by Joe Moore
Taylor Fletcher drove car 21 in Freedom Futaba 100. It was the culmination of a dream. He had wanted to do this ever since he was a young boy of 10, riding his go-cart around the neighborhood. Now he was here – Indianapolis. Home of the most well known automotive race in the world, and he was driving. All in less than ten years since he began his racing career.
Taylor Fletcher was driving car number 21 in the Freedom Futaba 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. This was the warm-up race the week prior to the ‘Indy 500’ on Memorial Day weekend.
Fletcher stated, “This is an awesome opportunity to race on the most famous race track in the world.”
The saga began with Formula Fords and moved to Formula Dodges. Fletcher achieved a second place overall in 1998 in the National Auto Sports Association as well as the SCCA National Formula Atlantic Division. In 1999, he compiled enough “points” to be the top driver for the Southern Pacific Regional Championship.
Two things happened next for Fletcher, he went global and he went faster. He started racing Indy cars and added Argentina and other Latin America countries to his U.S. tours. He finished third in the USAC Russell Triple Crown in 2001. By continuing to run national and pro formula car races in 2000 and 2001, Fletcher achieved numerous podium (in the money) finishes. As of January 2003, he had raced in every Pro Formula Mazda Oval race with at least one successful podium finish to his credit. He also attained track records at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Willow Springs Raceway, and Buttonwillow raceway.
On May 1st Fletcher qualified for the Freedom 100 after successfully completing a test on the track on April 23rd. The Team Spokesman remarked, “This was a significant step for the team to kick off our relationship at the Speedway and implement our goal of running the balance of the season in the Indy Racing League, IPS series. This race will further enable the team to seek additional sponsorship to supplement our current program, as well as facilitate the promotion of our charity sponsors, World Vision and Olive Crest Foundation. We are excited to be able to look forward with optimism from our successful test at Indy last month.”
Even in this circuit, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway presents many unique challenges for a race team. The track is 2.5 miles in length and is the longest track of the series races. It is basically a rectangle with rounded corners and has very little banking, making it difficult to drive. This requires that the mechanical set up on the car be perfect in every detail. It also allows for very little driver error, as the driver must hit his “marks” at every corner without fail.
The Menards Infiniti Pro Series follows the Indy Racing League to America’s premier oval tracks. Powered by a Q45, 450 horsepower engine with a six speed sequential gearbox, the Dallara built chassis can average speeds in excess of 190 MPH on a 1.5-mile super speedway and reach speeds over 200 MPH on the two-mile super speedways like Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Michigan International Raceway, and California Speedway.
“We were fortunate to assemble a great group of individuals to enable this opportunity to come together in a very short period of time. We expect to have a competitive showing in our first outing working together as a team.” - Taylor Fletcher
Prior to the race Fletcher declared, “We were fortunate to assemble a great group of individuals to enable this opportunity to come together in a very short period of time. We expect to have a competitive showing in our first outing working together as a team.”
They did just that. In his first major race Fletcher got off to a slow start but got as high as tenth place before finishing twelfth. This was a great achievement for a new driver to this track and a new team.
Afterward Fletcher said, “We struggled a little bit in qualifying and during our test sessions as we worked through the normal gremlins that seem to attack a new team. However, we were able to overcome these problems, and end the weekend with a solid finish in the race. During the event, I had a strong push in the car, which caused us some early difficulties combined with the strong wind conditions in turn 3. Throughout the race we were able make some cockpit chassis adjustments to the set-up which allowed us to get the car dialed in as the race progressed. Early in the race we were hitting speeds of approximately 200 MPH in the straights but we were forced to over slow the car in turn 3 to keep it off the wall. This improved significantly as the race evolved. The team did a fantastic job of putting a good car under me without a lot of track time prior to the race.”
On July 4th Fletcher, supported by his team, raced the Aventis Racing for Kids in Kansas City, a race with meaning for Fletcher as he supports the Olive Crest Homes and the Orangewood Foundation. Both charities support and assist with services for abused children. b