During Outlaw Street Car Reunion V at Beech Bend last weekend, we saw yet again the ToothJerker break its own leaf spring record with Lyle Barnett behind the wheel. Has the record gotten to the point that no one will ever catch them?
For years Jason Digby's Dart was one of the, if not the quickest leaf spring drag cars on Earth. What some forget is that Lyle wasn't always the man wheeling the car. This has been a team effort over the years. Previous to Lyle taking over the driving duties, it was up to Chad Branson to get the Dart from A to B in a straight line. Things really turned around when Kevin Neal and the crew from North Carolina met up with Jason at Holly Springs during an event over there. Kevin Neal drove down from Ohio and the car had never been quicker 4.83 at the time. As soon as Kevin and North Carolina started to help out it immediately skipped the 4.70's and went 4.66 with Chad driving. This was when the program really made it's turn in the direction it's going now.
Over the last three seasons, the progression of the Dart, which most would argue is about as unconventional as it get in drag racing, has had strides no matter what combo was under the hood. The objective was always to hold the leaf spring world record and be competitive. It didn't seem to take long for the ToothJerker to absolutely obliterate any car that stood in the way of reaching their goals.
While all of this was happening, Jason relied on his Dart having a solid nitrous combo from Burns Racing Engines and was running wild in the Leaf Spring class at most events. The question started to be asked if the nitrous combo would be competitive outside of the leaf spring specific area though. That was the point where everything began to change. Lyle had his terrible fire in his RvW Corvette and was recovering. At the same time, Jason had made the decision to step up the Dart's program even more.
Chad was back behind the wheel for No Mercy seven, which was the first time out with the new turbo setup in the car. It was sporting a turbo the size of a basketball. This would be the last race that Chad would be wheeling the car, as shortly after the race he decided to time some time off from drag racing. Once that occurred, Lyle was ready to get back in the seat, and took over driving duties in the Dart. While we all knew that Lyle was one hell of a driver and had proven that during the previous years, there we still those whispers about whether he would still be able to drive and how the accident affected him. Those whispers had the door slammed on them immediately as well.
While the untested combo didn't set the world on fire (pardon the pun), it certainly didn't take long for the Digby/Barnett team to show everyone what a leaf spring combo was capable of. Within a few months of that debut, Lyle would destroy the lead spring world record. It happened in testing for the 2017 U.S. Street Nationals when he ran a blistering 4.316 at 171.89 (Read Here). After that was accomplished, they brought the Dart to SGMP to compete in what would be the last Leaf Spring Shoot Out at Lights Out 8. Lyle picked up where he left off in January, by qualifying number one, resetting the record, and taking the event win.
The world of leaf spring racing had fallen by the wayside in during 2017. Some wanted to blame Digby & Barnett because their performance was unobtainable by others. Luckily, Limited Drag Radial was a new and upcoming class that was having points series. This would work perfect for the ToothJerker. While still trying to work out the new combo blues, there were plenty of glimmers of brilliantness. They continued to lower the leaf spring record and race at every opportunity they got.
Rolling into 2018, there was more of an expectation for greatness than the team most likely faced ever before. They had proven that the car was going to be a heavy hitter in LDR, and the stigma that people have about leaf spring combos was long gone. The question now is if there is anyone else daring enough to try an compete at that level on leaf springs, and if so, will anyone reach the levels that the ToothJerker has reached? Last weekend in Bowling Green, Lyle did something that I don't think anyone thought was possible. He wheeled the Dart to a new record 4.13 at 183 MPH. So in a touch over one year, the Dart has gone from a 4.31 to a 4.13. As Lyle says, they are taking baby steps with the car, and baby steps seem to be working.
In sports, records are cherished and then broken. Some of us hope that records stand the test of time, and the fact is that some do. Some never thought, including Donald Long, that we would ever see a three second pass on a radial and now they are reaching bottom 3.60's. So I am certainly not willing to say that the ToothJerker records can never be broken, but I will say that I certainly don't see it happening anytime in the near future.
When I spoke to Jason, he really wanted to thank Mag would originally built the car from a street car. He has never once told Jason that it can't be done or that you are crazy. He has been extremely supportive of the entire process. Jason also wanted to give a big shout out to Pete Harrell of HED for everything that he has done for the program. He stated that Pete is one of the, if not the biggest reason for the programs success.
Some of the others involved with the program and its success over the years that Jason wanted to make sure to thank: Eric Yost of Customs By Bigun converted the car and is a rock star of the program for sure, Greg Slack Converter Design Concepts, Dave Klaput Proformance Transmission, Tommy Kirk Mac Fab, Jeff Burns from Burns Racing Engines who was a long time engine builder in the Dart, Jeff Brandenburg Dykes and Strippers WIring, Shannon Davis Davis Technologies, Doug and Andy Cook Motion Race Works, Julie Hruska and Tristan Kimbel Precision Turbo, Chris Madsen at Ross Pistons, Ryan Witte Holley Performance, Tyler Clark Wicked Graffix, Mag's Fab Worx, Line 2 Line Coatings, PAC Springs, Sebastion at AMS 2000, Jason Smith TBM Brakes, Mark Menscer Motorsports, Jack French of Billet Atomizers, Scott Cortina of Gazzard Bros Raciing, of course, none of this would be possible without the help of Mark Barnett, Mark Rogers, Charles Brayboy, Chad Branson, Terry Morton, Bryan Heigler, Jimmy Bradshaw, Stan Digby, My mother and Daddy, my wife Susanne and my great friend and the man I trust to drive this hotrod...Lyle Barnett.