Blaine Rocha is an 18-year-old racer from Oakdale, California, who for the last couple of years, has been a mainstay on the Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series driving for the NTS Motorsports team. Rocha will become a college student in the fall of this year, but his love and passion for racing will continue on in the years to follow with high hopes of many wins and a continued close relationship with his number one supporter and father, Doug.
Rocha describes himself as a quiet person, who keeps to himself a lot. “I have a tendency to think a lot in my head and to sometimes overthink a lot of things. I’m not a big talker. You know, it comes from a lot of people that I am a man of few words”, Rocha told Speed51.com powered by JEGS.
But on the race track, don’t mistake Rocha’s mild manner and quiet demeanor for a lack of passion, aggressiveness and competitiveness. Rocha has shown a history of success in each of the divisions in which he has participated, and he is not afraid to mix it up, when need be. He has the driving skills to back it up and describes his driving style as smooth and calm.
Rocha began his racing career at the age of six, racing dirt bikes. He raced those for about four years, but decided to move on when the dangers became apparent. “I started to realize that all my buddies were getting hurt and I felt like it was the best time to get out of the sport before I got hurt too. My dad decided to put me in something that stayed on the ground and had four tires, so he put me in a Go-kart”, he recalled.
That move would bring Rocha an abundance of success in the Karting arena and make him a rising star in that sport. He was the Regional Cadet Division Champion at the age of 11 in the IKF (International Karting Federation) Series. He followed that up with a championship in the Cadet Division, Rotax Minimax Challenge of the Americas, as well as many wins in the CIK (Commission of International Karting) Series. In 2011 and 2012 Rocha would see the checkered flag first in multiple events in the Junior Division of the IKF, and that would lead to his election to the World Go-Kart Team representing the United States in 2013. Rocha would go on to finish 11th in the World Go-Kart Championship event.
“I really was successful in running Go-Karts. I won multiple National Championships and made it onto Team USA to represent us at the World Finals. I then moved up to the Senior Division, but I really wasn’t in it too long when I moved to the Legends Division, running them at Stockton (CA), Madera (CA) and Roseville (CA) in the Legends of the Pacific and the SRL Legends Series”, Rocha recollected.
In 2014 Rocha moved into Late Models. “My dad wanted to get me into Late Models, and he used to run Late Models, so we already had his car. We started running that and won a race at Stockton 99 Speedway (CA). He wanted to keep moving me up, so we teamed up with the Strmiska family and ran three races in the SRL and had two top five finishes.”
That final top five finish of 2014 was a third place run, in the season finale, at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (NV) where another team owner was looking on. With the Strmiska family deciding to not run the full schedule in 2015, it turned out to be an opportunity for Rocha to make a change, to stay in the Spears Southwest Tour Series.
“My dad wanted to link up with another team and we were very impressed with the NTS Team’s program, all their stuff and how professional they were. So he went to Larry (Collins) and Larry introduced my dad to Gary Collins (team manager with NTS Motorsports). Bob Newberry (team owner) had watched me race at Las Vegas and was really happy with my performance, so now I am running with them full time.”
Rocha’s first event with the NTS Motorsports Team was the 2015 Winter Showdown presented by the Spears Southwest Tour Series at Kern County Raceway (CA). That first start led to high hopes for the rest of the season with a fourth-place finish amongst a field of 54 drivers.
“That first race is when I really made a good relationship with all of them and they saw what we could really do as a team. To do that (at the Showdown), we thought that we would just be dominant the whole year. We ran into some bad luck (during the season), but I made a good relationship with my crew chief Willy Allen and Gary Collins”, he stated.
That season Rocha would finish sixth in the Spears Southwest Tour Series title chase, logging two top five and five top 10 finishes in the nine points events. He would also get the chance to travel across the country to race in the ARCA/CRA Super Series Event at Lucas Oil Raceway in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rocha would set fast time for the race and finish an impressive third in his first trip to the facility.
