LEESBURG, VA. - Johnny Rocca loves publicity, but when it centers on bringing someone else in to tune his "Ironhorse" 1951 Mercury, he draws the line. In a report published on an Internet e-zine, Rocca was rumored to have well-known tuner Tom...
LEESBURG, VA. - Johnny Rocca loves publicity, but when it centers on bringing someone else in to tune his "Ironhorse" 1951 Mercury, he draws the line. In a report published on an Internet e-zine, Rocca was rumored to have well-known tuner Tom Anderson in line to tune his machine. While he wishes to take nothing away from Anderson's talents, which are impressive, he contends that his forte' has been in tuning and serving as crewchief of his own cars. He doesn't plan on retiring any time soon.
Rocca knows that there's no such thing as bad publicity, just no publicity. However, he feels compelled to answer these unfounded rumors.
"I'm not the driver anymore, but tuning is still my arena," explained Rocca. "The last time I checked, we can still run with the best of them, so I wouldn't see any need to step aside. I guess these things happen when you get to the top, then the rumors start. The real deal is that Johnny Rocca is here to stay and I'm not going away without a fight. Since I own the team, I think the fight would be one-sided."
Former Pro Funny Car driver Paul Athey will pilot Rocca's new Cannon & Pittman Race Cars-built Mercury in 2001. Athey has fared impressively in pre-season testing, with Rocca slowly but surely turning up the wick as he gets used to the ride more and more. Rocca refuses to release the testing results because he wants no distractions for his driver, but warns the competition that his newest hired gun will more than be up for the challenge in 2001.
"Paul is a natural," explained Rocca. "He hopped in to that ole race car did his burnouts like he had been doing it all his life. When I turned him loose, he stuck that thing in second, shifted to third and then took a bite out of his Ham sandwich. He dropped the chutes and let out a war hoop that still has my ears ringing. That Indian can ride a horse."
The pre-season testing will continue as Athey and Rocca will be Virginia Motorsports Park for the first annual CompetitionPlus.com Spring Open presented by Lizzard Racing Engines, March 8 -11.