Rocco Claims NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Title
Connecticut Driver Pulls Off Perfect Season
For three straight years, Keith Rocco put together seasons that would be the envy of most drivers. But they fell short of his ultimate goal.

He was determined not to be denied again.

To that end, Rocco has been nearly unstoppable in the asphalt Modified Divisions on the short tracks of Connecticut. The 25-year-old Wallingford, Conn., driver picked up his 19th and 20th wins of the season this past weekend.

And Tuesday, Rocco got the congratulatory call from George Silbermann, NASCAR managing director of racing operations, to let him know it was official. Rocco is the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion.

“It’s so much relief, it’s not even funny,” said Rocco. “To come so close for so many years and to finally get it done …

“There isn’t going to be anything better than to be able to go to the banquet and celebrate as the champion. And to be the first one at the Hall of Fame is something that almost makes you speechless.”

Rocco will be honored at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Award Banquet at the Charlotte Convention Center's Crown Ballroom in the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday, Dec. 10.

After three straight years where the national championship came down to the last race on the last weekend, Rocco was able to lock up the short-track championship with a month remaining before the Sept. 19 deadline for races to count.

That’s because of Rocco’s 20 wins, 18 have come against a field of 20 or more cars.

A driver’s best 18 results through Sunday, Sept. 19 are counted toward their state and national points totals, and the champions are decided on overall points total.

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.

If two drivers finish the season with identical points, final positions are determined by a tiebreaker procedure. If two drivers finish with the maximum 810 points, the deciding tiebreaker is the first driver to have achieved the 18th 45-point win.

Rocco accomplished that Saturday night with his 10th win of the season at the Waterford Speedbowl. He also has eight wins at Stafford Motor Speedway, including his last-lap pass for the win this past Friday night.

Rocco finished second in the nation to three-time champion Philip Morris of Ruckersville, Va., last year and fourth the two previous years. This season, Rocco won six of his first eight starts and never relinquished his hold on first place.

“When you surround yourself with great people, you get results,” Rocco said. “You can’t do it with one or two people. It’s a combination of everybody working together. When they’re really working together and everything clicks, it’s almost unbeatable.”

Even though Rocco put the lock on the championship, there is still plenty of honors up for grabs in the final month, including track, U.S. state and Canadian province championships, as well as who will finish second and third in the nation and join Rocco on the big stage at the Hall of Fame.

Craig Preble of Yuma, Neb., remained in second with 770 points. He has 19 wins - 11 coming against the maximum 20-car field - to go with 31 top fives and 31 top 10s in 32 crate dirt Late Model division starts. Preble was third Saturday at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., and second at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., on Sunday.

Justin Johnson of Durham, N.C., beat former national champion Peyton Sellers to win Saturday night in the asphalt Late Model division at South Boston (Va.) Speedway. It was Johnson’s 12th win of the season and improved his third-place total to 716.

Ted Christopher won at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway Thursday and was second to Rocco at Stafford Friday. He is fourth overall with 686 points. Christopher won the national title in 2001 and is the last Connecticut driver before Rocco to achieve the honor.

CE Falk III is fifth with eight wins at Langley Speedway in Hampton, Va., and 670 points.

Matt Buller of I-80 Speedway and Junction Motor Speedway is sixth, followed by Duane Howard of Grandview Speedway in Bechtesville, Pa., Bill Leighton of I-80 Speedway and Junction Motor Speedway, Greg Edwards of Langley, and Woody Pitkat of Thompson and Stafford.

By virtue of his national championship, Rocco also secured a spot in the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series postseason race in January that has earned the title as the 'Daytona 500 of short-track racing.'

But Rocco isn’t looking that far ahead.

“We're still working our tails off getting ready for the following week,” Rocco said.

       National Top 500 NASCAR Points Leaders

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

       1       Keith Rocco     Waterford Speedbowl     41      20      30      38      810
       2       Craig Preble    I-80 Speedway   32      19      31      31      770
       3       Justin T Johnson        South Boston Speedway   21      12      17      20      716
       4       Ted Christopher Thompson Intl Speedway  28      8       18      21      686
       5       C E Falk, Iii   Langley Speedway        24      8       16      22      670
       6       Matt Buller     I-80 Speedway   32      5       23      28      661
       7       Duane Howard    Grandview Speedway      17      5       16      17      655
       8       Bill Leighton, Jr       I-80 Speedway   33      1       27      31      649
       9       Greg Edwards    Langley Speedway        20      7       16      18      637
       10      Woody Pitkat    Stafford Motor Speedway 26      3       16      24      619
       11      Philip Morris   Motor Mile Speedway     19      6       13      16      610
       12      Woody Howard    Langley Speedway        22      1       15      20      595
       13      Burt Myers      Bowman Gray Stadium     18      5       9       17      585
       14      Marty Ward      Greenville-Pickens Speedway     21      12      21      21      580
       15      Brandon Dean    Motor Mile Speedway     19      1       11      16      563
       16      Danny Edwards, Jr       Langley Speedway        19      1       15      17      555
       17      Lee Jeffreys    Bowman Gray Stadium     18      2       11      16      546
       18      Tommy Lemons, Jr        Motor Mile Speedway     23      1       10      16      543
       19      Jacob Brown     I-80 Speedway   26      1       9       20      543
       20      Wayne Ramsey    Motor Mile Speedway     15      4       12      14      540
       21      Ron Yuhas, Jr   Waterford Speedbowl     16      0       13      16      540
       22      J Herbst        Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway   16      2       10      16      538
       23      Ron Sheridan    Delaware Speedway       15      5       13      15      533
       24      Steve Carlson   Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway   15      6       10      14      526
       25      Toby Porter     Greenville-Pickens Speedway     21      6       19      20      526

Keith Rocco - the 2010 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series National Champion.  (Jim Dupont Photo)