If there is one thing that Keith Rocco has proven over the years, it’s that he can not only win in an SK Modified, but outright dominate the competition at Connecticut’s three NASCAR sanctioned short tracks. In the last couple of seasons at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT), a formidable cast of opponents coupled with difficulty in finding an ideal setup for car 88 has reduced dominance of “Kid Roc” at CT’s half-mile in the 2013 and 2014 seasons. But the first two Stafford SK Modified races of 2015 have been a show of strength for Rocco and the John Rufrano owned team, and in the third race of the season on Friday night that regained strength brought in the first win of 2015.
After working his way to second by the time the yellow flag flew on lap 16 of the 40-lap feature event, Rocco would inherit the lead after Ryan Preece would pit from first-place for a flat left rear tire during the same caution.
Rocco’s biggest threat for the second half of the race would be NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour regular and Stafford newcomer Justin Bonsignore who would pass Rocco for the lead on lap 23 after working Rocco over the previous lap. Rocco would respond swiftly, powering back by Bonsignore to the inside in turn three just four laps later.
“I just followed him for a few laps, kind of seeing where his weak point was, just capitalized on it,” Rocco told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
Rocco would ride to the win in the late laps as Bonsignore would battle fellow Whelen Modified regular Rowan Pennink for second. Rocco moves to second in the championship standings and now trails points leader Pennink by just four points.
“It was fun, you got all the best drivers there are in the country as far as I’m concerned, you got probably a good quarter of the top notch Tour drivers running in the SK division, it’s a lot of fun to get up and race like that,” said Rocco of his competition.
Rocco who has made the bulk of his racing career in the SK’s, recently became a Tour regular himself after taking over the vacancy in Chris Our’s No. 22 car on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. The new Tour ride and a sweep of both SK Modified and Late Model feature races at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl (CT) the week prior, provided some extra momentum for Rocco who had a race winning car in the first two races, but had been penalized following contact with Pennink in the season opener, and had run out of time in trying to catch Ronnie Williams in the second race of the season. Despite these misses, Rocco was still happy even before he took the checkered flag.
“It feels great, not only just to win, but every week we’ve been in contention to win, so that’s what’s important, consistency is here,” Rocco later said.
Friday’s triumph brought about another big career number for the 2008 & 2010 Stafford SK champion, with the win being the 40th SK Modified victory for “Kid Roc” at Stafford. Rocco now sits just seven wins behind Bo Gunning for second on the Stafford SK all-time win list. The win was also the 49th overall victory for Rocco at Stafford, which also includes six wins in the Late Model division, two in the Valenti Modified Racing Series, and a Senior Outlaw Kart Champions for Charities win.
Following the 40-Lap SK Modified feature, Rocco also competed in the 50-Lap extra distance race for the Late Models, in a substitution role for regular Tom Fearn. Rocco would finish 10th. Michael Bennett edged out two-time Late Model champion Adam Gray for the win in a photo finish.
-By Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Correspondent
-Photo credit: Rick Ibsen/Speed51.com
SK Modified Featured Results
Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) – May 8, 2015
1 Keith Rocco
2 Justin Bonsignore
3 Rowan Pennink
4 Glen Reen
5 Ronnie Williams
6 Joey Cipriano, III
7 Todd Owen
8 Ted Christopher
9 Eric Berndt
10 Ryan Preece
11 Dan Avery
12 Woody Pitkat
13 Matt Galko
14 Tom Bolles
15 Tyler Hines
16 Mike Christopher, Jr.
17 Ed Spiers
18 Jeremy Sorel
19 Jeff Baral
20 Sean Foster
21 Adam Norton
22 Michael Gervais, Jr.
23 Anthony Ryan, Jr.
24 Tommy Membrino, Jr.