Mark Lyle photo courtesy NHRAEnlarge Photo
He's only the third person to hold the position of Official NHRA Chief Starter, the man who stands between two drag racing cars and presses the buttons to begin competition down the quarter-mile or 1000-foot dragstrip.
Mark Lyle, a long-time starter in NHRA's Division 6 and a certified team member of the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA, assumes one of the most storied positions in all of NHRA drag racing. The two gentlemen that preceded Lyle are legendary: Buster Couch (1955-1996) and Rick Stewart from 1996 until the Pomona finale last November.
Beginning next weekend at the O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals presented by Super Start Batteries, Lyle will command the best view in the Pomona, CA facility, standing alongside every type of drag racing vehicle, including the 7,000-horsepower-plus Top Fuel and Funny Car machines that headline NHRA's Full Throttle Drag Racing Series.
A resident of North Bend, Washington, Lyle has worked in the automotive industry his entire professional career. His weekends have been consumed by perfecting his craft on the starting line or working as a safety team member in his much beloved sport. Lyle worked alongside recently retired chief starter Stewart at many national events the last few years.
"It is simply the highest honor anyone in my position can have," said the humbled Lyle. "I really have to thank Kenworth Northwest for being flexible with my NHRA work schedule over the years and for allowing me to pursue my dream. To follow in the footsteps of two iconic and legendary figures in NHRA history is beyond words; I am looking forward to sending off the first pair in Pomona" next weekend.
Graham Light, senior vice president of racing operations at NHRA weighed in: "Throughout his time as a starting line official, Mark has demonstrated the characteristics necessary to take on this very important position on the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series circuit. He always has safety first and foremost in his mind and strives to be fair and just in his decision-making."
NHRA begins a 23-race competition at the Auto Club Raceway in Pomona February 9-13 - and ends it at the same circuit in November by crowning champions in all of its four professional categories: Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle.