Sunday was National Sibling’s Day, an unofficial holiday of sorts that’s meant for brothers and sisters from coast to coast to celebrate having each other in their lives. Some just posted simple pictures or messages on social media. Others actually went out and found a way to celebrate the day. For Connecticut racing twins, Keith and Jeff Rocco, they “celebrated” the day in a different way. They raced against each other on Sunday. And then they crashed each other.
It was lap 18 of a 25-lap Late Model feature at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s (CT) Icebreaker weekend. Keith and Jeff were fighting for the lead and the win side-by-side with Keith in the high groove and Jeff in the low groove. They went down the backstretch almost even with each other.
The twins went into turn three, and Jeff’s colorful No. 68 machine immediately whipped around. The back end came around, tagged the left-rear of Keith’s No. 88, and both of them backed their cars hard into the concrete wall.
Both cars were heavily damaged. Both cars were much shorter than before as their rear ends caved in. The roof of Keith’s car flew off on impact. Jeff’s car came to a stop with the front of the car facing the infield. Keith came to a stop facing backwards in turn four, about 50 yards past Jeff.
Then Keith was on the gas, speeding back towards his brother. Keith came to a stop right next to Jeff, and the two were able to talk to each other through their windows.
Jeff took the blame on Sunday, although he said he’s not entirely sure what happened to cause the incident.
“I think we race each other harder than any other competitor out there and the shoes been on the other foot before, but at the end of the day I’ll take the blame for it,” Jeff told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “I’m not sure if something broke or I had a tire going down. The thing just snapped and we got together.”
Jeff also added that he was doing everything he possibly could do to hold back his brother on the restart.
“In my eyes he’s one of the best short track racers in the country,” said Jeff. “Restarts are tough with him and you can’t make a mistake. You’ve got to be on your toes and when you do that you’re absolutely on the edge, and we went over it. I’ve seen the Christophers go at it and the Blewetts go at it. I think when you have a sibling you might tend to race them harder than anyone else. When there’s seven laps to go and all you need to do is get back in the groove to run away with it, you’ve got to fight tooth and nail on a restart. This is the end result.”
Understandably, Keith was angry. He was racing for a win and he crashed. Like any racer in that situation, he didn’t want to hear any excuses.
“He was doing what he had to do to protect the lead, nothing different than I would do,” said Keith. “He used me up a little bit, whatever I understand that. It’s racing and I would have done the same thing. But I got a good run off of two and I was to the point where he would really have to use me up down in three to get by me and he just cleaned me out.”
While the two brothers are known for putting on a show and leaving the fans something to remember, this wasn’t the way in which either brother wanted to do that.
“I want people to go home and say, ‘Did you see the Rocco brothers?’ not ‘Did you see the Rocco brothers wreck each other?’ That’s the last thing I want people to say.”
This isn’t the first time the Rocco’s have ever gotten into it with each other. But an incident of this magnitude was a first for them, and that’s why Keith was so upset after.
“When he came to Waterford and raced SKs, a couple times I used him up and he used me up, that’s racing and I’d expect nothing less. But this just costs everybody time and money,” Keith said. “If it was somebody else I probably would have been a lot more mad but it’s my brother, what are you going to do? Hopefully we live and learn from this.”
In addition to talking to Jeff through the windows of the cars in turn three, Keith also made sure to talk to Jeff in Thompson’s infield after both cars were brought to the pits.
“I just told him, ‘I’m your brother. I want to race with you. Do you see how I race with Ted (Christopher)? We can put shows on. That’s all I ask, I just want to race. I want to be able to ride side by side with you and put a show on.’”
Jeff knows that Keith is mad, and seems to understand why. He’s just hoping that Keith doesn’t stay mad for too long.
“I think I may have to find somewhere to go to dinner on Tuesday,” Jeff said. “I may not be going over there. I don’t know. We’ll talk, he’ll cool down and we’ll carry on from here. Hopefully by Thanksgiving everything is all patched up. I’m sure we’ll talk.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Southeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com