One of small-tire racing’s most prominent faces and pilot of the infamous “Tooth Jerker” Dodge Dart, “Beer Money” Ford Mustang, and “Moonshine Missile” Ford Granada wagon, Lyle Barnett made his debut on the big stage of NHRA competition in the Pro Mod category earlier this year. Fielding a ProCharged 2018 Chevrolet Camaro backed by Elite Motorsports/Modern Racing, the North Carolina native has made the transition to a big-tire doorslammer look easy.
However, Barnett’s tuner and crew chief, Justin Elks of Modern Racing, has been keeping a close eye on the rules and parity adjustments amongst the power adders in Pro Mod. Although it seems that ProCharger superchargers do have an advantage at the moment, the men didn’t feel comfortable with the financial investment they would need to make to join the frontrunners.
“We did everything we could to do what we could with what we had, but without making dramatic changes to our engine package, we knew we couldn’t compete where we needed to be,” explained Barnett, who has been working with Elks and engine builder Jake Hairston of Hairston Motorsports.
Ironically, Hairston owns a twin-turbo clone of the black Pro Mod that Barnett had been driving, the same car which Erica Enders piloted a few years back.
“Since her fire that burned up half the car, she hasn’t driven it and it hasn’t been raced,” Barnett noted. “The Hairston family was going to race it themselves, but haven’t had time, so, after the NHRA race in Charlotte, Jake generously offered it to us to run the rest of the year.”
Twin-turbocharged combinations in NHRA Pro Mod had essentially been eradicated from competition in 2021, and now the rules have changed just enough to favor their comeback—and Barnett fully intends to take advantage of that opportunity.
Although Barnett has not yet made a pass in a turbocharged, big-tire car, he feels comfortable and confident in the fact that Elks has two years of data with the exact combination he will soon be running.
“We’re ahead of the curve and can pick up where they last left off with this car,” he asserted with his trademark cool confidence.
The team swapped the setup over from a set of 94mm turbochargers to two 88mm units, and made a few other adjustments. Elite Motorsports and Elite Performance manages the engine, which is an Alan Johnson Performance Engineering-based Hemi with a Wilson manifold on top. Fed a hefty dose of VP Racing Fuel via an Aeromotive fuel system and Billet Atomizer injectors, the engine’s power is transferred out through an M&M Transmission Turbo 400 and matching converter.
Barnett has been fitted in the car, which rides on Precision Racing Suspension shocks and struts, and is itching to make some laps as he’s familiar with turbocharged combinations, but he hasn’t yet driven one in a Pro Mod configuration.
“We are fortunate to be involved with Richard Freeman and Elite Motorsports just to have the ability to race at all, and am thankful to the Hairston family for making this possible as well,” stated Barnett, who has a ton of support from his team as well as from Mac-Fab Beadlocks, Motion Raceworks, Pee Dee Fleet, JJ Supply of North Carolina, and more. He hopes to be able to test prior to the start of the Texas NHRA FallNationals in Ennis, Texas, on October 7-10, where he will be the sole man in the field to be running a turbocharged setup before wrapping up his rookie NHRA Pro Mod racing season.
And, as if the change wasn’t exciting enough, Barnett has big plans to continue the excitement even after NHRA comes to a close for 2021—he has teamed up with none other than two-time NHRA Pro Mod champion and radial racing superstar Stevie “Fast” Jackson to field a Motion Raceworks-backed and nitrous-powered Ford Crown Victoria in the 2.4 Hours of LeMullets at Cleetus McFarland’s world-famous Freedom Factory in mid-November. The men are “strategizing daily on how to go out and crush these fools” and the race is sure to be one of the most entertaining events of the year.