Starting the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in ninth place, defending Pro Stock world champ Bo Butner is well aware of the position he’s in heading into the playoff opener at this weekend’s 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
For Butner to have any shot at repeating in the loaded Pro Stock class, he knows he needs to get off to a quick start in his Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro. Butner is just fine with that pressure, even if it means having to advance to the final round or win his first race since the season-opener in Pomona. The past three races indicate Butner may have regained his championship form, leaving him focused on repeating his Pro Stock event win from a year ago at Maple Grove.
“We’re fortunate to be in the top 10, but if you want to make a run at it you’re going to have to get final rounds the first few races and take out some of the guys at the top,” Butner said. “I would like to be starting first, but we have a good chance to move up and maybe we can make up some ground these first few races. We’ve had a lot of good fortune at (Maple Grove Raceway) and have a good record going there. It’s a cool place and a very cool area.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Butner (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were all winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 in 2018, including final eliminations coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 16. It is the 19th of 24 races in the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the first of six in the Countdown to the Championship, and Butner enters the playoffs having regained his confidence.
The team went through a troubling spell of six first-round losses in a span of eight races, a stretch even more frustrating after the team’s hot start to 2018 included the Pomona win and three final rounds in the first four races. But Butner has qualified well at the past three events, advancing to the semifinals at two of them, including the most recent race at Indy, giving the six-time event winner a much-needed boost heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
“You want to roll into the Countdown thinking you’ve got a good car,” Butner said. “I feel like we’re ready for it. We got in that slump, but I feel better after the last three events. We’ve had a good car and one that was capable of winning the race. We’re definitely fast enough to have a shot to win. I feel good about the performance side and now it’s up to me, and that’s what I strive for.”
But Butner is also well aware he will have his work cut out for him during the six-race playoffs, starting this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway. He’s had success at the track in Pro Stock and in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman ranks, but Butner will be facing off against a loaded Pro Stock Countdown to the Championship lineup that includes points leader Tanner Gray, who has five wins in 2018, Greg Anderson, Erica Enders, four-time race winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Drew Skillman, Deric Kramer and Chris McGaha. Butner, though, hopes to surprise some people over the next six races to end his 2018 on a good note.
“It’s going to be really tough for someone out of the top five to win, but again who would have thought I would win last year,” Butner said. “We have to go to some final rounds, but really anybody in the top 10 has a legit chance to win a race and the championship. It’s definitely the most competitive Pro Stock has been since I’ve been racing in the class. We’re happy to be part of the deal. It’s an awesome class and it’s still true, competitive racing.”
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 610-856-9200. Tickets also are available online at www.maplegroveraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate.