Champ Trail -
September 1, 2015
Keith Rocco ended a long dry spell as he scored a one-two punch by scoring
back to back twin 25 lap wins in the Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park
Pepsi Back to School Bash on Wednesday night as the speedway wrapped up it's
popular Wednesday night series. Rocco's career overall total of 207 wins
also include victories at Waterford and Stafford Speedways. To make the
night complete for the Rocco family Keith Rocco’s brother Jeff Rocco
continued on his hot streak by winning three consecutive races in the Late
Model division at Thompson and four of the past five Late Model races at the
track. His streak would continue as Rocco handily won a hotly contested
event in the 25-lap sprint, which included three and four-wide racing at
In the first 25 lap Sunoco (SK type) Modified event, Rocco started in the
top ten and worked his way up quickly to the lead, taking advantage of an
early caution when Adam Norton, who had concerns during practice about the
engine in his car, made hard contact with the turn three wall. Rocco raced
his way to second with 23 laps to go and engaged in a neck-and-neck battle
with Nick Ladyga for several laps before another caution slowed the field
with 19 laps remaining. Rocco would benefit from a great restart and never
look back holding off heavy hitters Woody Pitkat, Ryan Preece, Nick Ladyga
and his own teammate Eric Berndt who rounded out the top five.
In the second 25 lap Sunoco Modified event, Rocco worked his way to the
top three with fifteen of the twenty-five laps remaining and engaged in a
neck-and-neck battle for the lead with Ryan Preece. A bonsai dive-bomb with
ten to go gave Rocco the lead and it was pedal to the metal as he held off
Preece to sweep the Sunoco Modified double header. Following Preece was Nick
Ladyga, Jason Sundeen, Kerry Malone and Ryan Morgan.
Other winners at Thompson were Charlie Wilcox in the Outlaw Modifieds,
Dave Trudeau in the Mini Stocks, Scott Sundeen in the Limited Sportsman and
Jeff Rocco in the Late Models.
The entire program was over by 8:35pm. Among those on hand was Linda
DeSarro Palardy. Linda's first husband was the late Fred DeSarro who was a
multi-time Modified track champion at the Connecticut oval.
Next up for Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park is the biggest event of
the season, the Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing presented by
Xtramart. The Three night event kicks off on Friday, October 16th as many
local series and the Whelen Modified Tour conclude their seasons in one wild
weekend of racing at the Big T.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Series was at the Riverhead Raceway on Long
Island on Saturday night. During the week leading up to the event NASCAR
issued the following rule as a few race teams on the tour were not going but
were letting others use their car numbers. "If a team is using a WMT car
number, said car must show up at the track in that teams hauler with that
teams crew chief." This was done to protect race teams that have supported
Justin Bonsignore grabbed the lead from Doug Coby on Lap 115 of the 200
lap event on the tight quarter mile and held on through six caution restarts
to take down a third career victory at his home track, and second in a row
in 2015. A 12th and final caution came out on Lap 199 just after Bonsignore
had taken the white flag in his No. 51 M3 Technology Chevrolet, and he came
around to a yellow-checkered. It was the eighth career victory overall for
the Holtsville, New York native. Coby and his No. 2 Dunleavy’s Repair/A&J
Romano Construction Chevrolet finished second, while rookie Chase Dowling,
Donny Lia and Eric Goodale rounded out the top-five. Tom Rogers Jr, who won
his second-consecutive Coors Light Pole Award at Riverhead earlier in the
day, finished sixth. Woody Pitkat, championship points leader Ryan Preece,
Todd Szegedy and rookie Jeff Goodale completed the top-10.
There were 31 cars on hand including Melissa Fifield, who as usual was
the slowest of the bunch. Because of the fact that she shows up at all tour
events she was able to bump her way into the starting field. She managed to
complete 66 laps before giving up. There were 12 caution periods for a total
of 84 laps. Bonsignore's average speed was 43.321 mph.
The Whelen Modified Tour Series goes into a four week hibernation before
heading to the New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday, Sept. 26.
At the Stafford Motor Speedway last Friday night it was the Lincoln Tech
Back 2 SK®ool Blitz. Taking down feature wins on the night was sophmore
sensation Ronnie Williams who scored his sixth SK Modified® feature, Tom
Fearn in the Late Model feature, Payton Henry in the SK Light feature, Al
Saunders in the Ltd. Late Model feature, Brandon Michael in the DARE Stock
feature, and Devin O’Connell in the Legend Cars feature.
Williams, who started 10th, took the lead from Matt Galko as they
completed lap-24. Rowan Pennink was third with Keith Rocco and Ryan Preece
making up the top-5. Preece spun in turn 2 and collected Eric Berndt to
bring the caution out with 26 laps complete. On the restart, Williams took
the lead while Pennink and Galko were side by side for second and Woody
Pitkat was side by side with Todd Owen for fourth. Pennink took second with
Galko slipping into third. Pitkat got the better of his duel with Owen and
In the closing laps Pennink looked like he had a stronger car getting
into the corner than Williams, but Williams would stretch out his advantage
once they came off the corners. The two leaders were leaving Galko behind,
who was in turn all by himself as Pitkat and Owen were side by side for
fourth. Williams led Pennink to the checkered flag to pick up his sixth win
of the season. Galko finished third, with Pitkat beating Owen to the line by
a nose for fourth place. Rounding out the top ten were Todd Owen, Keith
Rocco, Tyler Hines, Ted Christopher, Jeremy Sorel and Ryan Preece.
