Originally, Keith Rocco didn’t plan on racing full-time in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. However, after the season-opener at Thompson Speedway, things changed drastically.
Tommy Barrett, Jr., who finished 19th to begin the year in the No. 22 car for Our Motorsports, was suspended from the team for the second race at Stafford Motor Speedway. The 19-year-old was arrested in Connecticut due to driving under the influence (DUI).
Originally scheduled to race part-time for the team on the Tour, along with the ARCA Racing Series, Barrett was released from his driving duties after further evaluation. After racing for Chris Our-owned team in 2014, winning a race at Bristol, he was expected to be a title contender in 2015.
The suspension led to Rocco replacing Barrett in the car which finished 12th in the championship standings last year. Prior to this season, the Wallingford, Conn. native had a pair of top fives and eight top 10s in 22 career Whelen Modified Tour starts. The Our Motorsports team named Rocco as its full-time driver at the beginning of May, and ever since, they have not looked back in an attempt to contend for a title.
“Things have been going well,” Rocco said at Riverhead Raceway in late June. “I think I’m adapting well with the team. The team and I get along really well, which is a huge advantage. We’ve been working hard to figure the new chassis out. We have the new Troyer TA2 chassis. The team doesn’t really have a notebook for what that car wants at tracks, but it is a little bit of a challenge.”
The TA2 chassis was unveiled by Troyer in early June, and added in a “Bud Link” in the rear suspension, which was originally used by the Troyer Dirt Asphalt cars. The chassis, along with the TA1, has an improved front clip, which enables teams to adjust the front-end geometry, according to a release from Troyer.
Since joining the organization, Rocco has four top 10s in six starts, with a best finish of fourth coming at Thompson in June. Finishing on the lead lap in each event with the exception of his debut with the team, the 2010 Whelen All-American Series national champion has begun to hit his stride.
“Overall, I am really happy with the way things are going,” Rocco continued. “Tommy ran OK and I am running OK. I think I click a little better with the team, which is going to give us a little bit more success. We just need to get a package that works for my driving style. We need some races under our belt.”
Besides racing full-time with Our Motorsports, Rocco is also competing for another Whelen All-American Series championship, fighting for track titles at Waterford Speedway, Stafford and Thompson in the SK Modified division. With eight overall victories this year, he is keeping a respectable gap on 2013 Modified Tour champion Ryan Preece. As of July 12, Rocco had a 52-point margin ahead of Preece.
With eight events remaining on the schedule, there is plenty of time for the 30-year-old to earn his first career victory. Following the race at Loudon, Rocco sits tied for 11th in points with two-time Modified Tour champion Donny Lia, a mere five markers away from breaking into the top 10.