for racing. In 2008, Keith Rocco knocked on the Wheelers Auto door looking for sponsorship and help. John Rufrano was ready for the opportunity. While his dad was in the pits turning the wrenches, Marcello sat in the grandstands cheering on Rocco as his own interest in racing grew. When it was time, Marcello jumped behind the wheel of a Street Stock to compete at Stafford. To date, Marcello has 16 wins at Stafford Speedway across the SK Modified, SK Light Modified and Street Stock divisions. He has two wins this year in an SK Modified. Knowing how to seal the deal, Rufrano is driving for another visit to victory lane as the 2022 racing season draws to a close.

How did you get interested in racing?

“My father got me interested in racing.  As a kid I was always interested in cars. Growing up I was the one in my family that bugged my father about naming cars as he was driving down the road. I know what that Audi is. I know what Volkswagen that one is … I grew up around street cars my whole life. My father got started in drag racing with [the Greco family]. They owned a machine shop and they had a car parts shop locally in West Haven, CT. My father had the bug growing up, but he never had it financially to do it. He was fortunate enough to start his own business. Then he wanted to live that dream through me.

“He got hooked on racing again with Keith Rocco. Rocco came one day and knocked on the shop door one Sunday while my father was there fiddling with some of his projects. Keith kind of ignited the fire back under my father to go back racing. And the story is over from there. That was my drug. I went there every Friday night. I watched almost every single win. The nights that I could not go to the track I was very upset. The nights I was there, I was at my happiest. That is where I met almost everybody that I know here. And I love the sport to death.

“My mother is not too into racing. She gets it and understands it but she is more of a supporter at most. My uncle was also involved in drag racing. We are a little bit of adrenaline junkies from a family of racing.”

What type of racing did you get started with?

“I started at Stafford Speedway with the Monday Night racing. I went all the way up to the Go-Karts. I kind of cut my teeth at Stafford Speedway my whole life. I raced against guys that I am racing against now. Mikey Flynn, Teddy Hodgdon, Bryan Narducci to name off a couple. Those are the kids I raced against as I was growing up. Everyone that I have ever met has had meaning in my life, including my close friends in school. They, the racing community, are like my second family. It is a tight knit community where everyone knows one another.” 

What type of racing do you like the best?

“I love Modified racing. It is the best that I know where you get behind the wheel and get the most out of it every race. It is a car that requires a lot of tire and motor. It definitely is a whole different style of racing. I came up through street stocks. I went straight from Street Stocks to SK Lights. The full bodies cars are a lot of fun. I like them, but I just did not have the love for them that I have racing the SK Modified. That is not to say that I would not entertain running a Late Model or a full fender car.

“I never set foot into anything other than a Street Stock or a Modified. So I do not have much to go off of. As far as racing. You are not going to get anything better than this. SK Light and SK Modified racing in the Northeast is just second to none.  Tour Type racing as well. I have been through it all and it definitely is a different type of racing. There are really no words to describe it.” 

Would you say racing is your hobby? Your passion?

“Racing is my life. This is more of a second job than a hobby and it has life mixed in together. At the end of the day we all take this seriously. We all come to Stafford Speedway to be competitive and to win races. We all have 9 to 5’s. When we go to the track, we spend our good hard earned money to be competitive. There is a lot of ego around here. Everyone has their head held high. As far as this sport goes it is really something else. So if you put into words what people like us do during the week to come out here to go racing – ‘We can be superstars for the night’. That is what it is at a short track level. When I leave here Friday, my brain never stops thinking about racing. I am always thinking: How we could be better, how we get our stuff better and how I could be better personally? A lot of it comes down to your crew, your family and your supporters and sponsors. It all plays a major part. A lot of it comes down to the driver. The way that he puts himself out there for the fans before he goes behind the wheel.” 

What is your goal for 2022?

“In finishing out the 2022 series, we are trying to win races. That is all we are here to do – win races. Points do not matter to me right now. It is [Todd Owen’s championship] right now. A championship is unfeasible for us. I missed the Fall Final which I am very upset about. I had a wedding to go to that was already planned a year ahead. It is not something that I can really change.

