Michael Lyons - There's more to life than being a World Champion

By Jim Luikens

Michael Lyons
During my interviews with racers I have discovered that nearly every one of them is pursuing the same Holy Grail. They all want to be a World Champion! Michael Lyons however, has a different goal. After three decades in and around racing he would like to develop a quality relationship and, perhaps, eventually get married. Of course, the fact that he already has HIS World Championship probably helps him to be so open-minded. This is the story of Michael Lyons, who has discovered that there is more to life than being a world champion in racing.

Michael Lyons is the son of Ed "Fast Eddie" Lyons, a former racer himself. Originally from Maryland, Ed moved to Detroit with an engineering degree and the hope of going to work for one of the Big 3 automakers. Although he was a "GM Guy" it was the Ford Motor Company that ended up hiring him. During his quarter-century at Ford Ed filled a variety of roles at Ford SVO and Ford Racing before eventually retiring at the end of 2004.

Michael reports that his earliest remembrance of racing is the 1955 Chevy that his dad was racing when Michael was only 3 to 4 years old. By the late 70s "Fast Eddie's" racecar had morphed into an E/Gasser. Eventually the gasser was replaced by a Small Block Chevrolet-powered Fiat that raced in the Altered classes. Reflecting his dad's employment, that car was eventually rebuilt as a "23 T Ford with Big Block Ford power. All the while Michael served as a crew member for his father on each of these race cars.

Lyons in Modified Winners Circle
In 1983 Michael started his driving career by competing in the family race car. A plan was devised whereby Michael would drive at Milan Dragway each weekend while his father drove at the (relatively) nearby Detroit Dragway. For 1984 the family driving schedule was reversed with Eddie handling driving at Milan and Michael driving at Detroit. It was at the venerable Detroit Dragway that Michael recorded his first win as a driver in 1984. For the record his first title was notched in Super Pro Eliminator.

When he graduated from high school Michael went to work at Batten Performance, a landmark speed emporium in the Detroit area. While at Batten he focused on cylinder head work, with valve jobs and guide work being his specialty. After several years at Batten his father was able to get him into Roush Engineering where Michael specialized in building Trans Am and Winston Cup engines for Jack Roush. Michael spent the entire decade of the 90s there, eventually compiling ten years as an engine builder.

Lyons in Modified Winner Circle Although the job was time-consuming, and sometimes involved at-track engine tuning, the income gave Michael a chance to begin his drag racing career in earnest. As a lifelong fan of Comp Eliminator he purchased a brand new Mike Bos ChassisCraft dragster, the hot tip of the era for Comp racing. By borrowing his dad's truck and trailer he was able to make his national event debut at Budds Creek, Maryland in late 1994. Racing in Modified Eliminator he was .60 under the B/D index but red lighted in the first round with his Small Block Ford-powered entry. Despite the shortness of his weekend he found that he had really enjoyed it and looked forward to the 1995 season.

He began the 1995 season by racing in Top Dragster. He recorded a best elapsed time of 7.56 seconds, which left him just short of the bump spot that was generally in the 7.50 range. Changing back to B/D, he rejoined Modified Eliminator where he stayed until its elimination at the end of the 2002 season. A Runner-Up at the 1996 IHRA Summernationals in Louisiana was his first final round appearance at a national event and it only wetted his appetite for more championship racing.

With his skills maturing he became a points racer in 1997 when he realized that he really could go all the way. In 1999 and 2000 he finished second in the Modified Eliminator points chase before earning the 2001 Modified World Championship. Luckily, the breaks went his way that year because the next year Modified became a National Event-only class before being eliminated entirely at the end of the 2002 season.

Lyons in San Antonio
A king is no good without a kingdom so he began looking around for a new racing home. He tried Top Dragster (again) and Quick Rod but didn't find either appealing. As a result he started looking around for a Ford door car to race that could use up some of his supply of dragster engine parts and pieces. Studying the possible "door" eliminators he realized that Super Stock was the closest equivalent to his dearly departed Modified Eliminator.

Lyons in San Antonio Advertising on the internet that he was looking for a competitive Ford S/S body brought a response from long time Ford man S.E. Buchanan of Arkansas. S.E. had a 1992 Ford Probe that he had built with a partner but it had actually seen very little track use. Since Michael knew that the Probe body was the most aerodynamic Ford body he was quick to purchase the car.

Upon the installation of his drive train he made a few shake down runs at Norwalk Raceway Park before loading up and towing straight to Bristol for the IHRA national event. Michael says that the most memorable thing about that trip is that he blew out both front tires on his motor home coming down a hill on the way there.

Since debuting the Probe he has seen six more final rounds, five of them in 2004 alone. Despite being a consistent late round contestant he is still looking for his first event title in the Probe. A host of piston problems, primarily caused by trying to use up the leftover pistons from his dragster days, have caused the majority of his troubles. He thinks that, perhaps, 2005 could be the breakout year that he has been looking for in a door car.

Michael Lyons is bullish about his future racing involvement and swears that he is still as serious as ever about racing. But, at age 38 and never married, he would like to explore a world beyond racing. He says his goal is to find someone that would be as interested in his racing as she is in him. Considering the determination and dedication that he brings to everything else that he does it would take a foolish person to bet against him achieving that goal.