As the racing season hits its summer stretch, Keith Rocco shows no sign of cooling off.
The 25-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., collected his 11th win of the season last Friday night in the 37th Annual Coors Light SK Modified 100 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. While most weekends, Rocco has a third of that distance to get to the front from his usual starting position outside the top 10, he has shown the ability to excel in the extra-distance events.
“Every week, for 30 or 40 lap races, we’re always one of the cars to beat,” Rocco said. “The problem is you run out of time sometimes. You have plenty of time to get to the front in extra distance races. They play into our hands.”
It was the second straight year Rocco won the Coors Light SK Modified 100. He also opened the season at Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl with a win in its extra-distance race, and has won several others in the last two years.
Former national champion Ted Christopher got to the front first Friday at Stafford, but Rocco was close behind him. They swapped the lead repeatedly throughout the middle portion of the race before Rocco began to pull away.
“The longer we run, for some reason, the car gets better and better,” Rocco said.
While that’s not good news for his competition at the track, it’s even worse for those chasing him for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national title. Rocco’s win improved his leading points total to 727. He has 11 wins, 16 top fives and 19 top 10s in 19 starts.
Craig Preble, of Yutan, Neb., was second in the dirt crate Late Model division feature at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., Sunday and maintained his second overall spot with 617 points. He also has 11 wins, to go along with 16 top fives and 16 top 10s.
A driver’s best 18 results are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.
Matt Buller (507 points) and Bill Leighton Jr. (506), who race against Preble at the two Nebraska tracks (I-80 Speedway and Junction Motor Speedway in McCool, Junction, Neb.), are third and fourth, respectively, in the national standings.
Justin Johnson remained fifth as his home track, South Boston (Va.) Speedway, did not race this past weekend. Johnson has 451 points. South Boston will host twin 75-lap Late Model features Saturday.
Marty Ward and Toby Porter, of Greenville Pickens (S.C.) Speedway, are sixth and seventh, respectively. CE Falk III of Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., is eighth, followed by Duane Ward of Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Pa., and Christopher in 10th.
Under the points structure for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series, the race winner received two points for every car in the event up to 20. Second place received two fewer points, and so-on through the field. Race winners received an additional five bonus points. For example, if there are 20 cars, the winner received 45 points, second gets 38 and third 36. If there are 15 cars, the winner received 35 points, second gets 28 and third 26.
For Rocco, who has already reached 18 starts, to improve on his points total the remainder of the season, he must finish better than his 18th best start. Currently, he has a pair of sixth-place finishes that netted him 30 points each that would be up next to drop.
Conversely, nine of Rocco’s 11 wins have come against a 20-car field. Only six of Preble’s victories have yielded him the maximum 45 points.
Track, state and provincial champions and the top three finishers in the national standings earn invitations to the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet. The winner of the national championship will also earn a secure spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown.
NATIONAL TOP 500 | STATE/PROVINCE TOP 20
National Top 500 NASCAR Points Leaders
Pos Driver Track
1 Keith Rocco Waterford Speedbowl
2 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway
3 Matt Buller I-80 Speedway
4 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway
5 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway
6 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway
7 Toby Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway
8 C E Falk, III Langley Speedway
9 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway
10 Ted Christopher Stafford Motor Speedway
11 Philip Morris Motor Mile Speedway
12 Travis Swaim Caraway Speedway
13 Adam Royle Raceway Park
14 Woody Howard Langley Speedway
15 Woody Pitkat Stafford Motor Speedway
16 Burt Myers Bowman Gray Stadium
17 Lee Jeffreys Bowman Gray Stadium
18 Greg Edwards Langley Speedway
19 Micah Veleba I-80 Speedway
20 Tommy Lemons, Jr Motor Mile Speedway
21 Mark Bakaj Waterford Speedbowl
22 Jeremy Burns Greenville-Pickens Speedway
23 Danny Edwards, Jr Langley Speedway
24 Andrew Kosiski I-80 Speedway
25 Ron Yuhas, Jr Waterford Speedbowl