While Tyler Crossnoe could have spent a lot of time with his childhood friends, he chose to spend a lot of time with his dad, Tim Crossnoe.
He would go to race tracks near their Bells, Tennessee home with him and watch him race his 1969 Camaro, and by the time he was 11, he was exploring how the car worked and how it responded to track conditions.
He got behind the wheel of the supercharged big-block Chevy-powered car at 16, and went on to bracket-race it, as well as his dad’s 1967 Nova, and used what he had learned about the sport to run the tower at a local dragstrip, and then run the tower, announce and start a heads-up series at Holly Springs Motorsports in Mississippi.
It was there that he began prepping tracks and exploring what worked and what didn’t work when it came to getting cars of all elapsed-times from the starting line to the finish line.
From there, he went to work for VP Racing Fuels before starting his own company, Dream Team Traction Consulting, and partnering with Mark Samples to form Southern Speed Promotions and to promote the Outlaw Street Car Reunion.
While his dad died in 2014, Crossnoe continues to use his dad’s life, words and actions as inspiration as he charts a multifaceted course that’s inspiring, impressive and important.
“Tyler has been a huge asset to my team, not only as a friend but also in terms of our success and keeping our social media updated, helping get our car to the track, keeping tabs on what the track is doing while we’re racing and most of all being a team player,” said NMCA Mickey Thompson Radial Wars driver Daniel Pharris. “That’s irreplaceable.”
Read on for more about Crossnoe, whose increasing popularity and prominence within the race industry make him one to watch.
You had a good feel for how track surfaces work long before you took your first trip down a track surface.
I started learning about it at the age of 11, and then when I was 15, I went down track for the first time in my dad’s 1969 Camaro with a big-block Chevy and supercharger. I went straight for the electronics class because I had long before that been caught standing on the starting line holding my thumb as though I was coming off a transbrake button on the top bulb, and I went 6.04 at 112 mph in the eighth-mile. The car was all steel and all original, with roll-up windows and stock seats and a stock dash, and it took off in a big wheelie and carried the tires for 80 feet.
Did it feel like second nature, or were your nervous?
I was nervous on the first pass because I had never been in a car that wheelstands, but we had had the car for 15 years, so I knew that it was going to pull the front tires knee-high and then sit down and motor on. It never did anything out of the ordinary when it was dialed in. We stayed local while I was getting seat time, and we would take the car to Dairy Queen and McDonald’s. I stayed in the Camaro until I was 18 and then dad sold it to a buyer in Texas and got a tube-chassis 1967 Nova with a big-block Chevy. I ran 5.30s at 128-130 mph in that in the electronics class, and we started traveling a little more. We would go to Memphis International Raceway and Holly Springs Motorsport, as well as a couple tracks in Alabama and some big-money Super Pro races. I was fairly competitive, and I won an IHRA Iron Man Challenge in Memphis in 2013. We had blown the engine up early in the year and changed a bunch of stuff, and that was the first weekend out with a new engine. The car was deadly.
Meeting Mark Samples was the start of something new for you.
Mark and I met in 2012 at Holly Springs Motorsports and kept in touch, and in 2013, we partnered to form Southern Speed Promotions and that’s when the Outlaw Street Car Reunion name came back. He had the name for an event he did in 2008. We got serious about it that year and tried to put it in people’s faces, but at the same time, we were always positive and put racers in the spotlight. We like making racing celebrities. I do all of the artwork and promotion, and Mark helps with the logistics and the financials. We have several different classes, including Radial vs. the World, Limited Drag Radial, which Jason Rueckert and I put the rules together for; X275, Ultra Street and MX235, in addition to 6.0 and 7.0 indexes. The next Outlaw Street Car Reunion will be March 22-26, 2017 at Memphis International Raceway, and we’ll be bringing in Pro Street Motorcycle. Most of those bikes run six seconds and over 210 mph in the quarter mile. We have enjoyed a monumental jump in car counts. For example, from 2014 to 2015, our race went from 182 cars to 326 cars, and I’ll be honest, we were not prepared for that. It was when the radial craze was taking off, and we had 69 cars for X275 and a 32 car field for the other classes. Our 6.0 and 7.0 index classes were starting to grow and we had 50 cars in each of those.
That was a sizable jump in car count. What do you attribute that to?
Every racer knows that the track will be as good as it can be. Back when my dad raced, he always said he would drive a little further if he knew that the track prep was going to be good, and it made sense. Why go to a track that doesn’t put in the work when you can go to a track that does put in the work and you run better and more safely? Plus, my mom, Lydia, who never missed going to a race with my dad and me and would make us cookies or brownies to take, continues to help me in my endeavors. She even sells T-shirts at the Outlaw Street Car Reunion races, and welcomes everyone when they come in the gate and makes them feel like they’re part of the family.
In addition to the Outlaw Street Car Reunion, you started your own business, Dream Team Traction Consulting, in 2014.
