Ask our Experts, we're here to help!
As if scripted by a Hollywood writer, Tom Fletcher’s 1969 Camaro was destined for greatness. Purchased at Taylor Chevrolet in Rochester, New York the 302 and 4-speed-equipped Z/28 packed a dealer-installed cross-ram intake, deep rear gears and was essentially expected to be a drag racer from the start. Tom rowed the gears locally with great success, at times winning twice a week at Spencer Speedway in Williamson, New York and at Kings Dragway in nearby Syracuse. Now, 52 years later, the Chevy is in the hands of Tom’s son Dan and it’s still racking up wins. In fact, this 1969 Z/28 Camaro has more drag racing wins then any other on the planet!
“My dad bought the car new, drove it home and those were the only street miles, ever,” Dan told us. “He was really successful, winning often and he raced it with the 302 for a long time. Eventually, the original 302 was swapped out and replaced by a 350 for bracket racing. There were a few different small-blocks, a 396 big-block and an NHRA Super Stock Modified small-block in there over time,” said Dan. The Fletcher Camaro has stayed with the times...today the Z/28 is motivated by a fuel-injected Super Stock-legal LS 350, same as you’d find in a 2013-2014 COPO Camaro.
The 350 COPO-spec LS engine is fed a steady diet of VP Racing fuel via Holley rails, and has propelled the Camaro to a best of 9.60 at 137 miles per hour in the quarter-mile.
Tom raced the Z/28, known as “Checkmate”, through the 1970s and into the ’80s with Dan getting to drive from time to time. Wanting to race regularly, Dan bought his own ’69 Camaro and began improving the performance. “I won my first drag race in my ’69 Camaro, which I bought at 15 years old,” Dan said. “Then, around 1984 I started driving my dad’s Z/28 and I never got out.”
The father-and-son duo would race locally and travel to big-money events, too. Dan gained momentum as a driver, winning a fair share of races. He even scored a Runner-up at the Moroso 5-day in 1986, arguably the biggest bracket race of the era.
“We did a lot of the traveling bracket racing back then and I was good on the bottom bulb,” said Dan. “Top bulb [delay box] racing was taking over, so in the late ’80’s or early 1990s we looked at moving to Super Stock, which was classically bottom bulb racing. We bought a used Super Stock ‘legal’ 350 motor and a transmission for like $3,500 and went racing,” he said.
Dan took a runner-up finish at his very first NHRA national event, the Le Grandnationals Molson at Sanair Super Speedway in Quebec, Canada in 1991. Sadly, Tom passed away a year before Dan won his first Super Stock crown in Columbus, Ohio in 1994.
You don't score 100-plus NHRA wins by accident. Dan is a perfectionist, who has mastered the art of Super Stock drag racing.
But winning one NHRA national was just the start. Dan refined his craft, mixing driving talent with the performance required to be consistent and competed heads-up when those match-ups arose. Soon, Dan Fletcher was a household name in NHRA circles and the win count climbed.
By 1997 he was competing across the country on the NHRA circuit, and in unprecedented fashion, he quit his full-time job at Xerox to take on the role of a traveling sportsman racer. With no financial safety net, the pressure to succeed was immense. Winning a national event paid well, upwards of $15,000, and a Runner-Up finish was okay but a loss in the semis or earlier meant a financial loss. And while sportsman racing is a hobby for most, for Dan, it became his means for paying bills and putting food on the table.
Hard work and a complete dedication to winning has paid big dividends for Dan. Since 1994, he’s hoisted a NHRA Wally trophy over 100 times at national events alone, a feat only accomplished by John Force and Alcohol Funny Car standout Frank Manzo. And along with the wins, he has four NHRA world championships to his name.
A Holley HP EFI controls fuel and ignition mapping.
The majority of Dan’s victories have come in the Super Stock Camaro, but the versatile driver has also won national events in Competition Eliminator, Super Comp, Super Gas, Super Stock, Stock and Super Street. His own ’69 Camaro is still used for competition in Stock Eliminator. Most recently, he’s added a Holley-equipped 7.30-second Top Dragster to the mix, so we anticipate more wins will be coming.
Dan is also very much a family man. In addition to his grueling coast-to-coast schedule, Dan and wife Donna have raised three kids, Thomas, Timothy and daughter Taylor, who all participate in drag racing. The boys have both won at the national level and Taylor plans to start this season.
Despite the challenges of life, Dan has amassed 104 NHRA National Event wins along with dozens of divisional and bracket racing victories. Racing all the time requires many things, including fast cars. Fletcher’s stable is filled with the aforementioned ’69 Camaros, a Super Comp/Top Dragster, a Holley-fed 434-cube 1969 Chevelle Wagon and a 1969 Nova with a Holley-equipped 434 small-block.
“One key to winning is having a consistent car with predictable performance,” said Dan. “It’s all about getting the tune-up right. I had a newer COPO Camaro with the LS and really liked it, so we decided to update my dad’s car with the most popular and newest technology. It’s something this car deserved,” Dan added. “I was fortunate to get advice and help from Holley’s Robin Lawrence. He has a lot of knowledge and was willing to help our LS project. I had experience with the COPO engine and a base program to work off. Holley made a plug-and-play harness, so we got off to a good start with the HP ECU and the tuning. I also run MSD ignition wires, a Holley Hi-Ram intake with a COPO throttle body and a Hurst Line Lock. Initially we couldn’t get the Holley Hi-Ram to fit under the required stock hood, but we figured it out and that was instrumental in making the Camaro run well.
“We were running the 350 carbureted engine that’s rated at 255 horsepower in SS/HA with a Powerglide. That combination ran 10.00 at 129 mph. Now, with the LS it goes 9.60 at 139 mph, but it needs more gear. A three speed would really wake that up, too and we’re going to try one soon.”