It’s safe to say that cars are Ben Keating’s life. While most people at Sebring are familiar with Keating from his role as driver for the No. 33 Wynn’s Mercedes-AMG Team Riley Motorsports car, his day job is as principal owner of Keating Motor Group back in his home state of Texas.
Now back at one of his favorite tracks, Keating can look forward to a large group of supporters for Saturday’s race.
“Wynn’s main office, at least for the United States, is in Lakeland and they’re going to bring a big group of people over for the race,” Keating said. “I’m in the automotive business here in Texas and I’m currently building several new dealership facilities and they’re being built by a company called Auto Builders and they’re also located in Florida. I’ve got big groups of guests and sponsors and I’m excited to put on a show.”
Sebring International Raceway is a place the Mercedes-AMG has historically run well, as evidenced by Keating’s win in the 2017 12 Hours of Sebring, which helped make up for some disappointments the previous three years.
“I burned to the ground there in ‘14 and we broke an axle in ‘15 and then I believe in ‘16 was the year we were leading the race with two laps to go and blew our engine,” Keating said. “To come away with the win in 2017 was really special, not just for me personally, but it was the first win for AMG in the modern era for sportscar racing in North America and I believe it was 60 years to the day since the last time Mercedes had won a race in North America.”
Adding to the moment for Keating was that it wasn’t just any win, but a win in the most grueling sportscar race in America.
“It’s exciting any time you can win an endurance sportscar race, because they’re not easy to come by, but if you can be up front at the end of the 12 Hours of Sebring, you’ve dome something really special,” Keating said. “In terms of the abuse on a car or driver, I believe Sebring is more difficult than Daytona.”
Sebring also differs from Daytona in terms of fan enthusiasm, something Keating believes is one of the reasons why Sebring is so special.
“Every race is unique as we go around the country to different events, but I think in grades of uniqueness there is none as unique as the 12 Hours of Sebring,” Keating said. “I’ve tried to describe to my sponsors and guests the difference between the 12 Hours of Sebring and the 24 Hours At Daytona. They’re both in the same part of the world, but they are extremely different experiences. Sebring is pure craziness and that’s what makes it so much fun.”
With 2019 being IMSA’s 50th anniversary teams were requested to run retro livery if possible. The only problem was there’s no history of the Mercedes-AMG with IMSA, so Keating chose something he liked.
“I came across this awesome retro Wynn’s livery from the mid-80s and I realized that I already do a lot of business with Wynn’s at my automotive dealerships in Texas and it turns out that this is also the 80th for Wynn’s and so it was just kind of a match made in heaven,” Keating said. “I’ve been really excited to work with them.”
It turns out Keating wasn’t the only one who really liked the retro Wynn’s livery — as it became the theme for this year’s “La Bomba,” the ultimate Green Park party cruiser.
“I feel like I’d be crazy not to mention how incredible that partnership has been and also how well received our retro livery has been,” Keating said. “You can look at that purple, orange and pink car and know that’s straight out of the 1980s. It’s been well-received. It definitely screams retro and it’s been fun.”