Benjamin Franklin once said that there are only two things certain in life: death and taxes. If Mr. Franklin was still around, he may consider adding one more thing to that list: Keith Rocco winning the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series championship in the state of Connecticut.
Rocco used 16 wins, 35 top-fives and 40 top 10’s in 46 starts during the 2014 racing season to capture his seventh straight NWAAS title in the Nutmeg State.
Although his dominance on the Connecticut short tracks was similar to his dominance in years past, Rocco’s life off the track was much different. On January 3, 2014, the 2010 NWAAS National Champion welcomed his son, Keith “K.J.” Rocco, into his life.
Managing his time as a father and one of the nation’s top short track stars was a difficult task for Rocco, but having a supportive family by his side helped to make things more manageable on and off the race track.
“It was definitely difficult, but I have an awesome wife (Cassie) and my parents are close by so it definitely makes things easy for me,” Rocco told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “Most of all, my wife comes from a racing background so she knows what it’s like and knows what it takes. Without her none of this would be possible.”
Despite not yet being able to walk, K.J. already spends time in the team’s garage eyeing the race car and “spinning a tire” every now and then. With K.J.’s first birthday coming up in January, Rocco expects to have a lot of fun with his son during the upcoming racing season.
“There are nights that you’d definitely rather spend time with him than go out in the garage and work on the racecars, but when race time comes around this season it’s going to be cool,” said Rocco. “He’ll be walking by then and as of right now he just loves being in the garage. You take him out there and he just smiles and tries to spin the tires on the race car. He loves it. I think he knows what it is and I think he has an idea of what it’s going to be.”
On the track, Rocco flexed the most muscle at Waterford Speedbowl, where he collected 11 wins. Although it’s not the most wins he has picked up in a season at the Connecticut shoreline oval, Rocco considers the 2014 season to be one of the best and most consistent campaign’s of his career.
“I’ve won more races in the past in the SK division at Waterford, there was one year that I won 13 races, but this year was our most consistent year and probably I would have to say our best year,” he said. “We only won 11 races this year, but I only had one DNF. Other than the DNF, that was really our only finish off of the podium. There was one other night I won the race but I kind of rooted (Shawn) Monahan out of the way on the last lap and had the win taken away. Every other race, the majority of them were wins and the rest were seconds and thirds.”
En route to capturing his fourth Waterford Speedbowl SK Modified division title, Rocco also entered his name into the track’s record books. On August 2, Rocco captured his 63rd career win in the division making him the track’s all-time wins leader. He would go on to win two more races before season’s end and now sits comfortably at the top with 65 career SK Modified wins.
“It was awesome to be able to do it in the short period of time that I’ve been racing at the Speedbowl,” Rocco said of capturing the record. “I think I’ve only been racing SK’s at Waterford since 2008. That was my first full season. In that short time span, to be able to break the record is awesome. It says a lot about my team and my sponsors and everybody that is aboard my team.”
Continuing legal battles surrounding Waterford Speedbowl have Rocco concerned about whether or not there will be racing at the track in 2015. If there is racing, he’ll be chasing the record for all-time wins at the track. Phil Rondeau currently holds the record with 106 wins, while Rocco is three behind with 103 career wins. While Rocco isn’t concerned about the records, he would consider a season without racing at Waterford a major disappointment.
“It definitely sucks but there’s nothing we can do about it except cross our fingers and hope for the best,” he said. “If Waterford doesn’t race, we’ll find some other race tracks to fill up our schedule.”
No matter what his schedule consists of in 2015, there is one thing for certain: Keith Rocco is ready to go after wins.
“When I’m in a race car, I think about nothing but winning. I don’t think about NASCAR points, I don’t think about track points. My mindset is to win the race and usually the rest comes with it.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo Credit: Race Dog Photography