(Stafford Springs, CT)—Stafford Motor Speedway’s 2015 Rookie of the Year program will award $7,000 for its five NASCAR Whelen All-American Series divisions. New in 2015 was the addition of $1,600 for the Rookie of the Year Runner Up bonus bringing the total rookie awards to $8,600. The Runner Up bonus is provided by Magnus Racing Products and is distributed among the 5 divisions. Taking home the Rookie of the Year Runner Up honors and a $200 bonus in the DARE Stock division this year was Marcello Rufrano, driver of the #48 Wheeler’s Auto Chevrolet.
Rufrano came to Stafford’s DARE Stock ranks from the Wild Thing Karts, which race on Monday nights at Stafford. He showed that he was a quick study behind the wheel as he posted 10 top-8 finishes in his first 12 starts, which culminated with his first win on July 17.
“I was really excited about the challenge,” said Rufrano. “I was always really pumped up and I always wanted to race in the division, it was like a dream almost. At the beginning of the year, my goal was to get consistent finishes in the top-10 or the top-5. Once we got our first win, I was ecstatic and then we were up front almost every week after that, which felt even better.”
Rufrano credits being able to work with Keith Rocco, who has 51 career feature wins at Stafford to go along with 2 SK Modified® track championships, as a big reason why he was able to enjoy the fruits of victory so early in his Stafford career.
“I felt pretty confident, especially having mentors like Keith Rocco and my father,” said Rufrano. “The first win was a bit surprising but the second win came almost like it was natural. If I’m having trouble on the track with something like my entry into turn 1 or how to get off turn 4, I can ask Keith and he’s one of the big guns at Stafford, so that’s a big advantage for me. Almost every problem I had this year was solved by him.”
Along with his 2 wins Rufrano had a few races where he got caught up in a wreck, but he says the mistakes that he made only helped to make him a better driver as the season went on.
“I was ecstatic about the season,” said Rufrano. “With the amount of good finishes that we had and the couple of wins, it was almost perfect, I couldn’t have dreamed it or thought it out any better than it was. We had some wrecks here and there but those mistakes helped to bring us up to where we are. I would say getting used to the size of the car and the line I had to run was the biggest challenge I had this year. Things like working the throttle, having to change gears, having more horsepower, those things were almost coming natural to me by the end of the year. I think I really improved on being wiser with the moves I made on the track. Some races where I thought we were going to win, I made a mistake and didn’t win and there were some races where I could have finished on the podium and wrecked, so I really learned patience. I have to thank my father and Wheeler’s Auto the most, he really put a lot into this car this year. Also Keith Rocco for all of his help with the car and the #88 SK Modified® crew, CJ, Earl, Mickey, and Mr. Rooter, and Magnus Racing Products for this bonus.”
After finishing 8th in the points standings with 2 wins this season, Rufrano has his eyes set on the grand prize in 2016 and he also sees some open wheel racing in his future.
“The championship is definitely our thought for 2016, but there’s a lot of strong competitors in the division,” said Rufrano. “Drivers like Trace Beyer, Tyler Trott, and Alexandra Fearn, those are some tough drivers and we’ll just have to gain some more experience and try and mature a little more as we go through the 2016 season. We have a modified car that Keith [Rocco] used to drive and maybe I’ll move up to the SK Lights in 2017, but we’re going to try to compete for some wins and the championship in the DARE Stock division next year.”
For being the Rookie of the Year runner up, Rufrano will receive a $200 bonus from Magnus Racing Products that will be paid out in the 2016 season at Stafford Motor Speedway.
For more information, contact the Stafford Motor Speedway track office at 860-684-2783 or visit us on the web at www.staffordspeedway.com.