STAFFORD — The first half of the Stafford Motor Speedway SK Modified season was a nightmare for Keith Rocco.
The second half, however, is starting to look like a sweet dream.
Rocco buzzed past Troy Tallman on lap 11 and was in clean air the rest of the way to post his second 40-lap SK Modified win in the past four weeks and the 78th of his career,
“We had a rough start at the beginning of the year, but now we’re back in the game,” Rocco said. “I’m glad my son was here because he’s been racing go-karts this year and he lets me have it every time he beats me. So I’m glad he was here.”
Tyler Hines had the best look at Rocco when he moved into second place. But he stayed there in a rare SK race that went green to checker.
Rocco has 66 SK wins, second to Ted Christopher (109) on the all-time list.
A few seasons ago, it was an upset when Tom Fearn didn’t win the Late Model feature. He has struggled for the past two seasons, but Fearn is starting to regain his dominant form.
Fearn took the lead on lap 6 and had a comfortable lead the rest of the way for his second straight win, third of the season and 60th of his career. It was his 77th Stafford win, which ties him with Keith Rocco for third on the all-time list. That tie didn’t last for long, however, as Rocco grabbed his 78th win later in the night. Only Ted Christopher and Woody Pitkat have won more Stafford races than Fearn has.
“Once we get into the hot weather, this car seems to roll,” Fearn said. “We were able to get to the front first. That was the difference.”
Michael Bennett moved into second, but never got within striking distance.
George “Mad Pup” started the 20-lap SK Light feature in 14th position, and needed only 12 laps to get to the front.
He still had enough race car left, however, to hold off a frantic last lap charge by Nick Anglace to collect his first win of the year. He had some ammunition left and he hit the bull’s-eye.
“I don’t know what to say,” Bessette said. “I just have the best guys — former racers who know how to make the car turn left and fast.”
On the last lap, Anglace tried to do a dive-bomb move under Bessette, but came up empty.
“We had a stout piece,” Bessette said. “And we had a good line at the beginning of the race.”
After back-to-back second place finishes, everyone in Stafford’s Limited Late Model division thought that Kevin Cormier was due for a win.
Everyone, however, except Cormier.
“I didn’t expect this today,” the rookie driver said. “Not after two second-place finishes. But I came here with the intention of winning. And no one was going to stop me.”
Matt Scappini tried, but had to settle for second.
“Kevin was just too fast tonight,” Scappini said. “He got me.”
Bobby Stirk’s season has been easy to diagnose. If he can avoid mechanical problems, he’s as fast as anyone in the Street Stock field.
Stirk surged into the lead after a lap 11 restart with Marvin Minkler and led the rest of the way to pocket his fourth win of the year. Point leader Travis Hydar was second.
“We either hit or miss,” Stirk said. “If I didn’t break — or wreck — this year we would have been right there with Travis.”
Hydar, meanwhile, had a damaged right front and could not mount a serious charge against Stirk. He salvaged a second-place run, however, to increase his point lead over Bert Ouellette.
40-lap SK Modified: 1. Keith Rocco, Wallingford; 2. Tyler Hines, North Haven; 3. Troy Talman, Oxford, Mass.; 4. Todd Owen, Somers; 5. Michael Gervais Jr., Southbury; 6. Mikey Flynn, Hampden, Mass.; 7. David Arute, Tolland; 8. Anthony Flannery, East Hampton; 9. Noah Korner, Canton; 10. Jon Puleo, Branford.
30-lap Late Model: 1. Tom Fearn, East Longmeadow, Mass.; 2. Michael Bennett, Willington; 3. Darrell Keane, Enfield; 4. Kevin Gambacorta, Ellington; 5. Adam Gray, Belchertown, Mass.; 6. Andrew Molleur, Shelton; 7. Wayne Coury Jr., Fairfield; 8. Paul Varricchio Jr., Berlin; 9. Paul Arute, Tolland; 10. Michael Wray, Northford.
20-lap SK Light Modified: 1. George Bessette Jr., Danbury; 2. Nick Anglace, Ansonia; 3. Amanda West, Colchester; 4. Meghan Fuller, Auburn, Mass.; 5. Bob Charland, Stafford.
20-lap Limited Late Models: 1. Kevin Cormier, Agawam, Mass.; 2. Matt Scappini, Litchfield; 3. Devon Jencik, Canton; 4. Gary Patnode, Barkhamstead; 5. Jay Clement, Wethersfield; 6. Alexandra Fearn, East Longmeadow, Mass.; 7. Rich Hammann, Tolland; 8. Jeremy Lavoie, Windsor Locks.
20-lap Street Stock: 1. Bobby Stirk, Naugatuck; 2. Travis Hydar, Woodbury; 3. Adrien Paradis III, Plainville; 4. Travis Downey, Barkhamstead; 5. Marvin Minkler, Stamford.