“The whole goal is just go out there and win races. It has been our goal since we started the season. We started completely fresh with a whole new organization and all new people. Just a whole lot of unknowns came into this year. What we were able to do with what we had and what we have accomplished compared to the last few years of racing in [SK Modifieds], it has been a struggle. It really has been. We went through so many different car setups and we have thrown everything into it. It had gotten to the point that we got frustrated and did not want to even go to Stafford anymore. We finally decided to give it one last shot to see what would happen. This was definitely a big wake up call, an eye opener. It is amazing what you can do with good equipment, a good setup and people behind you. That is a big key in this.  A lot of guys I know in this division [SK Modified] struggled for a lot of years before they got competitive and good. And we had good struggles ourselves. I came from being a contender or winning every week to struggling to stay within the top 10. That was a big letdown for me personally and I lost confidence in myself. I always knew I had the ability, it just came down to what I had underneath me. I think that this year we definitely went in the right direction. I am excited to see what next year leads into. We definitely have a big notebook going into next year. These guys here [at Stafford] could be in big trouble.”     

What racing accomplishment is most memorable to date?

“It is hard to say. If I had to pick one, nostalgic wise it would have been 2010 watching Teddy [Christopher] and Keith [Rocco] swapping the lead out there. That to me was awesome to see growing up as a kid. I was 8 years old then. Bryan Narducci and I were watching the race together. He was cheering for Teddy and I was cheering for Keith. I personally could not have anything greater than that to be honest with you. Growing up when Keith was dominate with my father is hard to put what that meant to me into words. What it felt like being a kid. Going there to watch every week. Going down there to collect a trophy every week has meant the world to me.  I grew up with Keith ever since I was a little kid and I treat him like he is my older brother. He likes to break my balls all the time. But at the end of the day I love him like a brother and it is always going to stay like that. And I do not think that it will ever change.  What he has been able to accomplish with my father and what we are trying to accomplish with my father is something special. To be able to compete with him out on the same race track and just be able to compete with him is a whole different animal.

“It sucks that Teddy is not here with us. It is another sad memory in my life. He died the day of my birthday which kind of left a sour taste. Drawing back that memory especially on my birthdays is tough. It is one of those things you wish never happened and it still feels just so unreal to me. It felt like something out of a movie and there are no emotions to explain that. It hit us all like a train. I personally grew up with Michael [Christopher Jr.] and drove Karts with Michael. To watch him and his father go through all that it was just tough. We are all racing at Stafford trying to live out the memory of [Ted Christpher] and put on as good a show as he were still here.”

What are the challenges do SK Modified drivers have during the current time?

“SK racing is just very competitive. You can’t miss. You have to be 100% because there is no give or take. These guys are the best of the best and it shows with the racing every week. You have guys that are competitive that want to come out here and run modifieds every week with us at Stafford. Guys like Jimmy Blewett and Doug Coby cut their teeth in an SK. They all started there and that is what led them to be great drivers. They are all really good drivers. I am trying to start somewhere myself. They cut their teeth in this division and there is definitely no slouching there. There definitely are a lot of great drivers that came through these divisions and became great successes. Ryan Preece turned himself into a [NASCAR Cup Series] star. It is unbelievable what you can achieve in a Modified. It has opened up a lot of opportunities for all of us. And hopefully what Ryan did will pave the way for all of us.”

What challenges does the unique track at Stafford Speedway present to SK Modified drivers?

“The characteristics of the track itself are very unique from anywhere I have ever raced,. I have raced at all different tracks in Connecticut and none of them are the same. Stafford definitely has its own features. Passing in turns one and two. The bottom shot is the main passing line. Driving at Stafford looks a lot easier than it actually is. It is not as simple as just turning left. You have to know this track. It is amazing what you can find out on the track. It also is amazing that we are racing out there on the same track as all those legends. The track has definitely worn out over the years. And it is still getting racy. It is still racier than I ever thought. You can tell though that it is getting worn, the top is starting to lose its life. In the near future I think we are going to need a repave and hopefully it does not restructure the track because Stafford is a real good place to race. It is still one of the best tracks to race at in my opinion.” 

If you had to do it all over again, would you?

“Yes, there is no doubt. The people that I have met, the things that I have done here has been a monumental deal in my life. I made both amazing and horrible memories here at Stafford Speedway. I have had a lot of great success here and I would not change it for anything. I would have maybe changed my route and started out my SK [Modified] career earlier and listened to a lot more people sooner. It is all that stuff. It is trial by error and you have to live and die by the sword. At the end of the day when you go out there it is not as easy as everyone out there makes it seem. The SK Modifieds is definitely a tough division.” 


  1. bill michael says

    watch this kid,hes really good and is only going to get better,best of luck you deserve it.

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