When Derek and Stephanie Fletcher’s daughter was born with a heart defect, it turned their world upside down.

Their daughter Annabelle, who turns age 7 in April, was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and spent nearly a year in and out of the hospital undergoing three open-heart surgeries to repair the heart defect.

Rather than wallow, the Fletchers decided to channel their grief to help children and families impacted congenital heart disease by starting the “A Heart Like Mine Foundation.” To raise awareness and money for the nonprofit, Derek has been running a 2023 Corvette Z06 in NASA’s Time Trial 1, competing primarily in the NASA MidAmerica and NASA Mid South regions.

“My mission is to bring awareness that there’s this nonprofit called A Heart Like Mine Foundation,” Fletcher said. “It exists solely to make people aware of congenital heart disease, how prevalent it is in our country, but also to help the kids and the parents who are affected by it.”

An estimated 40,000 children are born with a heart defect each year, and while in the hospital with their daughter, Annabelle, the Fletchers recognized there were few resources to help parents in a similar situation.

“A lot of these parents might be single moms that don’t know how to advocate for themselves. They don’t know what questions to ask the doctors and nurses,” Fletcher said. “So that’s where my wife Stephanie, who runs the foundation, comes in constantly helping kids — and families — all over the country.”

Anyone who runs Time Trial in the Midwest probably knows Fletcher and his red and white “Heartbeat Racing” Corvette Z06 with Milwaukee Tool livery on the doors. It’s rare to have such a well-known name in grassroots racing, but Milwaukee Tool’s Matt Hathcock saw it as a partnership for a good cause.

Fletcher and Hathcock, who are Corvette fanatics, met each other through a mutual friend, and after learning about the foundation, Hathcock wrote a proposal to Milwaukee Tool’s vice president of marketing about getting involved.

“We do a lot culturally and we do a lot of community impact events, but here in the States we do not sponsor race teams,” said Hathcock, noting that having a major tool company on the side of the car has other benefits.

“When they see one of their fellow drivers in a Milwaukee-branded car, it drives those conversations. They either want to come over and talk about Milwaukee Tool, or they want to come talk about the foundation, or it’s other sponsors that are interested in buying into that world.”

Fletcher, who lives in Charlotte, Ark., partnered with the Wood Family Dealerships and bought a Corvette Z06 for track days. When it comes to maintenance, the dealership handles everything from oil changes to replacing the tires, which are provided by TrackdayTire.com.

Fletcher doesn’t work on the car. He uses his time at the track to network and talk about the foundation.

“To be blunt, the guys with the money driving the fancy cars, they’re our biggest donors to A Heart Like Mine Foundation,” Fletcher said. “A lot of that money is generated from friends I’ve made through NASA.”

Fletcher promotes the foundation and sponsors using social media, cutting videos at the track and posting to YouTube.

“We get a lot of attention due to the combination of racing, what we’re racing, and the videos I’m able to put out there,” Fletcher said. “The whole goal is not necessarily to have fun. It’s to get people’s attention about congenital heart defects and congenital heart disease.”


Racing a stock Corvette in TT1, Fletcher knows he’s giving away 800 to 1,000 pounds to the modified cars. Yet the 58-year-old still holds his own, winning regional championships in NASA Mid South in TT2 in 2021, 2022 and 2023. He won the MidAmerica TT2 regional championship in 2022, and TT2 in the Gulf South Region in 2021, and TT1 in 2023. He used a Camaro to win his 2022 championships and Corvettes in 2021 and 2023.

Fletcher ran his first NASA National Championships in 2023 at Pittsburgh International Race Complex, finishing fifth overall in TT1.

When Fletcher started running Time Trial three years ago, he would run the full session, not realizing his best lap times were coming on laps three and four.

“I would go out there and just wear the tires out. I wanted my money’s worth, and I was going to race that whole 15 or 20 minutes,” he said. “I learned from the fast guys that I’m just burning up my tires and wasting a lot of time.”

Participating in track days has been a nice diversion for Fletcher and the challenges his daughter Annabelle faces. Fletcher is a farmer and rancher in Arkansas, raising 150,000 market chickens every 60 days and tending to a cow-calf operation with 2,000 cattle.

Fletcher’s latest venture is fertilizer made from chicken manure and bedding material, and he hopes to get the Mighty Good organic fertilizer into retail stores. “That starts to break down and it makes really great fertilizer,” he said. “I like to say I’ve been turning (crap) into gold since 2000.”

Racing also has come full circle for Fletcher, who used to race motorcycles as a kid. His father owned a motorcycle dealership, and Fletcher’s success on the dirt track was used to draw customers into the showroom.

“It gave me my peace back,” Fletcher said about racing in NASA on his own terms. “I’m doing it all for the right reasons and that’s why I think it works so well, and why it’s so fun.”

The Fletchers have two adult children, Wyatt, 28, and Rex, 27, and a 13-year-old daughter, Madeline. Annabelle is the youngest of the family and while her health is stable, she will eventually need a heart transplant.

“When she starts to go downhill again, and that could be next month or it could be in five years, but when that happens, our next option will be a (heart) transplant,” Fletcher said. “When you get a transplant, that’s not the end-all, be-all. You’re never fixed. You’re always going to have issues.”

Hathcock has grown close to the Fletcher family and is impressed with how Derek and Stephanie persevere. Stephanie also serves on the Ronald McDonald House Charities Board of Directors for Arkansas and North Louisiana.

“They really could wallow in their sorrow and feel sorry for themselves and only focus on Annabelle and their family getting through this very, very tough patch in life, but they choose not to do that,” Hathcock said. “They choose to take that bad and go help others that are not in as good financial or even mental state. Those two are strong and it’s incredible that they use their extra energy to go help others. It’s absolutely amazing.”

Name: Derek Fletcher
Age: 58
Region: NASA MidAmerica
Hometown: Charlotte, Ark.
Racing Class: TT1
Sponsors: Milwaukee Tool, Forgeline Wheels, TrackdayTire.com, Windshield WOW, Wood Family Dealerships, Center Point Graphics, Beam Smile Design, Nashville.
Day Job: Farmer/Rancher, inventor, entrepreneur
Favorite Food: Chicken
Favorite TV show: “Hogan’s Heroes”
Favorite Movie: “Tombstone”
Favorite Track: Ozarks International
Dream Racecar: 2023 Corvette Z06
NASA Championships
Images courtesy of Brett Becker, JEREMY BRYNER, Tony Politi and Darin Morrell

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