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Gittings Named NHRA’s Chief Starter

| , RacinToday.com Friday, May 6 2016
Mike Gittings is the NHRA's new chief starter.

Mike Gittings is the NHRA’s new chief starter.

RacinToday.com

Long-time drag racing participant Mike Gittings, most recently chief starter in the NHRA’s Northwest Division and a certified team member of the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA, has been appointed official NHRA Chief Starter.

Gittings is only the fourth chief starter in the sport’s 65-plus year history, following the late Buster Couch (1955-1996), Rick Stewart (1996-2011) and the late Mark Lyle (2012-2016).

Gittings will begin his tenure at the starting line during the 36th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, May 13-15, at Atlanta Dragway in Commerce, Ga. The race is the seventh on the 24-event Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

Gittings served as interim chief starter under difficult circumstances in early April at the 17th annual DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway following Lyle’s untimely death during a swimming accident on March 27 while on vacation in Mexico. Lyle had worked alongside Stewart at many national events prior to taking over the position in 2012.

Before becoming chief starter for the Pro series, Lyle also had worked as official starter at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., near Seattle, in the NHRA’s Northwest Division since 2000.

Lyle was employed in the automotive industry his entire professional career, while spending countless weeknights and weekends perfecting his craft at the starting line.  

“It’s emotional taking over this position because I stood behind Mark for all those years,” Gittings said in a statement from NHRA headquarters in Glendora, Calif. “But I learned so much from him and I know he would want me to do this. I have had involvement in the sport of NHRA Drag Racing at many levels, from being a grassroots racer, to event-worker, to managing races and working with sponsors.

“I’m looking forward to this challenge and I want to do a great job and always remember Mark when I am out there.”

Gittings had served as NHRA Northwest Division starter since 2012. He also has seen duty as a member of the Northwest Division certification team, a race master and starting line track prep worker since 2007. From 2000-07 he worked as the starter at Pacific Raceways. Prior to that, Gittings was a track employee at the facility and the 1998 Pro category track champion.

“Mike worked very closely with Mark over the years and we feel he is ready for the challenge,” said Graham Light, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations. “Through his years of experience as the Division 6 and Pacific Raceways chief starter, Mike has earned the respect of the racers and acquired the skills necessary to handle this very demanding and critical position.”

| , RacinToday.com Friday, May 6 2016
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