Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – EPPING, NH – At this weekend’s NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway, Bo Butner hopes to start the second half of the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season the same way he started the first half, and that is with a win.
Should that happen, it might also put the defending Pro Stock world champ on track to end 2018 the same way he did a season ago.
Butner won the final race of 2017 to clinch his first career world championship in Pro Stock, following that up with a victory at the 2018 season-opener in his Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro. A recent slump dropped Butner as low as eighth in points, but as evidenced by his performance a season ago, Butner knows he team is capable of bouncing back.
“All of us have raced a long time, so you do know those times are going to come,” said Butner, who is currently seventh in Pro Stock points. “Nothing is forever, but as long as everybody is working to get better, everybody is great. We’re going to stick with it. The pressure makes you better. If you’re going to fold, it’s the wrong sport and the wrong class. We want to get back into being a top four car. We just have to get our car back and get back in a groove.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), and Erica Enders (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of the event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including live finals coverage starting at 1:00 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, July 8. It is the 13th of 24 events in 2018 and will take place for the first time in July. Butner, who has six career victories, is seeking his first win at the track, a result that would certainly have him trending back in the right direction.
Butner was first in points through the first six races of 2018, but struggled to the tune of just two round wins over the next five races, dropping the standout to eighth in points. For a driver who had 58 round wins a year ago and just one first-round loss, it wasn’t what he had become accustomed to. He rebounded with a semifinal appearance at the most recent race in Norwalk, which was enough to give Butner, who won five races in 2017, confidence he is back on track.
“That car, it’s the same car that won the championship so I know it’s there,” Butner said. “We have to find it, but we just have to get it back. Greg (Anderson) is running very good, but Jason (Line) and my car have struggled. It’s not a secret. You can see it in qualifying and in points. But the year is not even close to over. I think if you stay in the top six starting the Countdown you’ve got a shot.”
That means Butner has work to do in Epping, but he’s fine with that. He enjoys competing at the fan-favorite race and will do so this weekend against the likes of points leader Tanner Gray, who has three wins in 2018, defending event winner Enders, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Vincent Nobile, who each have two victories this year, and KB Racing teammates Anderson and Line, who are both seeking their first win of the year. But getting motivated to race in front of the huge New England fanbase won’t be difficult for Butner.
“Going to Epping, it’s a place that’s always packed and it’s a great fanbase,” Butner said. ‘They’re great people and they love this deal. The fun fans are what make it worth coming out to race. To have a competitive car that’s capable of winning it gives you a boost, and I want to get that before we go out West. You have to be capable and able to win, and that can make for a good month.”
Defending Top Fuel world champ Brittany Force is after her second win in 2018, and will try to close in on Steve Torrence, who has the points lead and four wins this season. Others to watch include two-time Epping winner Tony Schumacher, Clay Millican, and Antron Brown.
Hagan picked up his second win of 2018 with a victory in Norwalk, closing the gap on points leader Courtney Force, who has four wins this season and won the inaugural race at Epping. Others to watch include two-time season winner J.R. Todd, Robert Hight, and Ron Capps.
The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, as well as the 2018 Mickey Thompson Tires Top Fuel Harley Drag Racing Series. Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with a few of the most renowned names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This will feature meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the NHRA New England Nationals include Al Segrini, Tom Prock, and Arnie Karp.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7 p.m. on Friday, July 6 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, July 7, at 1:30 and 4 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, July 8.