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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Mitch Keeter isn’t the type of person who likes to draw a lot attention to himself.
He’ll be the first to admit he’s not a “suit and tie kind of guy” and he also isn’t the biggest fan of standing up in front of a crowd and giving a speech.
Instead, the 29-year-old native of Webb City, Missouri, prefers to let his results on the race track do all the talking for him. This year, his results spoke volumes.
Keeter won not one, not two and not even three NASCAR championships. In fact he won four NASCAR championships and was also named the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Division I Josten's Rookie of the Year.
“My year started on March 10 and I’ve been hitting it hard ever since,” Keeter said. “I’ve raced I believe 54 times. I ended up with 18 wins.”
Of those 18 wins, 15 of them came in NASCAR-sanctioned competition at Humboldt Speedway in Kansas and Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma. He claimed Division I track championships in the modified divisions at Humboldt and Salina, scoring 29 top-five and 33 top-10 finishes in 36 starts between the two tracks.
At Humboldt Keeter was dominant, winning 12 times and collecting 19 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes in 20 starts. He easily claimed the track championship by 264 points over Cody Schniepp.
While his performance at Salina wasn’t quite as impressive, it was still more than enough to claim a track championship. He scored three victories, 10 top-five and 13 top-10 finishes in 16 starts to capture the track championship by 106 points over veteran Al Purkey.
Those numbers also added up to two NASCAR state championships in Kansas and Oklahoma, giving Keeter four NASCAR championships in his first season competing in Division I of the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series. In Kansas he won the state championship by 136 points over Tad Davis. In Oklahoma it was much tighter, with Keeter edging Purkey by just 16 points for the state title.
U.S. state and province champions are determined by the best 18 finishes at tracks within the respective state or province.
“Previously to this the most I’d won was 14 and that was just at a couple of local tracks that we raced at every weekend,” said Keeter, whose car carried sponsorship from Yeoman Racing Engines and Mitchell's Mobil 1 Lube Express, among others. “This (year) we traveled around every chance we got and chased the NASCAR deal. I really didn’t ever think it would turn out this well.”
Despite that success, Keeter has been racing with a heavy heart. Ed Potts, who served as both a friend and a mentor to Keeter for more than a decade, died on March 27. It was a huge blow to Keeter, who was celebrating both his birthday and a victory at Humboldt the same day Potts passed.
To honor Potts, Keeter changed the car number on his car from his normal No. 52 to the No. 1, the same number Potts used when he raced. Keeter wanted to honor his friend and he could think of no better way to do that then putting his car number in victory lane.
“I just had a different mindset this year,” Keeter said. “I held the bar real high because I knew I wasn’t going to have his help. I had his number on the car and I just felt like I had to get going. It’s definitely how I wanted the year to work out. I actually had several more chances to do even better, but I got our car off a little bit in the summer time and got it back in the fall.
“You can’t ask for much better really.”
Keeter, who got started racing dirt bikes before transitioning to stock car racing when he was 13, said his experience this year with NASCAR has exceeded all of his expectations.
“We were just tired of racing with all the same guys in our local area, that’s really why we chased it (NASCAR points),” Keeter said. “There are a lot of better things about it. Our track banquets were legit. The lighting around the race tracks, everything was just a bit more professional I think.
“I’ll probably hit the NASCAR deal hard again,” Keeter said about his 2018 plans. “There isn’t anything better around here and it was our first year doing it and we ended up winning the thing.”
Keeter’s focus will now shift to the annual NASCAR HomeTracks Awards, which will take place in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Dec. 8 at the Charlotte Convention Center at the NASCAR Hall of Fame. It’ll be his first trip to Charlotte and while he has no idea what to expect, Keeter is looking forward to the experience.
“I’m not a suit and tie kind of guy,” Keeter said with a light laugh. “I am looking forward to going to Charlotte and experiencing something new. I don’t know how it’s going to work out. I’ve never been to one, I’ve never even watched one. I guess the best way to do it is go be a part of it, right?”
Mitch Keeter rolled up 15 wins on the dirt at Humboldt Speedway in Kansas and Salina Highbanks Speedway in Oklahoma and is the 2017 NASCAR Whelen All-American Series Josten's Rookie of the Year. Spirit Eyes Studio