The Valenti Modified Racing Series was at the Oxford Plains Speedway in
Maine. Chris Pasteryak scored a dominate win over rookie driver Kevin
Iannarelli who chased Pasteryak through out the event. Les Hinckley followed
up his win at Monadnock with a third place finish. He was filling in for
Rowan Pennink who was at the Riverhead Raceway. Russ Hersey and Donnie
Lashua rounded out the top five.
The MRS moves on to Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) this coming Friday for
an 80-lap event.
In regular weekly action at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl six
divisions of racing were on tap including the North East Street Stock Tour.
Recording wins were Diego Monahan in the SK Modifieds, Corey Coates in the
Limited Sportsman, Dana DiMatteo in the Legends, Corey Barry in the SK
Lights, Larry Loomis in the Mini Stocks and Josh Galvin in the North East
Street Stock Tour.
In the SK Modified feature Monahan, who is the divisions point leader in
what has to be the tightest points race in recent memory at the Bowl, fought
an epic battle of horsepower from the drop of the green flag. Monahan, who
started 6th, moved up to 2nd by lap 7 with Tyler Chadwick hot on his rear
bumper. Monahan chased leader Dylan Izzo for 8 laps, when caution came out
after Ryan Morgan made contact with the backstretch wall. On the ensuing
restart, it was Izzo on the inside, Monahan on the outside, Chadwick, and
Ted Christopher, who is 6th in points, just 30 back of Monahan, on the
outside of the 2nd row. Monahan powered his way into the lead on the restart
with Christopher glued to his bumper. Caution came out again on lap 13 after
Dennis Gada, driving in place of his son Joey Gada, made hard contact with
the turn 3 wall. Monahan held the lead on the restart, with Keith Rocco
moving into 2nd past Christopher. Monahan and Rocco battled side-by-side,
with Christopher right in the mix. Christopher passed Rocco and began to
work on Monahan with 10 to go. Christopher pulled along side Monahan with 4
laps remaining, and used every trick in the bag to try to pass him. Monahan
was able to withstand numerous challenges from Christopher in the closing
laps to take home the win. Following Monahan across the line was
Christopher, Rocco, Chadwick, and Paul Kusheba.
With the New London-Waterford Speedbowl nearing the stretch run to close
out one of the best seasons ever at the shoreline oval fans who haven't seen
a racing event at the Route 85 oval should take in a race before the snow
flies. The new management of Bruce Bemer and Shawn Monahan have taken giant
steps in improving the facility from head to toe plus the racing there is
second to none.
Veteran Verizon Indy Car Series driver Justin Wilson died from injuries
suffered in a crash during the recent ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway.
Wilson, 36, was involved in a crash with Sage Karam with 21 laps to go in
Sunday’s ABC Supply 500 at Pocono Raceway. Karam lost control of his car
coming out of the exit of turn one and slammed hard into the outside wall
while leading the race.
Wilson drove into the debris field left by Karam’s crashed car and it
appeared that part of the nose that had broken loose off Karam’s Chevrolet
hit Wilson, rendering him unconscious and sending his car out of control
into the inside wall.
Wilson was airlifted to Lehigh Valley Cedar Crest Hospital in Allentown,
Pa., where he died the following day. Many in racing took to social media
Sunday to thank Tony Stewart for donating the use of his plane to Justin
Wilson’s family after Wilson was injured.
Despite losing his life after a freak Indy Car accident, Justin Wilson is
living up to his reputation as a wonderful human being. On Tuesday, Wilson's
brother Stefan tweeted out that by donating Justin's organs, the fallen
driver helped save six lives.
On the speedway stock market scene last week all three speedway stocks
had positive results. Leading the way was Speedway Motorsports which went up
1.11 to 19.54. The International Speedway Corporation went up 0.21 to 31.97
and Dover Entertainment went up 0.03 to 2.32. NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco
(Energy Transfer) went up 2.36 to 49.56 while NASCAR tire supplier Goodyear
went up 0.24 to 29.52 and NASCAR cup sponsor Sprint went up went up 0.38 to
5.19. Car manufacturer Toyota went up 1.72 to 120.77 while Ford dropped 0.12
to 12.74 and General Motors dropped 0.60 to 29.00. In the home improvement
sector, Home Depot went up 3.36 to 119.52 while Lowes dropped 2.65 to 68.45.
In big team sponsor's stocks, McDonalds dropped 0.88 to 96.25, Fedex dropped
3.58 to 152.50 and Target Department Stores dropped 0.37 to 78.03 while
Coca-Cola went up 3.41 to 157.56 and Aarons Rentals went up 0.06 to 37.88.
On the tube this coming week:
Wednesday, September 2
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FOX S1
Thursday, September 3
6:00 PM, NASCAR Race Hub, FS1
Saturday, September 5
3:30 PM, NASCAR Xfinity Series Darlington race, NBC
Sunday, September 6
1:00 PM, NASCAR RaceDay, FS1
7:30 PM, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Darlington race, NBC
That’s about it for this week from 11 Gardner Drive, Westerly, and
R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467.
Phil Smith has been a
columnist for Speedway Scene and various
other publications for over 3 decades.
Smith / Champ Trail