Keith Rocco has been down this road before. It’s a road in which a driver controls nothing except his or her own destiny. It’s a road that can wear down a driver physically, but even more so mentally. The road is the battle for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship, and it’s a road Rocco has found himself driving down the middle of once again this season.
Rocco entered this past weekend just one point back of NWAAS Division I points leader Matt Bowling in the 2016 national standings. While Bowling picked up two wins in seven races, Rocco was held winless in a pair of races in his home state of Connecticut.
“I just have to win races, that’s all there is to it,” Rocco told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “We have two races to run. Mathematically, I don’t know if we have a shot but being the last two races of the weekly grind I’d like to go out on top with the two wins. We’ll see what happens and do the best we can. At the end of the day there’s nothing you can do different. We go to the race track prepared 110-percent and we give it our all and don’t cut any corners. If things go our way, they go our way.”
Rocco, a regular contender for the national title each year, competes in a SK Modifieds on a weekly basis at Connecticut’s three pavement race tracks. On a given week you can expect to see him at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl, Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park when the track runs its weekly divisions.
Outside of those three tracks, Rocco has very few options to travel outside of his home state to chase NASCAR points due to the SK Modified rules package. Because of that, he feels that he is at a slight disadvantage to competitors such as Bowling and old foe Lee Pulliam who are able to travel all over the Southeast region with the popular Late Model Stock Car package.
“We’re definitely at a disadvantage. We start racing later in the season and them guys start earlier in the season,” Rocco stated. “They have a lot more options, it seems like if you’re willing to travel you’ll find somewhere to race down there. As far as us, with our SK Modified rules we’re very limited to the three tracks.”
Despite only having two tracks to race at on a normal weekend, and three when Thompson hosts an event, Rocco has been able to stay in the battle for much of the season. But a rain out at Thompson last Wednesday and a three-week winless streak at Waterford have appeared to set Rocco behind in his bid for the top prize.
“It is (frustrating), but it’s the way the racing is in New England. The competition is second to none,” Rocco stated. “Some nights you get the breaks and get in the right lanes, other nights you get all the wrong ways. That’s the way it’s been the past few weeks. We’ll go to the track with our heads ups and see what we can do.
“We’ve got a fast car everywhere we’ve been going. Last Wednesday really killed us, the Thompson day. We had a full field for one of the first or second times this year, it seems like every time they’ve had a full field we’ve rained out. Sure enough they had a full field and we rained out, and they decided not to make it up.”
Although he may be frustrated with his missed opportunities to obtain valuable NASCAR points, Rocco said that he won’t lose sleep over it. He’s been down this road before and knows too well that he can only have hands on his own steering wheel.
“If I was in Matt Bowling’s shoes I probably wouldn’t be sleeping at night, but considering I already have one under my belt it’s kind of a cake walk. You do what you do and it is what it is at the end of the day.”
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com/Rick Ibsen