True character is revealed when your back is against the wall. Anthony Fetch found himself in such a position this year, and rather than pulling the covers over his head in self-pity over the loss of a job, he got to work. For Fetch, the seasoned drag racer from Colonia, New Jersey, the answer to his troubles was to make drag racing his job.
Although a risky choice, it proved wise and was perhaps even reasonable to lean into drag racing as a way to provide for his family. Fetch, husband to Heather and father to 5-year-old Anthony, is an accomplished racer in the Northeast. He has twice been the NHRA Division 1 champion in Stock Eliminator (2009 and 2014) and has twice finished No. 2 in the national standings (2008 and 2009).
His paydays in 2020, though, didn’t come from NHRA racing. Fetch buckled down and dialed into bracket racing as a way to pay the bills.
“This year was crazy,” said Fetch. “Obviously, we were all pretty much stuck in jail [due to COVID-19 restrictions]. Once racing came available, everyone was so excited. For us, it wasn’t just because we were bored from being stuck at home. It was a way to try to make a living.”
Fetch had been a fixture at a small office equipment company for 15 years, but looking to grow his experience and move forward in his career, he made a decision to leave his comfort zone and take a position at a larger company. Just a few months into the job, Fetch was struck down by pneumonia and was away from work for four weeks. When he returned, he was let go. Then, COVID-19 shifted the picture in everyone’s world.
Fetch utilized the shutdowns and shelter-in-place orders during the pandemic to further his education. He enrolled in information technology courses and received his CCNA certification from Cisco Systems, graduating at the top of his class.
The sun started to shine when Numidia Dragway opened on Memorial Day Weekend in May. A Friday night test-and-tune was scheduled to be followed by $10k to win Super Pro / $3k to win Pro on Saturday and $5k to win Super Pro / $3k to win Pro on Sunday.
“You should have seen the place,” said Fetch enthusiastically. “There were so many cars, it was crazy. The DiMino family, they run that track, they did everything right to make that race happen. It was great.”
Fetch prepared his ’92 Chevrolet Camaro – a former Super Stock entry he converted for bracket racing – while two-time NHRA Super Comp national event winner Heather brought out her dragster for some top-bulb racing.
“We were all so excited,” said Fetch. “We were very prepared for the season, but we were blindsided by how things went when it finally started.”
That first weekend out, Fetch went rounds in the Camaro, but a rare incident with the cam pin caused the fresh engine in Heather’s dragster to blow. It went from bad to worse quickly for the family as the very next weekend at Atco Dragway’s opener, the transmission and converter in Fetch’s car decided to give up the ghost. Making matters even worse: Heather was driving when it happened.
“I felt terrible, not just about the car, but for her,” admitted Fetch. “Heather was ready to quit; we felt like there was a black cloud over us. But we fix all that and went up to the Epping divisional – and then I blew up my motor.”
The shaky start preceded more unfortunate circumstances for the family. Unemployment payments came to an end in July, and they had zero dollars coming in.
“It wasn’t like back in the day, living in an apartment and calling Ma to ask about borrowing $500 for rent,” he said. “Now I have a wife and a kid. I have a family. I had no choice; I knew I had to win. So, I fixed the dragster motor, took it to the Numidia 150 in August, and got to the quarterfinals and semis. I made $1,800 for the weekend. It was like a payday.”
Over the course of the next month-and-a-half, Fetch continued to generate income via successful weekends at the dragstrip. His winnings amounted to nearly $25,000 and included back-to-back wins in bottom bulb races at Numidia Dragway, a $10k top bulb triumph there three weeks later, and victory at Dave Ley’s East Coast Stock / Super Stock event at Atco Dragway. He finished the successful run with a semifinals performance – and $3k check – at the Loose Rocker Fall Footbrake Frenzy at Piedmont Dragway.
The paydays have been critical, but the best part for Fetch is having his wife and son there with him to enjoy the weekend.
“Anthony’s into it, man. He’s in every picture and loves it,” said Fetch of his young son. “It’s to the point that he thinks those big checks are normal, though. He’s a 5-year-old going on 20, and his knowledge of drag racing is incredible. God willing, he’ll be part of the future of this sport.”
The real hero in the family, according to Fetch, is Heather. He calls her his backbone and admits that the only time he can concentrate is in his racecar. It’s his wife that keeps him together in all other areas of life.