“We had a really good time at the CRA race last year. We had a really good run, the competition was great and the track was really awesome. I’d love to go back and do a few more of those races in the future”, Rocha surmised.
2016 started off very promising as well for the Central Catholic High School student. He set second quickest time for the Second Annual Winter Showdown against another all-star field. He ran in the top five for the first portions of the race when on lap 46 he spun trying to avoid the fourth-place car, who squeezed him down onto the apron. His race would end on lap 110 when a car in front of him missed a shift and Rocha ended up with a broken lower control arm.
“We were one of the cars to beat the whole weekend, luck just didn’t go our way”, Rocha lamented.
The SRL regular season has been an up and down adventure as well. Rocha started off the season with a fifth-place finish in the rain shortened event at “The Bullring”. That was followed by a 17th place run at Irwindale Speedway (CA). He experienced electrical issues while running seventh, with four laps to go to end his evening. Kern County Raceway was another fifth place effort for Rocha, but it was followed by another DNF at Irwindale due to a broken hub while running seventh once again. That finish has relegated Rocha to a disappointing eighth-place start in the series standings, but he knows they have potential to challenge for wins in the highly competitive series.
“We have been fast everywhere we have been. We just need to find some good luck. We haven’t been slow in a while… We have found a good mixture of stuff (with the car) but we are still working on it to make it better. I’m sure we are going to get there soon”, Rocha said with optimism.
As for the future, Rocha will be attending Fresno State University in the fall to get his degree in Ag-Business, but he will continue to race as his schedule permits.
Rocha stated, “I just want to keep racing Super Late Models. The SRL has been a great series for me and I’m sure we will be doing hit and miss races like that. Maybe we’ll do some races closer to home every once in a while too, some of those big money races. We will just play it by ear and if we have an open week, I’ll tell my dad let’s go run this race and see how we can do. …… Later this year, my dad would really like to do the All American 400 at the Fairgrounds Speedway Nashville (TN). He really likes Nashville a lot and we had a great time with (ARCA/CRA) last year. I would also like to run a race back in North Carolina at one of those tracks. Then maybe those people can see just what us West Coast guys can do.”
Looking back and into the future, Rocha is very thankful for those who have made his racing career possible.
“I really have to give all my thanks to my dad and his business partner at MASROC Farms. They have been my biggest supporters all through racing. For me and my dad, it’s something we do together to get away from everything and enjoy some time together. Same with his partner Scott Masellis (a former Late Model racer himself). He’s really helped me out, he’s pretty much like my second dad and I respect him a lot. There aren’t too many kids that get the opportunity to race these cars and I am so very thankful for everything that they do for me”, Rocha concluded.
The future for Rocha may not include a trip to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship banquet, a trip to Daytona International Speedway’s victory circle or even a NASCAR K&N West Series Championship, but you can be assured that Rocha has the talent to be successful in whatever he chooses to do, be it in racing or in business. He also has a great perspective on his future and their decision to race with the Spears Southwest Tour Series.
Rocha reflected, “We feel like Super Late Models are some of the best racing in the country and the competition is so strong in them. You know, now that I am going to be working in the agricultural business, doing the K&N cars really takes a lot of money. To do this as a hobby as opposed to doing it as your job is a little bit different. I’m kind of looking at it in a different way now. I will be going to college, getting my degree and working in the agricultural industry. I will just be doing it as a hobby and something that’s fun to do every once in a while.”
Rocha’s next event, with his NTS Motorsport team, will be at one of his home tracks. The Spears SRL Southwest Tour Series will visit Madera Speedway, one of the original tracks on the series, on July 16th. The “Madera Speedway 125 presented by Race for Autism” will give Rocha the opportunity to bounce back again at a track in which he scored his first series top five finish. He hopes that his home track knowledge will catapult him back into contention for the 2016 championship.
-By Kevin Peters, Speed51.com Contributor
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com