DRAG RADIAL FAN FAVORITE LYLE BARNETT EMBRACES HIS NEW NORMAL
Last year, at Lights Out 8, Barnett returned to the same track where in 2015 he'd suffered a fire in his Radial vs. The World; a fire which subjected him to 28 seconds of direct exposure to the flames which resulted in third-degree burns to 15-percent of his body.
The first time back to the scene of the horrifying incident resulted in his most cherished victory. A year later, he's still basking in the glow of fate.
"I watch the videos of that day, over and over," Barnett admits. "It was cool to come back here period and race again, but it made the full circle deal to come back here and win. It was big not only for me but for my Dad, for my family, for my team. You know I think for racing as a whole it was, you really couldn’t have written a better story I don’t think."
Winning a drag race takes determination and skill; winning a drag race after going through hell and living to tell about it is another thing.
"That win’s not enough," Barnett declared. "I want to win the LDR [Limited Drag Radial] championship this year bad. That is my number one goal for the year. We’ve worked hard; everybody’s worked hard; we’ve made a lot of changes over the offseason, and I want to go after it this year."
Barnett lives life with a new normal.
"I was actually thinking about it yesterday," Barnett said. "You know, there for a while, it was. Obviously, it was different. But now I don’t really remember the old normal. This is it. This is how it is. Since the crash, it just is what it is. I still wake up every day and put my left foot in my underwear first. So it’s really just became my new normal life.
"Other than some occasional stiffness from the grafts on my hands, and my eyes watering, I’m good with it. It’s different but it is my new normal, and I make the best of it."
The new normal includes a new approach to drag racing.
"I'm much more cautious," Barnett said. "I was always a safety advocate I guess. I got a little careless there unfortunately when my wreck happened. But I do make sure that I do a last good safety check, make sure the shield’s down. But I don’t necessarily think my driving style has changed. I’m not as ballsy as maybe Stevie [Jackson], but just more cautious when it comes to making sure all my gear’s right, make sure it’s adjusted right, making sure everything’s on.
"So that part of my driving style has changed. And I think my wreck changed a lot of people’s driving styles in that sense. Everybody’s safer I feel like.
"You know, you pay attention to that stuff now. Walk up to the water box and look into the window, you might be looking for what they’ve got going on in there, but I look for gloves and stuff like that. And I’ve seen, it’s still, it amazes me a little bit that there are still people out there that just haven’t taken the initiative to buy the right stuff. Some of them are on the national stage if you will, you see them on TV and stuff, so I guess that kind of narrows it down."
Barnett revealed he was diagnosed with PTSD following his incident and believes there are those who have experienced tragic accidents who are undiagnosed.
"I’ve got a pretty cool service dog that I got not long after that that helped out with that a bunch," Barnett said. "I got over that hump pretty quick. You know, there are some people here this weekend that dealt with some fire stuff that are dealing with the aftereffects of that.
"It was a tough hurdle to overcome. I did therapy, and I got a dog and stuff, but overall I’ve been very blessed. I’ve had a pretty easy recovery deal overall. Physically, mentally, all of it has been … I’m lucky. Being young, I was 24 when I wrecked; I’m 27 now. So age helped a lot. I was young, healthy, in shape. That played a big role, that was on my side."
And for the fan favorite Barnett, that's as good as anyone could hope for.