THOMPSON, Conn. — Keith Rocco picked up the 58th and 59th wins of his career at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday.
Rocco capped the night with a thrilling victory in the Nutmeg State 75 presented by Twisted Tea for the Outlaw Open Modified Series, outdueling Ronnie Williams and NASCAR Cup Series star Ryan Preece during the final laps.
He also triumphed in the Sunoco Modified feature, earning him a total of $6,500 in prize money on the night.
Anthony Nocella earned the pole in the Outlaw Open Modified feature and led the first seven laps before Chelmsford, MA’s Jonathan McKennedy took over the point. The multi-time Modified Racing Series and International Supermodified Ass’n paced the field through two yellow flags, fending off a herd that included Rocco, Preece, Nocella, Williams, and Mike Christopher Jr.
On a lap-29 restart following Rob Richardi Jr.’s spin, Williams shot from fourth to second on the outside and kept McKennedy in his sights as the field strung out. When Nocella looped it in turn four to bring out the final caution with 50 laps complete, the game was afoot. Most of the field came in at that point to put on two fresh tires and make adjustments for the final shootout.
Rocco was the first car out of the pits and restarted fourth behind Dave Sapienza, Andrew Krause, and Max Zachem, who had all pitted during earlier cautions. McKennedy, meanwhile, had a slow stop and was relegated to ninth for the green flag. Sapienza led lap 51, but Rocco and Preece quickly wiggled their way to the front, sweeping underneath Sapienza entering turn one.
Williams and Matt Swanson weren’t far behind as they settled into third and fourth. The top-three eventually broke away, running inches apart at speeds well over 100mph. Preece took a peek to Rocco’s inside on several occasions, knowing that Williams was hot on his tail should he slip up.
With three circuits left, Preece finally made his bid, diving inside Rocco on the front straightaway. However, the many-time Thompson Speedway champion kept his Modified wound up on the high side and staved off the charge. Williams took advantage of Preece’s lost momentum and roared into the second spot. There was time for Williams to mount one charge for the lead off turn two on the final lap, but Rocco parried that move as well to score the victory and the $5,000 winner’s purse.
Williams and Preece got the second- and third-place trophies. Swanson, Chris Pasteryak, MicKennedy, Christopher, Sapienza, Nocella, and Zachem rounded out the top-10.
Prior to his Outlaw Open Modified victory, Rocco remained perfect in the Sunoco Modifieds under the ACT/PASS sanction. Rocco started seventh in the 30-lap feature and quickly carved his way to the front, taking the lead on lap four. Troy Talman and Danny Cates were able to grab the lead back from Rocco on restarts, but Rocco swiped it back a lap later both times.
Mike Christopher Jr. eventually moved into the second spot and caught Rocco with 10 laps to go. Christopher stalked the multi-time Thompson Speedway champion until trying an inside move entering turn three with four laps remaining. But the challenger wiggled and lost two car lengths instead. Christopher was unable to recover enough for another attempt at the lead, coming across the finish line in Rocco’s shadow.
Cates finished third while Derek Gluchacki took fourth in his first Sunoco Modified start. John Lowinski-Loh, Joe Allegro Jr., Chase Cook, Christian Turrisi, Talman, and Paul LaPlante were fifth through 10th.
Rocco’s two victories tied him with Larry Barnett for fourth on the all-time Thompson Speedway wins list. He now trails only the late Ted Christopher, Rick Gentes, and Fred DeSarro.
Brian Tagg went pole-to-pole to win the 25-lap Late Model feature. Tagg quickly disposed of outside polesitter Matthew Lowinski-Loh at the drop of the green. As the leader steadily pulled away, a scrum broke out behind him as Ryan Morgan, Mark Jenison, Woody Pitkat, Tom Carey III, and others jockeyed for position.
Carey, the most recent ACT Late Model Tour winner, caught Morgan for the second spot just past halfway. The duo battled side-by-side for seven laps with neither giving an inch, which was exactly what the crowd and Tagg wanted to see. Carey finally cleared Morgan with four circuits remaining but didn’t have to time to catch Tagg as the popular veteran scored the victory.
Morgan took third followed by Pitkat and Lowinski-Loh. Rick Gentes, Nick Johnson, Charles Bailey III, Jenison, and Jimmy Renfrew Jr. were positions 6-10.
Corey Fanning marched through the Vandi Auto Supply Limited Sportsmen field to win their 20-lap feature. Fanning started eighth and followed Ryan Waterman and Larry Barnett early on. As they got closer to the front, Fanning asserted himself, eventually grabbing the lead from Waterman with eight circuits remaining.
Fanning was able to build a lead as Waterman, Brent Gleason, and Barnett sliced and diced for the runner-up spot. Gleason eventually grabbed it from Waterman and was gaining on Fanning in the closing laps. But he ran out of time, and Fanning — whose girlfriend is expecting a baby at any moment — rolled to the victory.
Barnett followed Gleason around Waterman to get third. Scott Sundeen, Nicholas Hovey, polesitter Troy Waterman, Jeffrey VanPelt, Charles Stott III, and Doug Benoit completed the top-10.
Paul Charette held off Anthony Bello and John O’Sullivan III for his first SK Light Modified victory at Thompson Speedway. Charette initially grabbed the lead from polesitter O’Sullivan on lap 6 of the 20-lap feature. Just one lap later, Steve Kenneway slammed head-on into the turn 2 wall to bring out the race’s third caution.
Charette chose the outside groove for the restart only to have Icebreaker winner Bello muscle past him entering turn one. Undaunted, the former Late Model competitor kept hounding Bello until the fourth and final caution on lap 12 for a spin by Albert Ouellette and Josh Carey. On the final restart, Charette returned the favor, using the inside line to beat Bello to turn one. He then kept his rivals at bay for the final eight circuits.
Bello took second with O’Sullivan third. Oullette and Cary rebounded to complete the top-five.
Steve Michalski won a hard-fought Mini Stock feature. Michalski started second in the 15-lap feature but got a great jump at the start inside polesitter Russell Barboza.
Dave Trudeau followed Michalski around Barboza and dogged him for the entire race. Coming to the checkered flag, Trudeau was finally able to get inside Michalski off turn four. But Michalski was faster in the drag race to the line, taking the victory by just 0.093 seconds. Eric Bourgeois completed the podium followed by Barboza and Evan Bourgeois.