After back-to-back NHRA National event wins to start the new season in Pomona and Phoenix, as well as a win during the Las Vegas National, Dan Fletcher's most recent accolade in North Carolina bumps his early season National event final round total to four when he put his 1969 K&N Filters Chevy Camaro into the Stock Eliminator final during the NHRA 4-Wide Nationals at z-Max Dragway.
The stray double-oh light came for Fletcher during a round where he possibly could have missed the tree and still would have been able to pull out the win.
"It was certainly less than stellar," Fletcher shared of his thoughts on the weekend. "I was racing Stock and Super Stock and unfortunately I lost in second round of Super Stock. My opponent was trip-zip against me and I had the transmission go bad on me during that run as well. So that didn't work out too good, so then I got to just focus on Stock."
"My [reaction time] numbers on the computer don't really look that good," he admitted. "I was forty a couple of times, thirty a couple of times, one stray double-oh light that kind of threw things off. The car ran pretty well and my opponents didn't do better than I did and I guess I just stumbled my way to the final."
Fletcher and his K&N E/SA Camaro first faced Merrill Schrimscher in round one and was able to use that round as more of a time run when Schrimscher took a pretty big chunk of the tree and turned it .025 red. That moved him on to face another '69 Camaro belonging to Mickey Whaley in round two. Like the round before, Fletcher's opponent turned it red and set him up for his third round pairing with Robbie Hudlow.
It wasn't a real W but kind of like a half. Really, I guess you don't do your best, but still get paid you just take it and run.
The "stray" double-oh light came for Fletcher during a round where he possibly could have missed the tree and still would have been able to pull out the win. Hudlow, who appeared to be having some sort of starting line problems after his .112 light the round before, didn't launch his 2010 Mustang until about the third shade of green during his round with Fletcher and his .165 reaction time was like leaving a barn door wide open for the multi-time World Champ to nearly effortlessly take the win light without an ounce of fear of dipping under his 11.10 dial.
The third round of Stock Eliminator competition would put a cap on the festivities for Saturday's racing action and Fletcher would have to wait from after 8PM that evening until mid-afternoon the following day before Stock was called back to the lanes to continue eliminations.
With different track and air conditions from the previous round the evening prior, Fletcher came to the line with his K&N Camaro dialed up six hundredths of a second slower as he faced Steve Szupka. While Fletcher may not have been super proud of his reaction times during this event, they were helping him win rounds and his .033 to Szupka's .042 gave him all the window he needed to play the top end game and on to the semi-finals where he would square off against the much slower entry of Rob Bihl.
During the semi-final, Fletcher was just a thousandth of a second off his previous round reaction time, but for the first time of the race, he was the one who was ever-so-slightly behind at the hit. The .006 starting line advantage did not help Bihl when it came to the stripe. Both drivers underestimated the track and air conditions and went way under their dials, but it would be K&N's Dan Fletcher having a much better grip on keeping his car closer to the number and on to his fourth NHRA National event final of the season.
Fletcher faced Joe Lisa, in what was only his third NHRA national final. Fletcher with seventy-six wins, twenty-one in Stock Eliminator alone and Lisa looking for his first. Fletcher gave it a valiant effort only to miss his dial and breakout by a measly one thousandth, handing Lisa his first win.
"It wasn't one of my better outings, but we still got a paycheck," noted Fletcher of his Stock Eliminator runner-up. "I guess like in any sport, you don't play your best game and still leave with kind of a 'W,' it wasn't a real 'W' but kind of like a half. Really, I guess you don't do your best, but still get paid you just take it and run."
When the 2012 season started, the plan from the Fletcher camp was to not chase NHRA Championship points, but to just race and let the chips fall where they may. Now that he has two early season wins in Comp Eliminator, he's rethinking his season. "Since we have started off so well with the Comp car, looks like we might get roped into chasing points a little bit in that class. So I guess that makes me a big fat liar," he laughed. "But I swore up and down, that as crushed and worn out and devastated as I was last year, this year I was going to go to my twenty national events, but I was not going to get hooked going to points meets. So, I guess I'll see everyone at Norwalk next month for the divisional."
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