Keith Rocco’s breakthrough season culminated Friday night with his coronation as the 2010 national champion at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Rocco, 25, from Wallingford, Conn., also collected his third straight NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut championship, as well as the asphalt Modified Division track titles at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway and Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl.
After finishing fourth in the national standings in 2007 and 2008, and second in 2009, Rocco put together a season for the record books. He had 21 wins, 39 top fives and 50 top 10s in 53 starts en route to collecting 810 points — the maximum total a driver can accumulate.
He became the first national champion to accomplish this feat under the NASCAR championship format since the late Larry Phillips and current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Greg Biffle in 1995. Phillips and Biffle achieved the maximum points under the system at the time; Phillips won the crown by virtue of more overall wins (32-27).
Rocco drove the No. 88 for John Rufrano to a track-record 10 wins and the SK Modified Division title at Stafford. He also piloted the No. 57 for Mark Pane to the track championship at Waterford, and won twice in it at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway. Rufrano and Pane received the Lincoln Electric Car Owner Award for their championship efforts.
Jeff Rocco, Keith’s twin brother, and Shane Hopkins were honored with the Lunati Crew Chief Award.
Craig Preble, of Yutan, Neb., finished second in the national standings and led the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series with 22 wins. The 43-year-old from Yutan, Neb., won the crate dirt Late Model division championship at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., finished third at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., and won the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Nebraska title.
Duane Howard, from Oley, Penn., finished third in the national standings with eight wins. Howard was the track champion at Grandview Speedway in Bechtelsville, Penn., and the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Pennsylvania champion.
Headlining the evening's special awards was the Whelen All-American Series National Rookie of the Year Award presented by Jostens. Chad Mahder, a 25-year-old from Eau Claire, Wisc., took home the honors after he collected six wins, won the Impact Printing Late Model Division at Cedar Lake Speedway in New Richmond, Wisc., and finished 16th in the nation.
Sloan Henderson, 18, of Columbus, Ohio, was presented the prestigious Wendell Scott Trail Blazer Award. John Schadecker, the crew chief for driver Chris Turbish and Roger Turbish at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, took home Craftsman Mechanic of the Year honors.
New this year, NASCAR introduced the Finalist Program to spotlight drivers outside the Division I at each NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track. The top three in each division were recognized Friday.
Also honored for their 2010 accomplishments were:
• NASCAR Whelen All-American U.S. State and Canadian Province champions: Roy Wallace (Alberta), Justin A. Johnson (California), Ronnie Hults (Colorado), Rocco (Connecticut), Tim Sargent (Illinois), Leon Zeitner (Iowa), Mike Rowe (Maine), Andy Bozell Sr. (Michigan), Donny Reuvers (Minnesota), Preble (Nebraska), Dustin Ash (Nevada), Wayne Helliwell Jr. (New Hampshire), John Fortin (New York), Burt Myers (North Carolina), Donald Maheffey Jr. (Ohio), Joe Duvall (Oklahoma), Ron Sheridan (Ontario), Howard (Pennsylvania), Steve Cote (Quebec), Marty Ward (South Carolina), Bob Moore (South Dakota), Joe Aramendia (Texas), Justin T. Johnson (Virginia), Lane Sundholm (Washington), and Pat Doar (Wisconsin).
• NASCAR Whelen All-American track champions: Zeitner (Adams County Speedway), Matt Scott (All American Speedway), Cote (Autodrome St. Eustache), Allan Inglis (Barrie Speedway), Dan McKeage (Beech Ridge Motor Speedway), Myers (Bowman Gray Stadium), Travis Swaim (Caraway Speedway), Mack Little (Caraway Speedway, Friday), Mahder (Cedar Lake), Jimmy Zacharias (Chemung Speedrome), Hults (Colorado National Speedway), David Carter (Columbus), Jay Payne (Concord Speedway), Sheridan (Delaware Speedway), Greg Moir (Edmonton International Raceway), Reuvers (Elko Speedway), Lane Sundholm (Evergreen Speedway), Howard (Grandview), Ward (Greenville Pickens Speedway), Andy Mercer (Hickory Motor Speedway), Mike Fiebelkhorn Jr. (Holland Motorsports Complex), Aramendia (Houston Motorsports Park), Preble (I-80), Bill Leighton Jr. (Junction), Andy Bozell Sr. (Kalamazoo Speedway), Mahaffey (Kil-Kare Speedway), Jason Miller (Kopellah Speedway), Shawn Pfaff (LaCrosse Fairgrounds Speedway), Chuck Philips (Lake County Speedway), Will Thomas (Lake Erie Speedway), CE Falk (Langley Speedway), Ash (Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway), Helliwell (Lee USA Speedway), Kirk Alexander (Monadnock Speedway), Brandon Dean (Motor Mile Speedway), Mark Cattone (Motordrome Speedway), Rick Smith (Myrtle Beach Speedway), Adam Brenner (Old Dominion Speedway), Duvall (Outlaw Motor Speedway), Moore (Park Jefferson Speedway), Adam Royle (Raceway Park), Tom Rogers Jr. (Riverhead), Sargent (Rockford Speedway), Justin T. Johnson (South Boston Speedway), Kevin Zimmerman (Spencer Speedway), Rocco (Stafford), Chad Holman (Stockton 99 Speedway), Doar (Superior Speedway), Ted Christopher (Thompson), Justin A. Johnson (Toyota Speedway at Irwindale), Grant Wimbish (Tri-County Motor Speedway), and Rocco (Waterford).
• NASCAR Whelen All-American U.S. State and Canadian Province Rookies of the Year: Dougals Adams (Alberta), Holman (California), Mark Neff (Colorado), Adam Gada (Connecticut), Wayne Freimund (Illinois), Max Stone (Iowa), Charlie Colby (Maine), Evan Barrett (Michigan), Joe Garofalo (Minnesota), Larry Goertz (Nebraska), John Spilotro (Nevada), Matthew Mead (New Hampshire), Zackary Curren (New York), Jerry Miracle (North Carolina), Philips (Ohio), Duvall (Oklahoma), Matt Pritiko (Ontario), Jordan Umbenhauer (Pennsylvania), Dave Coursol (Quebec), John Hawkins (South Carolina), Harvey Vanderweerd (South Dakota), Mason Mitchell (Texas), Brandon Brown (Virgina), Joe Kneeland (Washington), and Mahder (Wisconsin).
NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Finalist Program: Division II Asphalt, Danny Johnson (Raceway), Ricky Martin (Raceway), Woody Pitkat (Stafford); Division III Asphalt, Tommy Barrett (Stafford), Christopher Lambert (All American), Mickey Owens (All American); Division IV Asphalt, Rob Roush (Rockford), Tim Hollen (Raceway), Ken Cassidy Jr. (Waterford); Division V Asphalt, Brian Adams (Raceway), Doug Schmitz (Raceway), Patrick Bennett (Raceway); Division II Dirt, Jesse Sobbing (I-80), Ronald Kline (Grandview), Chuck Schutz Jr. (Grandview); Division III Dirt, Brad Derry (I-80), Greg Miller (Adams County), Jeremy Swanson (Adams County); Division IV Dirt, Jamie Spanel (I-80), Pat Shiflett (Adams County), Justin Soule (I-80); Division V, Andy Wilkinson (Junction), Rich Dzelak Jr. (Superior), and Scott Smith (Junction).
The Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet was streamed live online at www.nascarhometracks.com.
More information on the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series is available at www.NASCARHomeTracks.com.