The $10K Drag Shootout Final 10: Rick Fletes And Farm Town Racing

The Horsepower Wars $10K Shootout is a competition where teams square off to see who can build the fastest drag car in 10 days with only $3,000 in cash and $7,000 in Summit Racing credit. We’ve had applicants from ALL over the country vying to see who would make it into the final list. And that has now happened.

This interesting and innovative competition has been made possible by some of the leading companies in our industry: Royal Purple, Comp Cams, TCI Transmissions, Mickey Thompson Performance Tires & Wheels, E3 Spark Plugs, Fragola, Diablosport, Mahle Motorsports, DynaBatt, ProCharger, Weld Racing, ARP, BMR Suspension, QA1, PRW, Covercraft, and of course, Summit Racing.

Without further adieu, we present our eighth finalist for the Horsepower Wars $10K Shootout….

Mike Raque (left) and Fletes

Team Name: Farm Town Racing
Driver: Rick Fletes
Hometown: Galt, California
Crew: Mike Raque, Colton Thomas, Matt Verdin, Ralph Willis

California native Rick Fletes heads up a collection of friends of employees of his repair shop and custom automotive business, RF Garage, that possess all of the knowledge and experience one could need to build a fast car on a tight budget and an even tighter deadline. Fletes, a drag racer in his own right who has guided several of the cars that he’s built with his own two hands into the 9- and 10-second zone, has compiled a team of welders, fabricators, master mechanics, machinists, and electrical gurus to provide him a chariot in which to win the $10,000 winners’s prize.

Along with his team, Fletes has built a 9-second El Camino and a very unique, triple compound turbo 1970 Chevelle that likewise cranked out 9-second laps while remaining fully street legal and drivable. Fletes, 38, notes his team is “the most honest, hard-working men you will select for this competition. Spectators want to see normal people on the show, not just people they can’t relate to. That’s who we are — normal people struggling to make it happen everyday, but have the enthusiasm and skill to put it all together.”

Want to learn more about Fletes and his team? Here’s some of the scoop they shared with us…

HW: Tell us about yourself

My name is Rick Fletes. I am 38 years old, born in Salinas, California. I currently live in the Sacramento Valley. I own and operate my own automotive business in the City of Galt, California. My top priority is Diesel Performance and operate my business under the name RF GARAGE, a local repair shop conducting general repairs for all makes and model vehicles and trucks. Additionally, when requested, shop services include custom built automotive parts, Duramax conversions and LS swaps into older non-emission vehicles. This process may include custom standalone harnesses and tuning.

HW: Can you share your racing background?

My background and experience in drag racing began in my home town Salinas. Ralph Willis, of Willis Automotive, owned and operated his own shop. He introduced me to the world of drag racing through his son, my school friend, Clint Willis. As young teens, drag racing was still an ongoing activity of some of the city long-term residents. I attended my first drag strip event at Sears Point, aka Sonoma Raceway. It was my friend Ralph who demonstrated and taught me how to port cylinder heads, and of course assemble engines within the confines of the business shop. Under Ralph’s guidance I spent many hours experimenting, learning, and mastering automotive skills to complete my very own engines and ported heads. Once I had learned the assembly of my first engine, I tested it on local “hidden” roads, as was the local custom. I was ready for my first drag strip appearance in 1996.

Matt Verdin

I took my 1972 El Camino to the Sears Point Drags and ran a best of 13.99 at 98 mph. The car had a small-block Chevy, with my very own ported camel-back heads. Since then, I have not looked back. My passion continued to propel my ambition to accomplish low 14’s to a high of 9.86 at 138 mph. Through Ralph’s guidance and support, the El Camino evolved from a daily-driven car to a full-blown race car, and back to a street car.

Ultimately, as time and families grow, toys change. In 2001 I had purchased a Duramax truck and eventually made plans for the ultimate power hot rod (Duramax-powered). In 2007 I purchased Ralph’s 1970 Chevelle, now aging away for 10 years in his garage. From that point on the transformation began. I stripped it down to the frame, purchased a 2004 Duramax engine and refurbished it back to life by the end of 2008. It was also road-worthy and registered for street use. Then in 2009 it ran consistently with the original 2004 LB7 engine until 2017, gauging an approximately 60,000 miles. Its best pass was 11.27 at 118 mph, never having had the valve cover off, which far exceeded my expectations.

During the 2013 season, we changed this vehicle combination to a newer Duramax with three turbos and a better transmission. This change saw a dramatic improvement in run times of 9.79 at 142 mph. Some dreams, however, are short-lived. Experimentation often takes one to different paths, as in this case. Ultimately though, I still have the car with my LB7; adding improvements and new changes, it’s current best time is a 10.90 at 122 mph with the Duramax. Still a pride and joy, on the opening day of the Winternationals, a few weeks ago, we drove it there, enjoyed the event, and drove home.

Through the years, from 2005 to 2015, I have been state-wide affiliated with a couple of drag racing teams. For a time I worked with Lights Out Racing (operated by Daryl Jesen). He managed and operated an A/Gas Willys, a Nostalgia front engine dragster and a 1959 Corvette in a local doorslammer series. These are all combinations with blown alcohol engines with times from 7.60 to as fast as 6.40 in the quarter-mile. Some years Ralph Willis was a team driver. I have also worked with John Durden Racing, for which he operated and ran a Pro Mod ’59 Corvette, also a blown alcohol motor. As of 2018, I continue to participate with my Chevelle in local events and am a member of WCHRA and NHRDA.

HW: Who is part of your team?

The team will consist of Mike Raque, a master machinist, welder, and fabricator, Colton Thomas, a master mechanic, Matt Verdin, who does mechanic and electrical work, and Ralph Willis, a guru of all things that go fast. And, of course myself. All the team members have racing experience from the 60’s to today. That’s over 50 years of individual experience and 160-plus years of combined experience in the racing world. Along with that, these guys have a lot of experience with welding, fabricating, machining, mechanical, electrical, A&P school, dealership tech, tuning (both carb and EFI), turbo, supercharger and any boost application, and have been to the school of hard knocks.

HW: Why should you and you team make the top three finalists?

We have the right team, experience, enthusiasm, know-how, patience and drive to make this happen. We can get it done and make the car run good, without a doubt! We will have a completed and competitive car in the end. And that is what you need — teams that will complete the car and be competitive against each other. Together our team is highly competitive and passionate about our confidence to bring you what you seek.

Fletes and Colton Thomas

HW: What Makes You Qualified For The $10K Drag Shootout?

Experience, team players, motivator, organized, planner, know how to budget a build and make combinations work well with less. It’s not always the one with the most power that wins the race, you still need to finish it.

HW: Can you share some more details about some of the cars your team has built in the past?

A ’70 Chevelle with a Duramax compound turbos, TH400, strange 9-inch, ET Street drag radial tire, street-driven, 10-second car getting 30 mpg and can drive it all over the country. The transmission and motor both built in-house at my shop by my team.

Keep an eye out as we release the next finalist and work our way through the entire lineup of teams that will vie for a shot at this rough-and-tumble build-off!

About the author

Andrew Wolf

Andrew has been involved in motorsports from a very young age. Over the years, he has photographed several major auto racing events, sports, news journalism, portraiture, and everything in between. After working with the Power Automedia staff for some time on a freelance basis, Andrew joined the team in 2010.
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