Can you consider four weeks a ‘slump?’
When you’re having the season Keith Rocco’s been having, you can. The 25-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., has held a commanding lead in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national points standings the entire season. But in recent weeks, Nebraska’s Craig Preble has cut the gap considerably as Rocco has come up short of Victory Lane.
That ended Saturday night, as Rocco drove to his 17th win of the season in the SK Modified Division at the Waterford Speedbowl, a .333-mile asphalt oval. It’s one of three Connecticut tracks – along with Thompson International Speedway on Thursdays and Stafford Motor Speedway on Fridays – that Rocco has run at on a regular basis this season.
For Rocco, who has won multiple races in the same weekend four times this season and even won twice at two different tracks in the same day, to go so long without a win was difficult to digest.
“It was to the point, we were just struggling and it was a little bit of bad luck,” Rocco said. “It was getting to a point where I was wondering if I was going to win again. It was just getting frustrating.”
He has 17 wins, 27 top fives and 34 top 10s between the three tracks for 795 points.
Rocco has not raced at Thompson since July 15 because of a dispute with track officials. He finished third in the 150-lap extra-distance event at Stafford on Friday, but broke through for win No. 17 Saturday in impressive style. He made a three-wide pass for the lead on the race’s final restart to go from third to first en route to taking the checkered flag.
“They threw the green and the leaders were side by side. I just dove it inside into Turn 1 and took the lead,” Rocco said. “Realistically the whole race we had a second-place car, not a car good enough to win, how we pulled that off, I’m still not sure.”
Preble has 17 wins and 27 top fives to go with 27 top 10s in 28 starts for 757 points. He races in the crate dirt Late Model division on Saturdays at Junction Motor Speedway in McCool Junction, Neb., and at I-80 Speedway in Omaha, Neb., on Sundays.
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.
Justin Johnson, of Durham, N.C., was disqualified following his third-place run in the asphalt Late Model feature at South Boston (Va.) Speedway Saturday night. He remains third in the national standings with 701 points on the strength of 11 wins, 16 top fives and 19 top 10s in 20 starts at South Boston and Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
Ted Christopher won for the fifth time in the last seven races at Thompson and moved to fourth in the standings with 655 points. Matt Buller, who races against Preble at Junction and I-80, is fifth with 639 points.
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.
Of Rocco’s wins, 15 of them have produced the maximum points total of 45 for a race. His three worst finishes of the 18 that count toward his total are a win at Thompson on April 10 with 19 cars, a win at Thompson on May 27 with 17 cars, and a second at Thompson on April 11 with 19 cars.
That leaves Rocco 15 points short of a perfect score for the season of 810.
It also means that nothing short of a win can improve his total.
By contrast, 10 of Preble’s wins have produced the maximum 45 points. In addition, Preble is running out of time to make up ground. The NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season concludes at I-80 on Sept. 5 and at Junction a week later.
In addition to honoring track champions, NASCAR will crown 25 U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, continuing a tradition that dates back to the sport’s early years.
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 NASCAR Points Leaders
Pos Driver Track Starts Wins T-5 T-10 Points
1 Keith Rocco Waterford Speedbowl 36 17 27 34 795
2 Craig Preble I-80 Speedway 28 17 27 27 757
3 Justin T Johnson South Boston Speedway 20 11 16 19 701
4 Ted Christopher Thompson Intl Speedway 24 7 15 18 655
5 Matt Buller Junction Motor Speedway 28 5 20 24 639
6 C E Falk, III Langley Speedway 21 6 13 19 634
7 Bill Leighton, Jr I-80 Speedway 29 0 23 27 630
8 Marty Ward Greenville-Pickens Speedway 20 12 20 20 580
9 Woody Pitkat Stafford Motor Speedway 22 2 13 20 578
10 Woody Howard Langley Speedway 19 1 13 17 571
11 Greg Edwards Langley Speedway 17 6 14 16 568
12 Philip Morris Motor Mile Speedway 18 5 12 15 567
13 Duane Howard Grandview Speedway 15 3 14 15 565
14 Tommy Lemons, Jr Motor Mile Speedway 22 1 10 16 543
15 Toby Porter Greenville-Pickens Speedway 20 5 18 19 523
16 Jacob Brown I-80 Speedway 22 1 8 16 513
17 Wayne Ramsey Motor Mile Speedway 14 4 11 13 508
18 Brandon Dean Motor Mile Speedway 17 1 10 14 507
19 Burt Myers Bowman Gray Stadium 15 5 9 14 505
20 Ron Yuhas, Jr Waterford Speedbowl 14 0 13 14 488
21 Stacy Puryear South Boston Speedway 18 1 11 15 485
22 Steve Carlson Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway 14 5 9 13 481
23 Wes Falk Langley Speedway 19 1 4 16 473
24 J Herbst Lacrosse Fairgrounds Speedway 14 2 8 14 470
25 Danny Edwards, Jr Langley Speedway 16 1 13 14 465