It took Brent Fletcher five years to return to a stock car track.
His older brother, Allen, suffered a head injury during a crash in a Pro Stock race at Unity Raceway on Sept. 28, 2002, and died three days later.
Brent Fletcher was his older brother’s crew chief and the they worked together building stock cars and racing. They began in the early 1990s.
“He was my best friend. We did everything together. We never went to a racetrack without each other,” said Fletcher. “It was hard, real hard.”
Being around a track brought back memories for Fletcher.
When he eventually returned to the track, “it took me a while to walk through the gate.”
Slowly, he began getting the itch to return to the sport he shared with his brother, who was seven years older than he.
Fletcher and two of their closest friends, Wally Gibbons and Frank Oakes, were “laughing and having a good time” reminiscing about their racing days and that helped fuel his desire to return. He realized he missed the people involved in the sport as well as the sport itself.
One day he told Gibbons and Oakes, who also worked on the Fletcher brothers’ race cars, he was going to get back into racing.
“My goal was to win a race to honor my brother,” said Fletcher whose father, the late Danny Fletcher, was also a stock car racer.
“It’s like a family tradition: build race cars and race them,” said Fletcher.
He finally returned to the track as a spectator in 2007 and then, a year later, climbed inside a Ford Mustang he had bought from Mike Hopkins.
It was the first time he had driven a race car.
That first race was difficult.
“It was emotional. I always had [Allen] in my mind,” said Fletcher, who didn’t win a race last season.
“We had real bad luck, nothing went our way,” explained Fletcher.
But that all changed three weeks ago.
Fletcher, running in the Sport-Four division, won his first race May 31 and followed that up with another victory a week later.
He admits it is hard to describe his feeling after he took the checkered flag for the first time.
“It was real emotional. It was pretty cool,” said the 38-year-old Fletcher, who finds himself second in the points behind Hampden’s David Green.
But Fletcher doesn’t have any specific aspirations.
“I don’t have any goals like winning a points championship or anything like that. I just want to have a good time. And I’m having a ball,” said Fletcher, who doesn’t dismiss running for a points title, either.
“If it does end up that we do wind up running for points a little later, hopefully we’ll do all right,” said Fletcher who, with wife to wife, is the father of two children (Shayne and Tiannah).
The maintenance technician at Time Warner Cable said working with his late brother has really helped him in his transition from crew chief to driver and he credits Gibbons and Oakes for playing important roles in his success.
“You couldn’t ask for two guys more dedicated than them. It’s a great team,” said Fletcher, who is originally from Mars Hill before the family moved to Veazie.
He has surprised himself with his success saying, “I never thought I’d be as good as my brother and father and I never expect to be. But things are going pretty well.”
Fletcher will return to Speedway 95 when racing resumes Saturday night.
There will be a prerace ceremony to honor Addison’s Ikey Dorr, who died of an apparent heart attack June 6 while racing at Speedway 95.
Busy weekend for PASS
For the first time in Pro All-Stars Series history, one driver leads both the PASS Super Late Model North and SLM South tours in points.
Turner’s Ben Rowe has a 26-point lead over Ryan Blaney in the PASS South tour and a two-point lead over Adam Bates in the PASS North tour.
And each series is racing this weekend 1341 miles apart.
The Dixie 150 PASS South race will be held at New Senoia Speedway in Senoia, Ga. on Saturday night at 7:30 and the PASS North race, the NAPA 150, will be held Sunday afternoon at 3:00 at Unity Raceway.
The PASS Mods will have a pair of 75-lap races this weekend: Friday night at Lee USA Speedway (N.H.) and Sunday afternoon at Unity Raceway.
There will also be a 40-lap PASS Sportsman race at Unity on Sunday afternoon.