Butner’s historic comeback leads to first NHRA Mello Yello world title

Former Comp champ Bo Butner defeated Tanner Gray in the final round of the Auto Club NHRA Finals to clinch his first NHRA Mello Yello Series Pro Stock championship.
12 Nov 2017
Kevin McKenna, NHRA National Dragster Senior Editor

Bo Butner has overcome the odds more than once in his life and he did so again with a thrilling come-from-behind march to the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Pro Stock title. Butner entered the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals trailing teammate Greg Anderson by 40-points meaning he’d need to win two more rounds than Anderson to clinch the title. Butner knocked off the first task in the semifinals when he topped Anderson in a thrilling 6.551 to 6.564 side-by-side race. He completed the rout by beating rookie Tanner Gray in the final round. Butner had previously been winless in four races against Gray. In the pivotal final, Butner drove to a 6.554, 201.70 to eclipse Gray’s 6.653, 208.62 run.

“This says so much about the KB Racing team,” said Butner. “I lease a car from them and they’ve given me everything I need to win a championship. What a great season. I’m very happy for all the guys who work on this team. They all pulled together and got it done. I’m living proof that miracles do happen. I’ve truly been blessed.”

“This has been a long season and a tough season,” Butner said. “We were all bunched together all year, but the KB guys gave me the best. It’s amazing. When you are a kid you dream about hitting a free throw with no time on the clock and that’s kind of what this deal was. I didn’t drive the best today. When it’s your day, I’m blessed. I like how it looked on paper. You have to have your destiny in your own hands. You don’t want to have to watch someone else. That’s shocking to me. I got butterflies in the semi’s and I had to get my game face on for the final. Then in the final; that’s tough. Tanner is going to be a champion.”

Butner has enjoyed an amazing career as a sportsman racer with numerous wins in Stock, Super Stock, and Comp. He also won the Comp national championship in 2006. After moving to Pro Stock, he struggled in his first two seasons, and entered the 2017 campaign still seeking his first victory. Butner finally broke that drought when he won his first event in April in Houston. That confidence-inspiring win helped open the floodgates and Butner battled to additional victories in Atlanta, Norwalk, and Reading. Butner was also a finalist in Bristol, Denver, Sonoma, Brainerd, and the most recent event in Las Vegas.

At the season-ending Pomona event, Butner qualified in the No. 5 spot with a 6.559 best. He worked his way to the final round for the 11th time this season following wins against Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Anderson. He becomes just the 18th driver to win a Pro Stock championship since the inception of the class in 1970.

“I’m still a Stock racer at heart,” Butner said. “I still run Super Stock and Comp and I think I had the whole sportsman world backing me. When Dan Fletcher is down there screaming and hollering for you it’s pretty cool. I think we’ll have more Pro Stock fans next year because of this.”