NHRA officials have announced the Mike Gittings, most recently the chief starter in NHRA’s Northwest Division and a certified team member of the NHRA Safety Safari presented by AAA, has been named the official NHRA Chief Starter. This position is one of the most storied in all of NHRA Drag Racing.
Gittings will be 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). He will begin his tenure in the position starting with the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway in Georgia May 13-15.
In the past, Gittings served as the interim Chief Starter under difficult circumstances in early April at the DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas following Lyle’s sudden death during a swimming accident on March 27 while on vacation in Mexico.
“It’s emotional taking over this position because I stood behind Mark for all those years,” Gittings said. “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 grass roots racer, to event worker, to managing races and working with sponsors. I am looking forward to this challenge and I want to do a great job and always remember Mark when I am out there.”
Since 2012, Gittings was the NHRA Northwest Division starter and was a member of the Northwest Division certification team, a race master and starting line track prep worker since 2007. He worked as the starter at Pacific Raceways in Seattle from 2000-2007, and prior that he was a track employee there and was 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.”