Mark Lyle, Chief Starter for the NHRA, passed away unexpectedly this weekend while vacationing in Mexico.

He was 65.

Lyle assumed the role of NHRA’s Chief Starter in 2012 and was just the third person in the long history of the sanctioning body to hold the position. According to NBC Sports,, and various other sources, Lyle died while trying to save a friend from drowning while in Zipolite, Oaxaca, Mexico. Lyle’s death occurred on Sunday, just one day after his 65th birthday and 11 days after he and wife Marcia celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary.

Before becoming the pro series Chief Starter, Lyle, a North Bend, WA resident, was the official starter at Pacific Raceways in NHRA’s Northwest Division since 2000. He was named official starter of the Northwest Division in 2005 before ascending to NHRA’s Chief Starter. Lyle took over for Rick Stewart, who held the position from 1996-2011.

According to, Division 6 Mike Gittings has been name interim NHRA Chief Starter for this weekend’s DENSO Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Las Vegas.

“On behalf of NHRA and the entire drag racing community, we offer our condolences to all of Lyle’s family and friends,” the sanctioning body said in a statement.

OnAllCylinders and Summit Racing echo those sentiments.

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Author: David Fuller

David Fuller is OnAllCylinders' managing editor. During his 20-year career in the auto industry, he has covered a variety of races, shows, and industry events and has authored articles for multiple magazines. He has also partnered with mainstream and trade publications on a wide range of editorial projects. In 2012, he helped establish OnAllCylinders, where he enjoys covering all facets of hot rodding and racing.