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Rocco Honored By Governor Rell
Mar 18, 2009 - updated Mar 18th, 2009 3:22pm
Web posted by

Daytona Beach, Fla. --

For Immediate Release:March 17, 2009

Connecticut State Champion Visits Capitol

Keith Rocco has been busy getting ready to make another run at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national championship. But he took some time out recently to enjoy one more reward from his outstanding 2008 season in which he earned the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Connecticut state championship.

Rocco’s achievements were recognized by Governor Jodi Rell in an appearance at the state capitol in Hartford.
Rocco had 11 wins, 32 top fives and 38 top 10s racing at three Connecticut short tracks: Stafford Motor Speedway, Thompson International Speedway and the Waterford Speedbowl.

“It was a great experience,” Rocco said. “It’s not every day you go to the state capitol and meet the governor. It’s neat now, but later, when I get a chance to relax and get through thrashing to get ready for the season, and really get a chance to look back, it will be pretty cool.”
Connecticut has a long history in NASCAR. Stafford and Thompson are among the longest-running tracks in the country. Rocco joined the list of Modified greats by winning the SK Modified Division championship at Stafford.
The 24-year-old from Wallingford, Conn., was also sixth at Thompson and third at Waterford.
He plans to tackle the same full racing calendar this year. He’ll get his NASCAR start with the season-opening Icebreaker at Thompson April 4-5 running for car owner Dan Bannister. He has a new car owner at Stafford in John Rufrano, but the core of his championship team remains.
“It’s the same group of guys – whether I go to Stafford, Thompson or Waterford – they stick behind me,” Rocco said. “They don’t care if it’s go-karts of Modifieds, they’re behind me.”

The one difference to Rocco’s off season has been preparing the equipment for the new team. Rocco, who works for Petite Racing Engines, has not only been getting the motors prepared but the whole inventory of items ready for the hauler and pit carts.
“You don’t realize how much work goes into building a team,” said Rocco of an off season that has kept him as busy as his racing schedule does. “It’s little stuff – like organization – that makes the difference on the race track. Anybody can go out and buy brand new everything. You have to be ready and you have to be prepared to thrash.”
Just 26 drivers out of the thousands of participants in NASCAR’s grassroots, local-racing program – which encompasses tracks throughout the United States and Canada – earned a similar honor as U.S. state or Canadian provincial champion.
The NASCAR Connecticut champion was determined by the driver’s highest 18 finishes at NASCAR-sanctioned tracks within the state.
The crowning of champions in a U.S. state or Canadian province continues a tradition of honoring the best short-track racers which dates back to the earliest days of NASCAR.

Rocco was also honored in November at the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Awards Banquet at the Rio All-Suite Hotel in Las Vegas, along with the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national champion, U.S. state and Canadian provincial champions, track champions and special award winners.
Since its inception, the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series has served as a springboard in the careers of many top drivers. NASCAR stars Greg Biffle, Clint Bowyer, Jeff Burton, Kurt and Kyle Busch, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Kevin Harvick, Bobby Labonte, Jamie McMurray, Elliott Sadler and Brian Vickers all began their careers racing their local short tracks.
PAST NASCAR CONNECTICUT STATE CHAMPIONS

Whelen All-American Series

Year Driver Hometown
2008 Keith Rocco Wallingford, Conn.
2007 Woody Pitkat Stafford, Conn.

Modified
Year Driver Hometown
1981 Richard Evans Rome, N.Y.
1980 Richard Evans Rome, N.Y.
1979 Ron Bouchard Fitchburg, Mass.
1978 Geoff Bodine Bellingham, Mass.
1977 Geoff Bodine Bellingham, Mass.
1976 Fred DeSarro Hope Valley, R.I.
1975 Geoff Bodine Chemung, N.Y.
1974 Bugs Stevens Rehoboth, Mass.
1973 Ronald Bouchard Fitchburg, Mass.
1972 Fred DeSarro Hope Valley, R.I.
1971 Bugs Stevens Rehoboth, Mass.
1970 Leo Cleary Hanover, Mass.
1969 Bugs Stevens Rehoboth, Mass.
1968 Bugs Stevens Rehoboth, Mass.

Limited Sportsman
Year Driver Hometown
1981 Jerry Marquis Enfield, Conn.
1980 Peter L. Fiandaca Fitchburg, Mass.
1979 Michael Stefanik Wilbraham, Mass.
1978 Thomas Rosati Agawam, Mass.
1977 Thomas Rosati Agawam, Mass.
1976 Gary Ryan Norwich, Conn.
1975 Keith Williams Richmond, R.I.

Hobby
Year Driver Hometown
1974 Tom Sylvester Hebron, Conn.
1972 Del Cushing Madison, Conn.
1971 Frank Anyzeski Ashaway, R.I.
1970 Frank Anyzeski Ashaway, R.I.
1969 Jim McCallum Worcester, Mass.
1968 Ed Thereault Waltham, Mass.
1966 Timothy Bertsche Rockville, Conn.
1965 Gene Smith Windham, Conn.
1964 Bob Santos Millis, Mass.
1963 Don Welti Rockville, Conn.
1962 Bob Leach Stafford Springs, Conn.
1961 Bill Irving Stafford Springs, Conn.
1960 Lou Kelley West Warwick, R.I.

Late Model Sportsman
Year Driver Hometown
1970 Dave Peterson Lynnfield, Mass.

Sportsman
Year Driver Hometown
1967 Fred DeSarro Westerly, R.I.
1966 Ron Narducci E. Haddam, Conn.
1965 Bill Slater Hartford, Conn.
1964 George Janoski Stafford Springs, Conn.
1963 Jim Koehler Conventry, Conn.
1962 Rene Charland Agawam, Mass.
1961 Rene Charland Holyoke, Mass.
1960 Ron Narducci E. Haddam, Conn.
1959 Don Rounds Apponaug, R.I.


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