Pro Mod Rookie Lyle Barnett Wins Texas NHRA FallNationals
Whenever Richard Freeman puts together a team to go racing, he expects to win. The most recent trip to victory lane for an Elite Motorsports entry couldn’t have been more popular with drag racing fans, especially those who love a fast doorslammer driver and crew. At Texas Motorplex during the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series, first-year driver Lyle Barnett donned the traditional cowboy hat as the winner of the E3 Spark Plugs Pro Mod division at this year’s Texas FallNationals. Having only qualified 12th in the sixteen-car field that advanced to the Elimination Rounds, Barnett’s Elite Performance ProCharger Camaro had the speed (251.86 mph) early on, but a 5.844 elapsed time was slow when compared to teammate Rickie Smith’s 5.755 ET. However, anyone who knows Lyle, also knows he never quits and always finds a way to come out on top.
On this day, Barnett would rely on four (4) holeshot victories to get his hands on his first Pro Mod Wally at an NHRA National. In round one, it was past Pro Mod champion Khalid alBalooshi whose .080 RT and 5.847 ET was no match for Barnett’s .034 reaction time with a 5.840 ET at 252.76 mph. After eliminating Mike Salinas in a similar fashion, Barnett nailed a .007 off the tree to leave JR Gray Jr. in his tire smoke while posting a 5.845 ET at 253.75 mph, which was top speed for the Pro Mod field. That set the stage for a final showdown with Justin Bond, who had eliminated points leader Jose Gonzalez and Chad Green in the quarter and semi final rounds. In the Final, it again would be Barnett off first with a .040 RT to Bond’s .107-second reaction time earning him a holeshot Wally by beating Bond’s quicker 5.829 ET with a faster run at 251.20 mph at the line. All four of Barnett’s runs for the day broke the 250-mph mark with ETs in 5.8-second range. Fast and consistent... Lyle Barnett has arrived!
As anyone who follows Outlaw/Drag Radial racing knows, this might have been Barnett’s first win in E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod division, but it was not Lyle’s first rodeo. Barnett has enjoyed considerable success as a reality show racer having won back-to-back in team challenges on Horsepower Wars and as the driver of Beer Money on the Netflix series Fastest Car. Moreover, the 30-year old from Robbins, NC, is one of the most humble drivers to grace the pits at an NHRA event. Grateful to be alive, it was just over six years ago when an electronics failure caused the motor in his Corvette dragster to explode nearly ending his life.
Barnett was trapped inside an orb of ethanol-fueled flames at 170 mph hurdling down the quarter-mile strip at South Georgia Motorsports Park in Adel. It took 28-seconds for the ball of fire to burn through his six-point harness, so Barnett could roll out of the doorslammer with second and third-degree burns covering 15% of his body. The track’s emergency crews raced to the wreckage and attended to the injured driver. Barnett was air-lifted from the track to the JMS Burn Center at Doctors Hospital in Augusta. His life hung in the balance for weeks due to severe burns to his head, face, and hands as well as inhalation damage to his lungs, but Barnett never gave up. Although he admits that when he looks in the mirror it is hard to recognize his bearded face with both eyebrows missing, he is grateful for so much and especially the recent resurgence of his professional drag racing career.
Photo Courtesy of Lyle Barnett Facebook
NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service returns to action Oct. 15-17 with the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.