STORY AND PHOTOS BY KEN BECK
DYLAN FETCHO – By the numbers
Weight: 140 pounds
School: A freshman at Wilson Central High School
Favorite Food: Pizza
Beverage: Monster Energy
Restaurant: Logan’s Roadhouse
TV show: Hardcore Pawn
Sport to watch on TV: NASCAR Pro racing driver: Jeff Gordon
School subject: Science
Hobby: Playing football
Pets: Turtle Nerdle, dogs Axle and Precious
YOUNG RACER WHIPS MEN TWICE HIS AGE
14 and going on 75 (miles per hour)
Like most young teens, Dylan Fetcho can’t wait to get his driver’s license when he notches his 16th birthday. In the meantime the freshly-turned 14-year-old sates his thirst for burning rubber by zooming around a track at 75 miles per hour as he outruns racecar drivers 10 to 15 years his senior.
Fetcho competes in the Legends Car Class two Saturday nights a month on the asphalt at the Highland Rim Speedway in Ridgetop near Greenbrier, Tenn. He currently stands second in this season’s points total. Most of the drivers he goes against are 20-something or older. The youngster entered his first race at the Wilson County Fair three weeks after he turned 4.
“My parents got me a go-cart, and I just went with it,” said Dylan, a boy of few words. “I’m sure it was Dad’s idea. It was a lot of fun. For Christmas when I was 5 I got a real race car, a quarter-midget [onefourth scale].
”The Wilson Central High School freshman still competes in quartermidget races in Hermitage at Music City Raceway. He has won close to 200 races and 10 championships and was a Heavy 160 USAC National Award Series winner in 2011.
Still an amateur, his status could change when he gets into the pro-late-model class in 2015. He will start practicing in a car that boasts a 604 Chevy crate motor later this year.
For now, he thrives on running up to 75 miles per hour in his halfscale Legends car with its 1300-cc Yamaha engine. Most of his races are 20 laps, as he circumnavigates the quarter-of-a-mile oval in about 14 seconds a lap.
“I won my second race ever in Legends last year and I was 12. There were 10 cars,” Dylan shared. He knows the older drivers chat about him behind his back, whispering about being beaten by a youth who has nary a chin whisker.
The feeling he gets from whipping the “old” guys. “It’s crazy,” he grins. Most of his school pals are aware that he races, but, “They don’t really care about it. They don’t really understand. They think I just drive in circles,” the speedster said.
At least one of his peers comprehends. Hunter Wright, 13, an eighth-grader at West Wilson Middle School, raced in quarter midgets against Dylan for five years.
“He’s a great driver because of his mindset, the way he does things,” Wright said. “Me and him had some really good races.”
“He has just been around it ever since he was born,” says Dylan’s father, Scott, who has been racing cars since his 20s and worked several years as car chief for Craftsman Trucks on the NASCAR circuit.
“Dylan was first among his quarter-midget peers to take the plunge. There’s a big difference,” Scott said of the transition to halfscale. “Just when I think it’s too much for him and I’ve pushed him too hard, he proves me otherwise.
“In the Legends series, the closest driver in age to him is 18 or 19. He’s definitely ahead of the curve.”
Dylan’s ultimate dream would be to race in NASCAR, but this fall he simply aims to get a good top three finish in the points standings.
At Highland Rim he runs eightlap heats which determine where he will begin the 20-lap event. Occasionally there may be a 40-lap event with 15 cars sprinting around the track.
What does it take to be a decent racecar driver?
“To not be really scared and try your best,” said Dylan, who admits there are times when fear enters his mind. “If you spin out, and there’s cars coming at you, it’s scary.”
He reports that he has never had any serious injuries but has had accidents in thequarter-midget races where speeds can reach into the 50s. “I’ve flipped a lot,” he said. “We have a lot of safety gear.”
Emphasizing that “reflexes are big,” he also says, “You just try to catch the car in front of you if there is one. If they make a mistake, you have to attack.”
Typical Saturday mornings, see Dylan and his father heading for Music City Raceway, where Dylan will run two quarter-midget events. Then they go to Highland Rim, where Scott serves as his son’s coach and pit crew and occasionally races in the late-model events.
Dylan’s mother Tana shows up for the races but not as a spectator.
“I can’t be up in the stands. I’m always in the infield videotaping so we can go home and watch it and see if he made any mistakes,” said Tana Fetcho, who notes she’s generally not anxious about her young teenager flying around the track.
“I guess it depends on where we’re at. If it’s a new place, I get worried a little, but I’m more nervous about the other drivers. The big car—that one kinda makes me nervous, but it’ll grow on me, I guess. I think he’ll be OK here at this little track. I don’t even want to think about Nashville,” she said of the larger track.
As for his skill level behind the wheel, she says, “I believe he was born with something. From when he got his first midget from Santa, that’s all he wanted to do. He’s had to give up all the ball sports, but he’d rather race than play ball. He wants to do it so badly.”
Tana said that she and her husband are behind their son’s choice of a sport for “as far as he can take it. I don’t have any limit. Whatever comes his way.”
An hour or so before his 7 p.m. event, Dylan typically fuels up on a Frito chili pie. His Legends car runs on regular gasoline.
He said that he enjoys “everything” about racing. “We make a lot of friends. I just like hanging out with everyone. All of it’s fun.”
Indeed, friends enter the picture, and in Dylan’s case that would be Scott Borchetta, founder and president of Nashville’s Big Machine record label, home to artists Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw, Rascal Flatts, Florida Georgia Line and Reba McEntire.
The two Scotts have been pals for years, bonded by their mutual passion for racing. Borchetta and his record label have committed to sponsor Dylan through the end of the 2015 racing season.
(Scott Fetcho, by the way, who operates Fetcho’s Precision Auto Body with his brother TJ, and their crew created an eye-popping hot pink pickup truck that Borchetta presented to singer Swift a couple of years back.)
“There are three factors to success in this sport: the driver, money and the equipment,” said Dylan’s dad. “Sponsorship really dictates everything. The Legends series expenses can eat up to 10 grand a year not counting the car.”
There are other friends helping pave the way as well. John Impellizeri furnishes Dylan’s midget-car. Ken Joyce of Mt. Juliet built the Legends car engine and does the set up on it, and Billy Sisco keeps the big car maintained.
In the meantime, while he bides his time to compete at the next level, Dylan has been working for his father at the body shop over the summer. He washes cars, dumps the trash and performs other odd jobs.
The money he earns he is saving to buy his own car, not for racing but for normal driving around. And he is counting the months to the date when he gains that precious piece of paper that documents a rite of passage: possessing his driver’s license.
“I can’t wait,” confesses Dylan, who remains a pretty typical youngster, even though he has spent countless hours breaking the speed limit—legally, of course.
14 and going on 75 (miles per hour)