THOMPSON — Keith Rocco took over first place in the ultra-tight Sunoco Modified point standings at Thompson International Speedway by taking the checkered flag in Thursday night’s penultimate race of the season.
Rocco’s victory was his fifth in nine Thompson Modified starts. The Wallingford native earned it by taking the lead on lap 17 of the 30-lap race, then holding off some of his top challengers in the standings, including Kerry Malone and Ryan Preece.
With one race left to go at Thompson -- and that comes next Thursday -- the overall chase for the track’s Modified title is tighter than it’s ever been heading into a final event. Six drivers, led by Rocco, are within 50 points of one another, which means any of the six could potentially take the crown.
Rocco leads by just two points over Malone and Woody Pitkat. Todd Ceravolo is 24 points off the pace. Preece, of Berlin, the defending champion, is 26 back. Dennis Perry, last year’s Rookie of the Year at Thompson, is 36 back.
Rocco, the 2010 national short track champion, won titles at Thompson in 2007 and 2009. He’s also leading the SK Modified pack at the Waterford Speedbowl.