2017 Year in Review: Cole Keatts
FINISH: 7th in GRC Lites points
2017 RESULTS: 12 starts, best finish 4th, 5 heat wins, 543 points
2016 RESULTS: 11 starts, best finish 5th, 51 points
THE GOOD: After a challenging rookie season as he adjusted to racing on pavement for the first time, Keatts made an immediate statement by winning the first heat of the entire season in Memphis. He would add four more heat and semifinal wins through the year, including dual victories in the second New England round that put him alongside teammate Cyril Raymond on the final grid.
By the second half of the season, Keatts was well established not only as a consistent main event presence, but also as a frequent top-five contender. He took home fourth place finishes in both Indianapolis and his home race in Seattle—incidentally, the site of his first career top-five last year. It was enough to secure seventh in this year’s championship, and within 20 points of challenging James Rimmer for sixth place.
THE BAD: Unfortunately, the start of the season wasn’t all positive for Keatts, as last place finishes in both his semifinal and the last chance qualifier ensured that he would miss the main in Memphis. He wouldn’t miss another final all season long, but a treacherous track and intense on-track battles kept him from capitalizing on his front row start in New England, as he fell to ninth.
But Atlantic City was most likely the weekend that, overall, the Idaho native would like to have back. Despite his heat win on Saturday, he again found himself in the last chance qualifier and would have to settle for 10th place in the main event. Sunday was more of the same; he wound up with last place finishes in his first two heats, and despite skirting the LCQ, he posted another 10th place finish.
IN THEIR OWN WORDS: “I’m definitely happy with the performances we’ve had. If you think about it, if you look at where we’ve had to come through, we haven’t started many races being in a position where we can win. It’s been tough, because last year we had times where we would start on pole for the main. With the field as competitive as it is, it’s been really tough to even get podiums, but we’ve still had four of them.”
2018 PROGNOSIS: Now much more comfortable in a Lites car, Keatts made drastic improvements in 2017. If he does so again next year, he could be championship-caliber.
Photo credit: Jason Zindroski