I really wanted to see if I could do it on my own, and it has gone well. In 2016, I did track prep at 35 events, and for 2017, I have 18 events so far, including some for NMCA and NMRA. Joining NMCA and NMRA in 2016 was big for me because I wanted that for a while. I also do track prep for Radial Fest at Huntsville Dragway, and I had done the track prep there when Brad Edwards had the first-ever 3-second run on drag radials in October of 2014, and that’s something I’ll always have. It’s unreal how fast that class can change. The 3.99 from two years ago will barely get into a Top 32 field at the major events nowadays, whereas two years ago, it was the national record. I also do track prep for the Ohio Valley Prize Fight, and as well as some no-time events.
Track prep is such a specialized field, with different techniques required for different types of tires.
I would watch other people do it at events, and take note of what worked, what didn’t work and what might work with a little of this or a little of that. I taught myself, and there was some some trial and error. I learn something new at every race, and as the cars get faster and faster, the track prep evolves. For a Pro Mod race, you don’t have to spray as much glue because those cars are built to get wheel speed, not dead hook. If you overspray the track for a Pro Mod race, you’ll see a lot of tireshake. For a drag radial race, you want people’s shoes coming off when they walk on it. If a drag radial spins, it loses its grab to the track and it’s going to go up in smoke, whereas a slick tire is built to get wheelspeed and go into controlled spin. When you have both tire styles at one event, like with the NMCA, it gets trickier to prep the track and you have to be on your game to get it to work so that all of the cars can go fast.
It would be believable if you said you felt pressure to help race cars perform optimally at events.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve done it. I’m always nervous until the first car goes down track and makes a good, clean pass. I’m also always nervous in the really hot conditions in case tuners come up with a nighttime tune-up when it’s 90 degrees outside and can’t get down track. On the other hand, it’s a challenge, and I do love a challenge.
You’ve found success through the years in your racing, race promoting and race surface prepping. What are you most proud of?
I just turned 24 in September, and having multiple businesses and jobs that I wouldn’t trade for anything at my age makes me feel proud. My dad always said that if you enjoy your work, you’ll never work a day in your life. When he would say that when I was 12, I would wonder what he was talking about, and I would think a job is a job, but now I know exactly what he meant.
NMCA Mickey Thompson Radial Wars driver Daniel Pharris had a stellar 2016 season with you as his crew chief, and he very narrowly missed the championship.
I met Daniel when I was working at Holly Springs Motorsports and he won an X275 event there. I was taking the winner’s circle pictures, and I was telling him about some races. When he ended up going to one of Donald Long’s races in 2012, I went up to him and wished him good luck. As it turned out, he didn’t have anyone helping him that weekend, and I helped him. We finished as runner-up in Outlaw 275 against Terry Elam, and since then, we’ve become best friends. In fact, we’re like brothers. When I first started helping him, I was just helping him in the pits and lining him up and finding the best spot for him to have the best chance at going from A to B, but now I drive the motorhome to the track, set up the awning, do maintenance on the car and pretty much anything else he needs. I have had the honor of working with Josh Ledford on power management for Daniel’s Mustang, and working with Mark Menscer on chassis tune-ups, and making shock changes that I would have ever been able to make years ago. The new Mustang Daniel is building will be a totally different ballgame, and it will be a new adventure for us, but Josh has some experience tuning NHRA Pro Mod and Outlaw Pro Mod cars, and we’ll gladly welcome that. Our focus with Daniel’s new car will be chasing an NMCA Xtreme Pro Mod championship, but we’ll be able to swap back and forth between radials and slicks. I have really enjoyed seeing Daniel succeed.
After being out of the driver’s seat for some time, you’re having a new car built.
Yes, I am. It’s being built by Kevin Mitchell of KTR Kustoms, and it will be a gloss black 1969 Camaro that will look like my dad’s car. Kevin has been a big help, that’s for sure. I have a lot of respect for him, and I’m proud to have him build my car. He understands that I’m a really detailed-oriented person, and I don’t like things like loops of wires hanging out. The car will have a small-block Chevy built by Scott McMillian Racing Engines, and I’ll use FuelTech for fuel injection. I’m a very competitive person who would want to be at the front of the class, and because I don’t have the time or budget to run a heads-up car, I’ll hold off on that for now and run in Super Pro.
There’s a lot of sentimentality behind your dad’s 1969 Camaro. Is there a chance you could buy it back one day?
The car went to a buyer in Philadelphia, but I’d love to buy it back one day because within that car is my 18 years growing up, my first pass down a track and my first time helping to build an engine. It’s a sentimental piece for sure, and it would mean everything to me to have it back one day.
After being interviewed for this Spotlight for the January 2017 Fastest Street Car, Crossnoe was named the 2016 NMCA Ambassador of the Year during the NMCA awards ceremony on Dec. 9, 2016 at the Indiana Convention Center. The NMCA congratulates Crossnoe on the award and his accomplishments.
Photos by Steve Baur