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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – The two-time defending NASCAR Whelen All-American Series track champion at Waterford Speedbowl, Keith Rocco is banking on his extensive experience at the southeastern Connecticut facility to give him a leg up on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour competition in the Mr. Rooter 161 on Saturday, June 23.
From Wallingford, Conn., Rocco has racked up the weekly wins at his home track in the last decade. He has 50 career victories at Waterford between SK Modifieds (42), Sportsmen (4), Late Models (2) and Trucks (2) since 2003. That total constitutes nearly half of his career wins total, now more than 100.
Although he also runs weekly shows at the other two Connecticut tracks – Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson International Speedway – Waterford figures to provide Rocco with a distinct advantage on the rest of the Whelen Modified Tour field. The Tour annually has between seven and nine races at Stafford and Thompson, but hasn’t visited Waterford since 2006.
Rocco acknowledges that some of the Whelen Modified Tour’s veterans have plenty of laps at Waterford as well, but his recent weekly experience will pay immediate dividends on Saturday.
“I’ve got a lot of track time – a lot of seat time – down there and I know what the track is going to do,” Rocco said. “Hopefully it will play into our advantage.”
In their first season together, Rocco and the No. 3 Boehler Racing Enterprises team recently tested at Waterford, and he was able to provide the local knowledge to get the car dialed in for the Mr. Rooter 161.
“You’ve just got to have a good car down there, and I’m pretty sure we will,” Rocco said of racing at Waterford. “We’ve got a little bit of work to do, but we’ve definitely got a good car for there.”
A top run at Waterford could be a big boost to Rocco, who is looking for his first Whelen Modified Tour win after dominating the northeastern Whelen All-American Series scene the last five years. Rocco has posted three top 10s through the season’s first four races, and has already forged a sizeable lead in the Sunoco Rookie of the Year standings.
A winning run at Waterford would also invigorate the No. 3 “Ole Blue” team, which last won in 2009, and also seeks its first Whelen Modified Tour victory at the Speedbowl.
“I think we’ve got a car to beat everywhere we go, it’s just hitting the setup right on the head and make sure the tires are right, and pit stops are a major factor that you have to look at,” Rocco said.
“I think things are going good, everybody is working good together, and every week we’re going forward. That’s what we’re looking for.”
Back to the `Bowl: After a five-year absence, the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to Waterford Speedbowl. The Speedbowl first held a Tour race during the circuit’s inaugural season of 1985, and welcomed it back 16 more times through the 2006 season.
Lap Count for a Legend: At first glance, the race distance of the Mr. Rooter 161 may seem a bit odd, as most Whelen Modified Tour events are run in increments of 100, 150 or 200 laps. There is plenty of significance for 161 at Waterford, however, as the track selected the distance in honor of NASCAR Hall of Fame member and racing legend Richie Evans, who piloted the famed No. 61 Modified. Evans unfortunately never got to celebrate a Whelen Modified Tour win at Waterford as he finished 15th and sixth in two starts there before his untimely passing.
Lia Returns to Waterford with a Pedigree of Success: Through four races in his return to the Whelen Modified Tour with Mystic Missile Racing, Donny Lia has yet to experience the success that marked his two previous seasons with the team. Waterford might just well be the place to get back in contention to win races, however. Lia won at the `Bowl in 2005 and 2006, and has four podium finishes in seven career starts at the track.
Waterford Win Missing from Stefanik’s Legacy: Mike Stefanik, hands down the most successful driver in the history of the Whelen Modified Tour, has very few holes in his résumé. His 71 career victories have come at 16 different tracks, but that list is noticeably missing Waterford. In 11 career starts at the Speedbowl, Stefanik has an average finish of fourth – far and away the best of any active driver – but a victory there has proved elusive. His best previous finishes at Waterford are second to Reggie Ruggiero in 2001 and another runner-up effort to Ed Flemke Jr. in 2004.
Tomaino Looks to Keep Mark Intact: The Whelen Modified Tour’s career leader for starts, Jamie Tomaino is the only active driver to have appeared in each of the Tour’s previous 17 races at Waterford. He finished eighth in the inaugural 1985 event, and had his best career finish at the track of second in the Tour’s second race there that same season. Overall, Tomaino has missed just five of the 550 races in Whelen Modified Tour history.
|The Race||Mr. Rooter 161|
|The Place||Waterford (Conn.) Speedbowl|
|The Date||Saturday, June 23|
|The Time||9 p.m. ET (approx.)|
|Broadcast||NASCAR Home Tracks Radio, live at www.nascarhometracks.com|
|Track Layout||.375-mile asphalt oval|
|Event Schedule||Practice 1:30-2:30 p.m., Qualifying 4 p.m., 6 p.m. Driver Autograph Session|
|Track Contact||Brian Darling, (860) 442-1585, email@example.com|
|NASCAR Contact||Jason Cunningham, (704) 201-6658, firstname.lastname@example.org, Twitter: @NASCAR_NE|
The Race: The Mr. Rooter 161 will be the fifth race on the 2012 schedule and the first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Waterford Speedbowl since 2006.
The Procedure: The starting field is 28 cars, including provisionals. The first 23 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 161 laps (60.375 miles).
The Track: A .375-mile banked oval, Waterford Speedbowl opened for auto racing in 1951. A NASCAR Whelen All-American Series-sanctioned facility, Waterford holds weekly racing on Saturday nights, and has previously held 17 Whelen Modified Tour events.
Race Winners: There have been 13 different race winners in 17 all-time events at Waterford, led by four drivers with two victories. Four active drivers have won at the track: Ed Flemke Jr. (2), Donny Lia (2), Ted Christopher (1) and Todd Szegedy (1).
Pole Winners: There have been 11 different pole winners at Waterford, led by Tony Hirschman’s four. Active drivers Eric Beers, Christopher and Flemke have each captured a pole at the track. Jerry Marquis set the qualifying record in the Tour’s last event at Waterford in 2006 at 13.618 seconds (99.133 mph).
Home Tracks: Chadwick Leads Waterford Points
Competition is tight through the first two months of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series season at Waterford Speedbowl. Through June 16, Tyler Chadwick was the leader in the track’s headline division – the SK Modifieds – at 415 points. Jeff Pearl trailed by just two points with two-time defending track champion Keith Rocco in third at 401. The Speedbowl’s other current Saturday division leaders include: Paul French (SK Light), Dillon Moltz (Late Model), Christopher Meyer (Street Stock), Ken Cassidy Jr. (Mini Stock) and Paul Kusheba IV (Legend). Waterford also has a weekly “Wild `n Wacky Wednesday” program that includes five divisions.
Last Time Out: Stafford
The most recent NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race was held at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway on May 25. Here are some highlights from the TSI Harley-Davidson 125:
• In a race that was mostly dominated by polesitter Bobby Santos, Doug Coby made a late-race move for the lead and drove away with his second victory of the season. It was his fourth career win.
• The victory also sent Coby to the top of the standings for the first time in 2012.
• The pole was the eighth of Santos’ career, and his first with the No. 44 team.
• Defending champion and previous points leader Ron Silk finished third, and has top fives in each of the season’s first four races.
Up Next: New Hampshire
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the first of two races on the “Magic Mile” on Saturday, July 14 with the Town Fair Tire 100. The Tour has held 55 races at the Loudon, N.H., facility since 1990, more than any other track outside of Connecticut. Practice and qualifying with be held on Friday with the Town Fair Tire 100 set to go green on Saturday at 1 p.m.