Dale Amy
March 1, 2003
Photos By: Mark Houlahan, Michael Johnson

Horse Sense:
In case you're wondering, Tim's sponsor (and employer), SonnenBrune, is a major manufacturer/distributor of indoor tanning equipment.

You're looking at the first nitrous car to ever win an event in NMRA's ProCharger EFI Renegade class-quite an achievement for an '88 GT that started out as Tim Lyons' wife's first car. Actually, she was his girlfriend at the time and was only 15. According to Tim, upon getting her license a year later, she promptly decided the hatchback wasn't what she wanted as a daily driver. So, she sold it to Tim-whereupon it just as promptly cost him his license. You see, having a 5.0 soon led Tim to the inevitable go-fast bolt-ons, along with the nearly inevitable ticket and license suspension for street racing.

But, instead of slapping him upside the head and taking away the keys, Tim's father used this as a good excuse to get his son involved in legal drag racing. He even helped Tim build up a combination featuring a stock short-block topped by Trick Flow heads and a GT-40 intake. Tim raced the GT at local tracks near Ringgold, Georgia, on Friday nights for about a year before deciding he could have more fun if he went faster-much faster.

With visions of single-digit e.t.'s dancing in his head, Tim sat down with his cousin, Mark Best, who used to run in Pro 5.0, to hash out which heads-up class Tim should prepare the GT to campaign. The result of these deliberations? "Renegade was screaming my name," Tim says. "Don't get me wrong-Outlaw was really screaming, but I had to be logical and start somewhere and work my way up." After he and Mark installed a 10-point cage and brought the hatchback up to NHRA safety standards, they slapped in a Tremec, fitted an NOS Big Shot plate system, and upgraded the fuel system-all on the same, old, stock bottom end he'd previously been running. We'll let Tim describe his '00 season: "I was running 10.60s, qualifying in the middle of the field, and going home after the first or maybe the second round." Still, he was having fun, and he wanted more of it.

Panhandle Performance built and tuned Tim's giant-killer 357. Sealed of lips, as good racers are, neither builder nor owner will divulge compression ratio, cam specs, nor dyno figures, but we can tell you the combo uses a 3.4-inch Scat crank, GRP rods, and JE pistons to absorb the massive hit from the NOS Pro-Race Fogger.

By then, Tim was something of a renegade in Renegade-a class dominated by supercharged entrants. This didn't bother him, as he was determined to stick with the laughing gas and, if nothing else, have the fastest nitrous car in Renegade. At first, he couldn't find much help. "After many conversations with engine builders and performance shops," Tim explains, "they all said I'd be wasting my time building a nitrous motor to run in Renegade. Apparently, they meant to say they just couldn't build an N2O motor that could run with a supercharged motor."

The turning point for Tim came when he met Mark Biddle of Panhandle Performance, who was more than willing to put together a nitrous bullet. Panhandle's resulting package is an R302-based 357, loaded with Twisted Wedge heads, a Holley SysteMAX II induction, plenty of compression, and a Holley/ NOS Pro-Race Fogger rated at 250-350 hp. Though we're making it sound unrealistically simple here, the installation and tuning thrash was completed at Panhandle's Panama City, Florida, facilities just in time to get to NMRA's '01 season finale in Bowling Green-and darned if Tim didn't go out and win it! The Vegas odds-makers would have been dumbfounded, and Tim says a few of his competitors were happy to attribute his win to plain luck. He prefers to give due credit to determination, many hours of hard work, "and the fact that I have a kick-ass engine builder. Huge thanks to Mark Biddle and the gang at Panhandle Performance."

Just to be sure that his "luck" continued, Tim revised the GT's front and rear suspension in preparation for the '02 season, while Mark made a few more improvements to the engine. These changes resulted in win number two at Reynolds, Georgia, followed shortly thereafter by Tim's third win in five races, at Columbus. While in Ohio, he also set the Renegade record for a nitrous pass at a blistering 9.10 seconds at 148 mph. So much for luck. Now the supercharger crowd knows they've been mauled by a Renegade Lyons.