It is no secret that two-time NHRA world champion Bo Butner has an affinity for drag racing, but Butner recently learned that his interest in motorsports extends beyond the paved quarter-mile strip. At the upcoming Chili Bowl Midget Nationals, Butner will officially dip a toe into the world of dirt as a sponsor, with Jim Butner Auto Group on the side of the Glenn Styres Racing entry driven by young Gage Green.
“I’m really looking forward to being part of this and seeing Gage race. He’s been part of our team in drag racing this past year and seen how we operate, so it’ll be a lot of fun to be on the other side of it,” said Butner, who will add a new notch to his own racing belt as he competes in Mountain Motor Pro Stock in the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series.
This past September, Butner and Green, who pilots Butner’s private plane and works on his NHRA/Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series entries, attended the World 100 at Eldora Speedway by way of a gracious invitation from Tony Stewart. There, Butner was introduced to an environment that got his attention, and with a background in open-wheel dirt racing as both a driver and crew member, Green was thrilled to have the opportunity to share the experience.
“Bo saw the World 100 and was pretty excited about it,” said Green, who started racing go-karts in high school and carried on through college before graduating to mini sprints, which he has raced for the last two years. “I just figured we could get him interested and he’d want to come back and watch the Chili Bowl. I’d planned on working with the Glenn Styres Racing team again this year (on the crew), but Bo had such a good time at Eldora that he wanted to know how much it would cost to race the Chili Bowl, what kind of sponsorship it would take for me to drive. It just went from there. I’m excited, and I think it’s going to be a really good time.”
The event will mark Green’s debut in a national midget, and he is looking forward to driving for Glenn Styres Racing. Being there hands-on in support of the team last January gave the Indiana native the opportunity to grasp the magnitude of the marathon that is the Chili Bowl Nationals, and this time around, Green knows he’s in for an even more exciting and strenuous race.
“It’s a lot of work, and it’s a really long week – by the end of it, you’re ready to go home, but it doesn’t take long before you’re ready to go back next year,” he said. “This race isn’t about the payout, it’s about history and prestige. Everybody that races a midget looks to this race, it ends one year and begins the next, and everybody wants to be there, they want to do well and make a good impression. A lot of people are watching.”
The car that Green typically drives has about half the horsepower as the one he’ll be competing in at SageNet Center in Tulsa next week, but testing before the Chili Bowl has allowed him to get a feel for the difference. He also shared that the Chili Bowl takes place on a small track, so full use of the available power isn’t the most advantageous strategy.
“Throttle control will be very important,” said Green. “But the chassis itself is the same size – there’s just a lot more to the midget. I think the biggest challenge will be making my mind work as fast as the car. I’m nervous, for sure, but there aren’t big expectations being placed on me – I just really want to do well relative to what I expect of myself. This is the logical next-step in the process and fits what I want to do and how I want to race in the future, but this is a dream. I never would have thought I would be racing the Chili Bowl this year, and I’m very grateful.”
The 38th annual Chili Bowl Nationals powered by NOS Energy Drink will take place January 8-13, 2024, at SageNet Center in Tulsa, Okla.