“And she’s made me a 10-times better racer,” said Fetch. “Heather is amazing, she has the gift of the dial-in and has gotten me organized. Not just with the weather and my racing, but with our whole program. She has everything planned, and let’s face it, she also has the responsibility of Anthony. I have the fun part, and she has the hard part. She wears both hats, and she’s phenomenal at doing it.”
Heather can hold her own on the dragstrip, too. As a matter of fact, the racer formerly known as Heather Robilotto got a jump-start on Fetch in NHRA competition. She claimed her first national event trophy several months before her future husband in 2006, claiming the coveted Indy win before Fetch’s first NHRA victory at Richmond later that year.
“We really don’t have any competition between the two of us though, thank God,” expressed Fetch. “I’ve had friendships that got bad when I started to get successful, and all of a sudden those phone calls stop coming. But my wife is my biggest fan, and I’m there for her, win or lose. When things don’t go right, I’m there to help her figure out why and how to get better.
“My heart breaks for her that she hasn’t felt the success that she should yet. She should be an Allstar rep, she should be a champion, but she always does the most important thing first. She roots for her father, for me, she takes care of Anthony. She’s going to get that big win, though. She has the skills, and she deserves it.”
Although there is no competition between the two, Heather’s two NHRA national event trophies are certainly ones to envy. The Englishtown victory in 2016 at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park is particularly special as the famed facility permanently shuttered in 2018.
“I’ll never be able to win the Summernationals,” said Fetch of the NHRA event previously held at the iconic Northeastern racing facility. “She also got that Indy trophy. The year she was pregnant, I ran Super Comp at the U.S. Nationals. A malfunction with the air bottle made me runner-up to Luke Bogacki, and I was almost able to win the same class, same car, same race. That would have been great.”
He will surely have another shot at winning NHRA’s esteemed U.S. Nationals in the future, but Fetch has enjoyed becoming fully entrenched again in the corner of racing where he grew wings and first took flight.
In 2007, Fetch looked outside of his own racing and partnered with Jeff “JP” Pasquariello, Jr. to put together a big dollar bracket race for the Northeast at Cecil County Dragway. It turned into an annual event, and in honor of a fallen friend and mentor, the race was rechristened as the Jim Harrington Bracket Nationals in 2010.
“Both of us were close with Jim Harrington; he was a great friend of JP’s father, and I grew up watching Jim when he came back to Raceway Park,” said Fetch. “He was one of the biggest personalities and best racers in this area, and now two weekends a year we get to race in his memory.”
The Jim Harrington Bracket Nationals will take place July 16-18 and September 24-26 at Cecil County Dragway in Maryland.
On the NHRA side of things, Fetch continues as the driver of the AA/SA ’69 Camaro for Gary Richard of PC Richard & Son. Although the team opted to sit out NHRA competition due to the pandemic in 2020, they plan to return in 2021.
“Whatever Gary wants to do for next year, I will put them first,” said Fetch. “That being said, I’m going to make sure my schedule includes a lot of bracket racing.”
The financial earnings Fetch claimed bracket racing meant more than ever in 2020, but money isn’t the real glue for the lifelong drag racer.
“It’s where I grew up,” he said. “Those are my roots.”
Scroll down to find out which three racers Fetch thinks you should be watching closely.
According to Anthony Fetch, here’s who you should have your eye on in the world of drag racing:
1. Todd Hoven
“He’s a Stocker guy. He’s had a few tough draws, but he listens and learns. I’m telling you, when that guy puts his mind to it, he could be a division champion. He’s good, and he could definitely get to that next level.”
2. Matt Lisa
“Joe’s little son has the eye of the tiger. Nothing bothers him. He’s still eating mama’s pasta, and Joe is still paying his bills, but he was out there fighting for the division championship this year. Even though he didn’t win, he performed the best – he just had the worst draws. I know what it takes, and he has it.”
3. Heather Fetch
“My wife wears so many hats. She is a mother, a caretaker, the cook, and a damn good racer. She’s had some bad luck, but she’ll have a season where everything goes right. She has attention to detail like no other. She’s had a little success in bracket racing, but no big checks yet. She’s gone rounds at every event we’ve taken her to, and she’s never had to buy back. I see her having her first big check very soon.”