Going Green: Rich Keator To Flag First NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Event Sunday

Rich Keator (left) hands Austin Hill the checkered flag Saturday at Michigan International Speedway after Hill won the Gander Outdoors Truck Series Corrigan Oil 200 (Photo: Matt Sullivan/Getty Images)

It was a dream born in the grandstands of the former Riverside Park Speedway in Agawam, Mass. for Terryville native Rich Keator. 

As a child Keator would go to the races with his late father and use a checkered flag to imitate the movements of the flaggers at the track.

At home he had his own full set of flags he made, where he would replay the events he just attended playing the role of the flagger. 

Someday making his way to the flag stand was the dream of childhood, the dream he achieved locally when he started on the flag stand in 2008 at the New London-Waterford Speedbowl. 

“I don’t remember how it exactly started, there’s kids that grew up wanting to race, but I grew up wanting to be a flagman,” Keator told RaceDayCT in 2013. “It’s kind of a weird thing I guess.”

Keator eventually ended up working the flag stand at Stafford Motor Speedway and Thompson Speedway and also with the Valenti Modified Racing Series. 

Sunday though, the dream hits a real life pinnacle for the 32-year old. 

Keator will step to the starter’s stand as a flagger at the absolute top of stock car racing’s mountain with the NASCAR Monster Energy Cup Series in Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway. 

Keator landed a full-time position as an official with NASCAR’s three national divisions – the Monster Energy Cup Series, the Xfinity Series and the Gander Outdoors Truck Series – in 2018. He had no thoughts that his position would lead him back to the flag stand. 

“I just kind of took at as the next step in a career,” Keator told RaceDayCT Saturday. “I never thought it would be where it is now.” 

He began working practice sessions on the flag stand for national division events in early May of this year. 

On July 27 in the Gander Outdoors Truck Series event at Pocono Speedway he flagged his first national series event. He did his second event for the series Sunday at Michigan, and found out earlier this week he would be placed into the regular rotation for Monster Energy Cup Series events. 

“To be here doing this, I think it’s a dream for anyone, any little kid with a set of flags like that in the grandstands,” Keator said. “I think it’s anyone’s ultimate goal at that age.” 

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  1. Josh paradis says

    Congrads Rich. Over all the time ive known you your passion for racing is so deep you deserve this opportunity .

  2. That’s awesome!!! Congrats Rich!!!

  3. Bill Roberts says

    Can I say I knew him when? Congratulations Rich. you sret sights on a gaol and made it happen.

  4. Bill Sweet says

    Congratulations Rich…Great to see a local guy realize his dream through hard work and dedication.All the best to you,truly earned and deserved!! ( gotta say I wish you were still on the flagstand at the Bowl)

  5. Tommy silva says

    That is very cool. Congratulations to rich and best of luck.

  6. Sharpie Fan says

    Congrats Keator! That is so awesome! You’ve earned this. All,of your friends are proud of you.

  7. Stuart Fearn says

    Congratulations Keator, I’m so happy for you having made it to the top by sticking to your dream and being dedicated to your craft. Your father is looking down very proud of you right now.

  8. Craig Merriman says

    I’m just floored by all of this and so incredibly happy for you Rich! All your hard work and dedication paid off, it’s only the beginning my friend.

  9. Mar Ferrara says

    Congratulations Rich! Your consistency, dedication, and moral character have brought you here. The Ferraras (Drew’s grandparents)

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