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   The Chrome Horn - Valenti Modified Racing Series



Keith Rocco Has A
Trifecta - Perfecta Race Day
Denise DuPont & Polly Reid

The Valenti Modified Racing Series (VMRS) opened their eleventh season at Waterford Speedbowl with a banner field of thirty-four modified teams ready to welcome in spring with their ground pounding. Thirty-two cars competed in qualifying events and twenty-four of the lucky teams took the green flag on race day.

Keith Rocco won his heat race, drew the pole, led from green to checkered flag and captured the 100 lap victory for car owner John Rufrano. The VMRS win made it three for three to cap off a stellar weekend for the second-generation driver from Berlin (CT). Earlier in the day Rocco won the track’s NASCAR SK Modified and Late Model features as well, tying a 54-year old track record with three wins in a single day.

Rocco made it look so easy winning in the three divisions and casually along the way managing to tie a Speedway record from 1960. “I really did not think about the picture of being able to win three”, Rocco said reflecting on his day. “I got out of the Late Model, parked it in tech and ran over and jumped in the VMRS modified. I did not even have any time to think about it. Man what a huge notch. It is just pretty cool.”

“It is tough jumping out of one car and getting right into another for the next race. I tried to grab a bottle of water and tried to take a couple of sips. It is tough but you cannot do it without a great team. Luckily I have a great group of people that help me. I do not know if anyone knows what it is like until you really do it. To have three successful cars, it is really tough. But it is tougher on the crew than it is me though.” And when he was asked if he was fatigued, Rocco answered like a true racer: “I am ready to go another 100 laps.”
Rocco was challenged for the lead by Rowan Pennink, Ted Christopher and Chris Pasteryak. Of the three Rocco feared Christopher’s challenge the most. “Ted was the one that I was worried about. Ted just wants to lead and he does not care how he gets it. He made me burn up what I had. I worked hard just trying to keep him behind me. Then Pasteryak was behind me. Pasteryak runs this series so you have to save what you can for him for him. But Ted is my biggest fear when he is behind me.”

Chris Pasteryak of Lisbon, CT. charged from the middle of the pack, avoided a mid-race incident that took out Christopher and damaged Pennink and challenged Rocco for the win. Pasteryak tried for 58 laps to catch Rocco but in the end he remained one spot short finishing second. “It was a nice recovery from picking #39 out of the hat when I got here on Friday. I did not have a really very fast car right off the bat, but I had a car that I thought was going to be solid car as the race went on. And that thought I guess was right. Otherwise I would be pretty down on myself right now. In the end though, today I did not really have anything for Keith Rocco.”

Coming from the rear several times, hard charger Todd Szegedy of Ridgefield, CT. wheeled the Stuart Automotive #85 modified to the front to finish third. “It is a good way to start off the season with this team. The nice thing is that we have a lot of diversity in front of us. We made improvements on the car and then the car got damaged. So we had to improve on that and the team really worked good together. Everybody kept there cool. I made a mistake here and there but we all worked together and came out of it with a third place finish. So I could not ask for anything more.”

Szegedy pitted several times during the first half of the race for the team to tweak the car. Then just when he felt that the car was right, he was involved in the same incident that took Christopher and Pennink out of contention. “The car was not handling good out there and we had to improve on it quite a bit. But right before the wreck we got it good. I think that it was going to be very strong. I told the team: “Too bad that we just got into that wreck because we the car was going to be awesome at that point.” The problem was, we bent the arms in the back of the car, the panhard bar and everything in the car was out of askew on the right. It was a handful, an absolute handful to drive. It was not the teams fault. It was because it was all bent up at that point. I was lucky that we finished where we did.”

Starting the 100 lap event 9th, Jeff Rocco, of Meriden, CT. pitted with 20 circuits on the board for adjustments restarting in the back and by the lap 41 restart had cracked the top ten when up front, a motor let go bringing out the ‘big one’ in turn three. “We had pitted early, the car wasn’t good enough to last, we knew we had to pit, I was right in front by that big wreck,” said the Meriden, CT driver. “The rule of thumb is ‘square off the bumper’ and that’s exactly what I did, I didn’t catch any wheels and that’s how we made it through. There were things flying and air cleaners, after we tapped bumpers, we went right around them.”

By the half way mark, Rocco was holding down fourth place. Surviving two more cautions, Rocco was swapping positions but at the checkers, claimed fourth. “My spotter was reading me lap times and he said we were about equal with the leader. But when the tires wear out, it’s really hard to pass and I also knew if I beat on it, it wouldn’t have lasted to the end of the race. We just tried to take care of it- I think we had a third place car, but we got caught on the outside on that last restart and Szegedy got by us and then we got back by Nocella.”

