This is part two of a feature on Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Ass’n kingpin Keith Rauch from the November issue of Sprint Car & Midget Magazine. To read part one, click here.
It took three full seasons, but in 1993, Keith Rauch used Steve Peachey’s V4-powered car to claim his first Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Ass’n championship.
Over the years, Rauch has raced for a number of owners, including Mike Merrick, Greg Schaffer, Andy Bondio, Harry Conklin, John Lawson, Duane Esslinger, Joe Dooling, and his cousin Todd Henry. However, he has teamed with owner Frank Peterson the most.
Peterson, who earned a Master’s degree at Denver University, eventually became the president, and CEO of Arapahoe Bank and Trust Company. While banking may have been his vocation, he was captivated by racing before he reached puberty.
In 1953, Frank purchased a Ford V8-60 powered car and began his long tenure as an owner, mechanic and engine builder. He would form a partnership with former Indy 500 participant Johnny Mauro and the pair deemed their new enterprise Petauro Racing Ltd.
Rauch’s association with Peterson dates back to 1991, when he was slated to race Frank’s car at Beacon Hill Raceway in Pueblo, Colo.
Signing in at the tight, paved oval, Rauch recalled that “Frank had an old Ellis car with a Cosworth engine. When we got to the race track, he had older guys helping him and they thought I was about 12 years old. They told Frank that there was no way I was going to race his car, that I was too young. But I went out and won the feature that night.
“From there we went our separate ways.”
Rauch would put together another title year in 2000 and was the Rocky Mountain National Speedway champion in 1998 and 1999. It wasn’t until 2008 that his relationship with Peterson was rekindled. Great things lay in store.
One key element in the team’s success is crew chief Mark Matejka. Ironically, Matejka worked with Randy Roberts for years and is one of the most decorated mechanics in the history of RMMRA.
Mark also works at the heating and cooling business that Roberts owns and, in fact, the car is kept at the business.
“When Frank came back to racing in 2008 we put this deal together with Mark, and he really thought he might run a year or so,” Rauch said with a laugh. “But we have been together ever since. Frank can’t drive at night, so we pick him up and take him back home after the races.”
Keith grabbed his third RMMRA title in 2009, driving for Peterson and Todd Henry, but Chris Sheil and Tony Rossi were able to top the chart the next two seasons.
From that point forward, Rauch and Peterson proved to be too stout for the field.
Hall of Famer Mike Gregg had previously set the standard by winning six RMMRA titles in a row between 1977 and 1982, while Randy Roberts’ mark of 10 series titles looked unassailable at the time of his retirement.
Beginning a run that started in 2012 – when Keith claimed his fourth overall title – through the end of 2018 campaign, he had notched seven crowns in a row and his 10th in series history. And he’s not done either.
As the 2019 season came to its conclusion, Rauch again rested atop the standings, and his 86 RMMRA wins tied the all-time record held by Roberts.
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