Bunker Hill Dragstrip
A Decade In The Making, Mike Pyle's 2023 Season Ends With a Championship
Going into the last race of the 2023 season, Mike Pyle, the likable farmer from Silver Lake, IN who races in the Brandt’s Heating and Cooling Modified class, had what most would consider a great season. He had made his way to the Coan Engineering Winner’s Circle a couple of different times, and was sitting in the 3rd position in points. This was a pretty good place to be, considering Pyle had only started racing 10 years ago.
In 2013 once Pyle’s three children were through college, he started to look for a muscle street car. What he ended up with was a 1966 Chevrolet Chevelle roller, which he describes as having a little more muscle and being a little more race than street. He ended up building what would become a very competitive race car, with which he has been racing ever since.
With his wife Cindy as his biggest supporter and encourager, followed by their three children and their spouses and his (now nine) grandchildren, Pyle took his car out to the dragstrip for the first time at a Friday night Test and Tune. Chris Stine, from Stine Tire, a veteran racer, who also did some announcing at Bunker Hill, met him at the track and walked him through the entire process. For Pyle, this was the beginning of what would turn out to be an incredible decade of racing.
In 2014 he would join points for the first time. In 2016 Pyle was voted Most Improved Driver by his peers. 2018 would be the year that everything started to come together. He earned his first top ten finish, ending the season in the number 5 spot. This was followed in 2019 with a 4th place finish, 2020 with his first championship, and top ten finishes every year since.
Showing up to the last race of the 2023 season, there was no doubt that Pyle had his sights set on another championship. With two other talented racers in front of him, Jim Harness Jr. who has had much success over the years, including track championships and Tyler Kindle Olinger, though only his 2nd year in mod, has had multiple track championships in the Jr. Dragster class, Pyle knew that winning this championship would not be easy.
Harness went out in the first round followed by Kindle Olinger a couple of rounds later. This opened the door for Pyle, a retired insurance agent & pig farmer, who currently grows corn and soybeans to take advantage of the opportunity and create his own destiny, which is exactly what he did. Not only did he turn on enough win lights to win the championship, but he was able to take home the race win!
While the 2020 championship was his first, Pyle explains that there was something extra special about winning the championship this season. “Even though this season was my second championship, it feels more legitimate than my 2020 win. In 2020 I won the championship and never won a single race that year. I had several runner ups and was always near the top and collected a lot of points, but no wins. This year I was able to get two wins and a runner up finish in the Ironman race, and that it came down to the last race of the season to decide the championship between myself, Jim Harness, and Tyler Olinger and I was able to get one of my wins that night.”
Despite the fact that the race season ended right about the time that Pyle’s farming season began. He was still able to make the trip to Mississippi to compete at the IHRA World Finals. He made it to the fourth round in the Friday night gamblers race. On Saturday at the main event, he was unfortunately sent home in the first round when he was red by a meer .003.
After a great season, Mike Pyle’s plans are to make very few changes to his car. He credits Johnson Performance for the consistency and predictability that it gave him all season.
As much of a highlight as it was to close out his first decade of racing with the championship, this isn’t what Pyle considers as his biggest racing accomplishment. Pyle says that it is the relationships that he has built among fellow racers, like Dave McVicker, who has been encouraging him since the day they met, the race fans and the track staff, that have been his most valuable accomplishments of his racing career. It’s growing those relationships that he looks forward to most when he thinks about the upcoming 10 years and what he hopes to accomplish next.
Submitted By: Cori McMillen