Max Zachem from nearby Preston, CT made an impressive qualifying effort following that up with a solid fifth place finish. “I’ve been chasing the car since our heat race yesterday. When the sun came out and it got really warm it was different than when we tested down here in overcast weather, the car was really good then, today, it just seemed like we were chasing it. All in all, it’s been a long winter, the guys worked really hard and getting a top five, we were beat up a little bit, but we’ll take it.

Zachem was solid in practice and qualified third for the VMRS Blast Off, but during the race he pitted at least three times for adjustments. “Too many,” smiled Zachem when asked how many times he did actually pit. “It felt like we were sliding on ice- the car wasn’t ‘stuck’ and every change we made, it made it livable but not perfect, we got it close.”

The final pit stop could very well have been that counted the most. “I was half a track behind,” said Zachem about his position when the multi car wreck happened for fluid on the track in turn three ending the day for several teams. “We had pitted and came out late. We were really fortunate we came out late on that one. I ended up stopping almost by the scoreboard and they were all wrecked in turns three and four. And I said, man, this is one of the few times you’re thankful for coming out of the pits late. Sometimes it is better to be lucky than good.”

VMRS teams will return to racing on Saturday April 19lth for 100 laps of green racing at Monadnock Speedway’s Spring Dash.

If you cannot join us at the track, please join us follow the action on http://www.thechromehorn.com.

Notes from Waterford Speedbowl:

After completing the race what do you think about the new right rear tire?

Keith Rocco
“It feels really good. I am actually really happy with that new tire that Hoosier came out with for the right rear. That long run we had before that last yellow I was trying to pass every lapped car that I could to get some distance between me and Pasteryak. I thought I was gone and I was hanging on to dear life – free in and free off in the middle. Then a caution came out and it cooled down. The only way that I could put it is that I thought that somebody put a brand new right rear on the car. When we went back green I has all the slide and all the drive back.”

Chris Pasteryak
“I love the tire. You can actually race on it now. But you still have to be close. It is not going to reward a guy for being on it from lap one. And it’s not going to punish you if you are starting eleventh or ninth in a heat race and you have to race your way up into qualifying spot. It is not going to penalize you for the rest of the weekend because you drew that number out of the hat. Especially when you keep getting these good car counts that is going to be important to go forward as a series.”

“You need a tire where a guy can race his way into the race and still have a car in the feature. They have that right now and I hope that it stays that way for the rest of the year.”

Todd Szegedy
“We were loose and a ton of other people were loose too. They are going to have to make a change. The MRS series made a change to try to improve on the racing and that is all that you can ask for. We are all going to have to make changes to make the cars adapt to this tire and hopefully in the end it will make for great racing. “

On Lap 42 when you were racing Rowan Pennink and Ted Christopher for position, what went through your mind when they both crashed?

Chris Pasteryak
“The infield is your friend. I saw Teddy get a little bit into the wall on the front straight away and going off of two everything was checking up. And then Teddy and Rowan both shot right. So it was not any act of great instincts or anything on my part but I thought:” Wow, I could pass these guys. So I guessed I would head for the bottom.” Then I saw the big pile there after we came around the next lap so I guess I made the right call.”

What are your race plans for the 2014 season?

Max Zachem
“The plan is to be at Monadnock and then we’ll also run the Tri Track Series. I’d like to run as many races as we can. I’m lucky to have Dunleavy Truck Repair, Broad Brook Cooling and Heating, Coke and a bunch of other sponsors on board. If it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be racing as much. I’m excited; I think they all know I’m here this year. I like flying under the radar. I’d rather be that guy who will come in at the last minute like today, here I am finishing fifth. We started up front, we ran in the back and we were there at the end.”

When you do this on opening day for the VMRS series do you think maybe I should be running this series for the Championship?

Keith Rocco
“Definitely it crosses my mind. All three CT. tracks grant it I have the experience at but I do not have all the experience at all the other race tracks. But I am sure that I can make the car fast and it is something I will consider in the future.”

What are your thoughts on the VMRS racing and will you run the whole 2014 season?
Jeff Rocco made a strong showing in a very competitive series with his fourth place finish.

Jeff Rocco
“The series, it’s a lot more of a thinking game, an SK race or any other short race it’s a sprint, you run full bore from start to finish. This deal, you have to use your head, use strategy and think about where you’re going to be because if you go full bore, it’s not going to last.”

Rocco will be racing as many VMRS events as possible this season for car owners Mark and Mike Pane. “We’ll be at Monadnock next week and go from there.”

Source: Denise DuPont & Polly Reid / TheChromeHorn.com
Posted: April 14, 2014

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