Garrett Mitchell, also known as the YouTube sensation “Cleetus McFarland,” was influenced by his dad and his involvement with cars.
[Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared in DI #185, the 30 Under 30 Issue, in Nov/Dec of 2023.]
“He had a couple cool cars, but he worked at a taxi company when I was growing up, so I was always around Crown Vics,” explains Mitchell. “Then he owned a used car lot as well, and so I saw a lot of cool cars going in and out growing up. His [love for cars] was more of a work passion, but for me, it just became a life passion to work with cars kind of automatically just by being raised by him.”
At 16 years old, Mitchell found himself working with 1320Video, an internet-based automotive media company, and soon after, his path intertwined with the rise of social media.
“I owe my whole career to the internet and social media,” he explains. “You know, I’m one of the extremely rare, lucky cases where I’m able to make money doing car stuff and just having fun. Social media and YouTube are the only things that made that possible, so it’s huge for me – it’s pretty much everything for me.”
Little did Mitchell know that when he attended Rocky Mountain Race Week in 2015, his life would change. It’s where “Cleetus McFarland” was born – a literal overnight sensation – after Kyle Loftis, founder of 1320Video, posted a montage of Mitchell to Facebook being goofy, touting being “made in America.”
But before the viral video, Mitchell loved building cars, and it was Rocky Mountain Race Week that got him hooked on the drag-and-drive scene. He even took home a win in 2022 at the event.
Other memorable moments in his career are being the first driver to run 7s in a GM car with a stick shift, being the first driver to clock in the 6-second range in a Corvette, and winning at the World Cup Finals: Import vs Domestic in “Mullet” – a 1986 Chevy El Camino with a 9.3L twin-turbo V8.
“We have a really good racing program at the McFarland Racing Shop,” he says. “We’re putting out our most high-quality vehicles ever, and we’ve seen a lot of success in our builds. Now we’re on the quest for 5s. It seems like all of our cars are getting into the 6s now, and eventually, we want to move into having a 5-second car that’s really competitive across the board.”
Most recently, Mitchell has found success on the track. He took home the win in Grannas Racing Stick Shift at the 27th Annual Haltech World Cup Finals Import vs Domestic in November, earning him back-to-back championships at the WCF in two different classes with two wins. In addition to his on-track performance goals, the 28-year-old has hopes for success off the track.
“I want to bring a lot of people into drag racing,” says Mitchell. “I think at my events [“Cleetus and Cars”], we have a really strong crowd of people who’ve never even been to a racetrack. So we’re just trying to get as many people involved as we can.”
Mitchell isn’t quick to forget where he came from and those who helped him get there.
“I’m really thankful for Kyle Loftis from 1320Video for helping me start my career,” he says. “I’m also really thankful for Texas Speed and Performance – it’s one of the first companies that really believed in me and got me started with company relationships and sponsors. Also, I’m really proud to be a part of Motion Raceworks. I own part of that company, and I think Motion Raceworks and TBM Brakes are on a huge trajectory to be insanely large businesses, and I’m pumped for that.”
After all of the success that Mitchell has had, he’s shares what keeps him motivated and not resting on his laurels.
“I would say 90% of my motivation comes from wanting to win races and competitions,” Mitchell explains. “Then the other 10% comes from my love for cars.”