Rocco Moves to Front of NASCAR WAAS Pack
Connecticut Driver Uses Sixth Win to Take Points Lead from Morris
Keith Rocco has been through this before, and he’s never worried about points. He just concerns himself with getting to Victory Lane.

The Wallingford, Conn., driver has become pretty adept at that. His win in the 36th Annual Coors Light 100 SK Modified feature this past Friday night at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway was his sixth of the season.

It also pushed him past Virginia Late Model driver Philip Morris and into first place in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series points standings.

“We just keep doing our thing,” said the 24-year-old Rocco. “Every year, we just go out to win races. That’s all we do. A lot of people know I’ve got the reputation of checkers or wreckers. That’s the way we race.”

Rocco has 11 top fives in 15 starts, and also has three finishes outside the top 10. His latest victory increased his points total to 556 points. Morris, the defending champion, has seven wins and 11 top fives in 13 starts for 545 points while racing at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va., and South Boston (Va.) Speedway.

Bill Leighton is third with 516 points, followed by Matt Buller with 450 and Les Siebert with 442. All three run dirt Late Models at Nebraska’s I-80 Speedway in Omaha and Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction.

When he’s not working his day job at Petite Racing Engines, Rocco keeps himself busy racing his asphalt Modified three nights a week at Connecticut’s NASCAR short tracks. In addition to Friday nights at Stafford, Rocco races Thursdays at Thompson International Speedway and Saturdays at the Waterford Speedbowl.

“There isn’t anything better than racing three nights a week,” Rocco said, “because you know you’re going to get one in.”

It seems rain has been the only thing to slow down Rocco, who finished fourth in the nation each of the past two seasons. Last year, Rocco was atop the points standings most of the summer. He wound up with 11 wins in 49 starts and was the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut state champion.

“Last year it took us a long time to get rolling,” Rocco said. “And then once we got rolling, we were clicking them off. It seems like this year, we’re picking up right where we left off.”

The only change has been the owner of his Stafford Modified, as Rocco paired with John Rufrano after winning the 2008 track title with a different car owner. While he runs for different car owners at each track, the core group of crew members is the same throughout.

“The team is still the same, so we still know how to win,” Rocco said.

The win at Stafford was Rocco’s first extra-distance win at the half-mile oval. And it came after a race-long shootout with former national champion Ted Christopher, whose 100-plus career wins there is more than anybody else in track history. After starting 18th, Rocco quickly made his way to the front. Over the final 35 laps, Rocco and Christopher exchanged the lead nine times.

“It’s just one of those things, ‘Don’t give up,’” Rocco said. “We swapped the lead back and forth, back and forth. We had the fan on their feet for that one. That one was special.”

The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series champion also earns a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, to be held at the Toyota Speedway at Irwindale in 2010.

Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner will receive two points for every car in the event up to 23 cars. Second place will receive two fewer points, and so-on through the field. For example, if there are 23 cars, the winner receives 46 points, second gets 44 and third 42. If there are 15 cars, the winner receives 30 points, second gets 28 and third 26. Race winners receive an additional five bonus points.

       National Top 500 NASCAR Point Leaders

       Pos     Driver  Track   Starts  Wins    T-5     T-10    Points

       1       Keith Rocco     Waterford Speedbowl     15      6       11      12      556
       2       Philip Morris   Motor Mile Speedway     13      7       11      11      545
       3       Bill Leighton, Jr       I-80 Speedway   14      4       13      13      516
       4       Matt Buller     I-80 Speedway   14      2       6       13      450
       5       Les Siebert     I-80 Speedway   14      0       8       12      442
       6       C E Falk, III   Langley Speedway        11      4       11      11      432
       7       Andy Eckrich    West Liberty Raceway    14      0       11      12      426
       8       Mike Wallace    I-80 Speedway   14      0       10      12      426
       9       Nick Joanides   Toyota Speedway At Irwindale    9       6       9       9       414
       10      Roger Powell    Greenville-Pickens Speedway     11      2       11      11      404
       11      Marty Ward      Greenville-Pickens Speedway     11      7       9       9       399
       12      Clint Benson    I-80 Speedway   12      2       7       11      394
       13      Dexter Canipe, Jr       Hickory Motor Speedway  17      2       13      15      380
       14      Andrew Kosiski  I-80 Speedway   14      1       4       11      379
       15      David Wilson--R Hickory Motor Speedway  17      2       11      15      372
       16      Tommy Lemons, Jr        Motor Mile Speedway     13      3       6       6       371
       17      Andy Mercer     Hickory Motor Speedway  10      9       10      10      363
       18      John Hightower  Greenville-Pickens Speedway     11      1       8       10      363
       19      Ryan Wilson     Caraway Speedway        17      0       3       13      356
       20      Anthony Anders  Greenville-Pickens Speedway     13      1       8       11      353
       21      Jason Romero    All American Speedway   11      4       7       10      350
       22      Vito Ranuio     The New Stockton 99 Speedway    15      4       9       14      348
       23      Kenneth Headen  Greenville-Pickens Speedway     11      0       6       11      348
       24      Duane Howard    Grandview Speedway      9       1       6       8       347
       25      Michael Reed-Cherry     Greenville-Pickens Speedway     12      0       4       11      346

Winning at Stafford on Friday night helped boost Keith Rocco's national title hopes.  (Jim Dupont Photo)