Good racers are hard to beat when things go right for them, and great racers are all but unstoppable no matter what happens, but when one of drag racing's winningest drivers does his magical thing and gets win lights handed to him in an almost nonstop procession, you get the kind of year that Dan Fletcher and car owner Rick Braun are having. For the second straight event, Fletcher, the reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Comp national champ, who began his title defense with a victory at the season-opening Kragen O'Reilly NHRA Winternationals, rode a bye run and red-lights by three of his four opponents right into the winner's circle.
COMP — 25th annual Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals, Feb. 20-22, Phoenix Fletcher wins again, extends round-win streak to 29 by Phil Burgess (Left Dan Fletcher, center, car owner Rick Braun, left, and Ricky Barnthouse scored their second straight national G ood racers are hard to beat when things go right for them, and great racers are all but unstoppable no matter what happens, but when one event win of the season and an unprecedented fourth in a row dating back to last season after Lou Ficco Jr. red- lighted in the final (above). The foul was fortunate for of drag racing’s winningest drivers does his magical Fletcher and his team because their C/EA Cobalt broke a thing and gets win lights handed to him in an almost valve spring on the run. nonstop procession, you get the kind of year that Dan Fletcher and car owner Rick Braun are having. point, and the race is going to be won at the Tree. I For the second straight event, Fletcher, the can’t explain it. I didn’t mean to stand here and say, reigning NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Comp ‘Aw shucks,’ but that’s just been the way it is. A lot national champ, who began his title defense with a of things are going our way, and I’m sure the ride is victory at the season-opening Kragen O’Reilly NHRA going to end soon and we won’t be able to hit our Winternationals, rode a bye run and red-lights by ass with a board, but for right now it’s all going three of his four opponents right into the winner’s really well.” circle. Counting his back-to-back wins at last year’s After announcing earlier this year that they would final two national events in Las Vegas and Pomona red with a .030 foul, and Fletcher’s engine broke a not travel far and wide to pursue a title defense, and the Division 7 event in Vegas, Fletcher now has valve spring. given their early success, Braun and Fletcher are an impressive 29-round winning streak to his credit. “If he turns it green, I’m done,” Fletcher now in a bit a of a quandary. “I can’t ever remember when I’ve had a run like admitted. “When I shut it off, I didn’t know he had “It’s definitely making us go, ‘Hmmmmmm …’ I this; we’ve been pretty fortunate,” said a typically red-lighted. I don’t look at the scoreboard until I hit know that it’s still not a financially wise thing to do, humble Fletcher. “But when you’ve got a .60-under high gear, and it broke before then.” but if I get another win, we’ve probably got a car and a driver who’s going to generally be .030 or Fletcher had ridden a first-round bye and then got problem,” said Fletcher. “I don’t want to start better on the Tree, it probably does exert a little two key wins against Mike DePalma Jr. and Brian forgoing better financial opportunities to go chase pressure on the guy in the other lane, but it’s still Browell in the middle frames (see The key race, points. It’s certainly a good problem to have, been crazy to watch. In any class, it’s generally not right) before facing off with Doug Lambeck in the though.” what you do, it’s what your opponent does. We have semifinals for a race that was a rematch of their a pretty good car, and I can drive a little bit on Winternationals final, but Lambeck also turned on The key race: “It was actually two of them that occasion, and we’ve always got a good chance, but the red-light. worked into one another,” said Fletcher. “I had [No. 2 when your opponents keep stubbing their toes, it “Lambeck is a good driver and was driving well, certainly helps you.” and I certainly wasn’t expecting one out of him,” The final round, against former national event added Fletcher. “We were both .50-under cars at that About the winning car winner Lou Ficco Jr., T he Chevy Cobalt that Dan Fletcher drives in Comp is was just another owned by Rick Braun and was built by Don Ness Race example of Fletchburg Cars. In its current configuration as a C/Econo Inc. living life right. Altered, the car is powered by a 315-cid small-block Ficco turned the Tree that was built by Panella Racing Engines’ Joe Wheeler and Bob Panella Jr. Additional support comes from A semifinal rematch of K&N Filters, Mickey Thompson, Jegs Mail Order, Doug Lambeck and Schnieder Performance, CP Pistons, Pro Trans, GRP Fletcher’s Rods, and Sparco. Winternationals final In addition to his wife, Donna, and children round went to Fletcher Thomas, Timothy, and Taylor, Fletcher thanked Rick again, this time on a Braun and the R&B Auto Center crew, Ricky red-light start by the Barnthouse, Bernie Cunningham, Steve Belletto, Bob two-time U.S. Nationals Elliott, Dave Bridgewater, and Arnie Martel Racing. Super Stock winner. 54 ✦ National DRAGSTER Comp Qualifying (Top 16 of 31 first-round winners) 1. Todd Patterson, Augusta, Kan. (E/A ’08 Cobalt) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.649 (-0.711) 2. Mike DePalma, Glendale, Ariz. (I/A ’98 Firebird) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.072 (-0.698) 3. Clint Neff, Arvada, Colo. (K/A ’23-T Ford). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.859 (-0.691) 4. Scott Hedlund, Anaheim, Calif. (A/SM ’09 Cobalt) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.776 (-0.634) 5. Tom Mettler, Bakersfield, Calif. (PST ’01 Dakota) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.381 (-0.629) 6. Jim Cowan, Dewey, Ariz. (I/AA ’08 Cobalt). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8.162 (-0.628) 7. John Edwards, Claremont, Calif. (C/AA ’99 Neon) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7.366 (-0.624)
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