Rocco Returns To Waterford Victory Lane
WATERFORD, Conn. – Waterford Speedbowl returned to action on Saturday, racing against the advancing weather forecasted for later on in the evening. The track hosted another NASCAR Whelen All-American Series racing program, joined by the second and final appearance of the season by the visiting Valenti Modified Racing Series.
Keith Rocco returned to the winner’s circle in the night’s SK Modified feature, picking up his first division win at the track since July 14 and seventh of the year. Dillon Moltz won his sixth race of the year in the Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Models, while Bill Leonard took his second win of 2012 in the Mini Stock division.
The night’s 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing Series feature was won by Tommy Barrett Jr., his second straight in the popular open-wheel touring series. The night’s scheduled Street Stock feature was lost to rain, with any make-up date to be announced by the track.
The 35-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series SK Modified® feature was led to the green flag by a front row of Keith Rocco and Adam Gada. Rocco was looking to shake a stretch of disappointing finishes in recent weeks and bolted out to the race lead. As the field raced to turn one on the opening lap, bumper tag behind Gada saw several cars check up, with all staying pointed straight ahead to keep the race under the green flag. The competition settled into a long green flag stretch and sorted out many battles for position all around the speedway.
Rocco’s lead was seven cars over Joe Perry, while Jeff Rocco moved into third position and pressured Perry for second by lap five. On lap seven Jeff Rocco finally made the move to Perry’s outside, clearing him a lap later to set sail on erasing his brother’s lead. Behind the top three, Jeff Gallup held fourth with Jeff Pearl and Rob Janovic Jr. in close company. A gap back to a large pack of cars battling for the back half of the top-ten brought the race through lap 15.
Out front Jeff Rocco was cutting into his brother’s lead. Perry was settled in third while Pearl was all over Gallup for fourth. Pearl found room on the inside down the back chute headed into turn three, taking over fourth on lap 16. Janovic filled the hole under Gallup to take fifth exiting turn two on lap 17. Behind Gallup, Kyle James, Tyler Chadwick and Nichole Morgillo had broken out of the next pack of cars.
At the head of the field the Rocco train looked strong. Pearl couldn’t shake Janovic loose in a battle for fourth while James tracked down Gallup for sixth by lap 25, all under green flag conditions. The first caution finally slowed the lengthy run as Tom Abele Jr. spun into the turn three wall on lap 27 after trying to fight his way through the pack.
The restart pitted both Rocco’s against one another, with Keith leading Jeff into turn one. Jeff Rocco tucked in line behind his brother ahead of a battle for third between Perry and Pearl, the latter in the outside lane. Pearl eventually took the position leaving Perry to battle with Janovic and James. James raced the top groove around both to take fourth position. Janovic followed suit and used the top-side to get around Perry just ahead of the final caution flag, which waved when Rich Brooks and Adam Gada were in trouble on the frontstretch with four laps to go.
The final restart again belonged to Keith Rocco, who pulled out ahead of Jeff Rocco. Pearl had his hands full with James for third position, watching as James raced the high line around him into the spot. Pearl settled into fourth ahead of Janovic. The top-five raced in order through the checkered flag in a quickly competed event. Chadwick, the point leader, finished sixth to maintain his lead by six points over Pearl.
The 30-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Bob Valenti Auto Mall Late Model feature saw Moltz in a familiar place, Speedbowl Victory Lane. His sixth triumph of the year started by chasing early leader Anthony Flannery. Flannery led from lap-1 and watched as Moltz slowly reeled him in once in second position. The first caution waved on lap five when Jeff Smith spun between turns three and four.
Flannery held his lead on the restart, however Moltz tucked in behind and was pressuring Flannery’s bumper looking for a way around by lap six. By lap 10, Moltz had found his way past to move into the race lead. Keith Rocco moved to second position racing inside Flannery on lap 15 at the halfway point of the race bringing Jason Palmer and Bruce Thomas Jr. with him by the inside of Flannery. Smith and Ed Gertsch Jr. tangled in turn two on lap-20 to return the race under caution.
Moltz was back out front following the restart, bringing the field to lap 25 when Palmer and Thomas made contact in their battle for third. Contact on the fronstretch carried into turn one, with Palmer going around. Moltz continued to lead once racing was back under green through lap-28 as Flannery and Joe Curioso came together on the track resulting in Curioso against the turn three wall, and Flannery’s night done in the pits.
The final green-white-checkered flag stretch saw Moltz hold back Rocco one final time, denying Rocco his second checkered flag of the night. Moltz padded his points lead with the win, while Rocco and Ryan Morgan completed the podium finishers.
The 25-lap NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Mini Stock division saw Leonard in the winner’s circle for the second time of the year. He held off a host of competition over the final half of the race. Leonard led through the second caution flag of the race just shy of its halfway point on lap 12. Leonard led Ray Christian III while Ian Brew and Ken Cassidy Jr. lined up in the second row for the mid-race restart.
Leonard had his hands full on the restart as Christian raced to his outside to edge ahead in the lead on lap 13. Cassidy was also in the outside lane looking for a lane through to challenge for the lead as well. The top four raced in tight quarters through lap-17, when Jeff Cembruch spun between turns one and two to return the race to caution.
The intensity level continued to rise at the front on the restart, as the combination of Leonard, Christian and Cassidy went three wide for the lead on lap 18. Cassidy got crossed up and out of shape on the very outside, backing out as the other two pulled back ahead to resume a side-by-side battle for the lead. The pair put on another fabulous race out front for the division, remaining within inches nearing the finish. The two had little breathing room from the competition behind which included Cassidy, and Sean Caron.
The white flag lap began with Leonard and Christian sewn together at the door. Cassidy was outside Caron battling hard for third when he spun exiting turn two. As Cassidy spun across the track others became collected including Joe Fogarasi and Chris Garside to bring out the caution flag and interrupt what was shaping up as a photo finish between Leonard and Christian.
Leonard did not falter on the restart, the race’s final. Over the course of the race he held back the advances of many to claim the checkered flag. Caron rallied to take second at the checkered flag while Christian’s fine run ended up third.
Just after the completion of the 100-lap Valenti Modified Racing series event, rain fell over the track, halting the remainder of the racing program.