Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CHANDLER, AZ – Bo Butner made the announcement late last year that the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season would be his last in Pro Stock. But a change of heart just weeks later reversed that decision, and it’s already looking like a wise choice for the 2017 world champ.
Butner ultimately decided to stay in Pro Stock and he had an immediate payoff, winning the 2019 opener in Pomona. Now, he’ll try to keep that decision looking good in his Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro and extend that early-season momentum at this weekend’s 35th annual Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Arizona Nationals at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park.
“I’m really happy we came back and had a performance like that,” said Butner, who won the season-opener for the second straight year. “I feel really happy with my (KB Racing) team and so far it’s been a good choice to come back. After a rough season, a win to open the year is huge. To sit back and think who has won that race, it’s a pretty big thing. We have a great deal going here with KB Racing and the car is awesome, so if I do my job we can go rounds.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car) and Chris McGaha (Pro Stock) were last year’s winners of a race that will once again be televised nationally on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including live finals coverage starting at 6 p.m. ET on Sunday, Feb. 24. It is the second of 18 races in 2019 and Butner hopes his post-Pomona results go much differently than a year ago.
After winning the opener as the defending champion, Butner didn’t win again until the next-to-last race of the 2018 season, which led to an eighth-place finish. But the strong finish gave Butner hope for 2019 and that has already played out. The already-strong KB Racing team added Dave Connolly to its talented brain trust in the off-season and Butner, who knocked off teammate Jason Line in the final round at Pomona, continues to be impressed with the entire organization.
“The whole group is looking at five cars and we all learn from each other,” Butner said. “I was told we did less to my car than the others, and that’s been good. At the end of last season, I felt like we ran it as its own car instead of trying to run all three cars (between Butner, Line and Greg Anderson) the same. I drive different than Greg and Jason, and they drive different from each other. Having more eyes on things, it definitely helps in my opinion.”
Butner qualified third in Pomona and put together a number of consistent passes, going as quick as 6.501 in eliminations. He’ll take the points lead into Phoenix, where Butner will contend with the likes of Jeg Coughlin Jr., Line, Anderson, Erica Enders, defending event winner Chris McGaha, Pomona No. 1 qualifier Rodger Brogdon and Deric Kramer. But after testing well at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park earlier this month, Butner feels good about his chances at a first career Pro Stock win at the facility against another loaded field.
“It looks like it’s going to be similar conditions to Pomona, so we’re excited about that,” Butner said. “We’ve got a really good car and I have all the confidence in the world in my team. Everyone seems happy we came back this year and I’m glad we did. The class is definitely building and the fans love it. They relate to a Pro Stock car and it’s a sportsman racer’s dream to run in Pro Stock.”
Top Fuel defending world champ Steve Torrence will look for a second straight win in Phoenix after finishing as runner-up to Doug Kalitta in Pomona. Others to watch include Clay Millican, Terry McMillen, Leah Pritchett, Antron Brown and 2017 world champ Brittany Force.
In Funny Car, 2017 world champ Robert Hight got off to a hot start with his victory at Pomona and he’ll look to keep that momentum going against defending world champ Todd, Tommy Johnson Jr., Ron Capps, John Force, Jack Beckman and Shawn Langdon.
The event also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, where future stars of the sport hone their skills.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities.
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 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 22 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Feb. 23, also at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Feb. 24.
For the first time, FOX Sports 1 (FS1) will feature one hour of exclusive Pro Stock coverage on Tuesday, February 26, beginning at 9 p.m.