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Longtime Sportsman Racer Randi Lyn Butner Preparing for Launch in Mountain Motor Pro Stock

David Hilner photo

She has no intention of giving up her beloved 1967 Pontiac, but Stock Eliminator standout Randi Lyn “RL” Butner is adding another category to her 2024 race schedule. This weekend, she will make her debut in the Mountain Motor Pro Stock category in a Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage entry, and she plans to run for the championship alongside her husband, 2017 Pro Stock world champ Bo Butner, in NHRA’s monstrous 800-plus-cubic-inch series.
 
“I like it; I like the unknown, and this is something different, something outside my normal realm of racing,” said RL, who has earned seven wins in NHRA’s challenging Stock Eliminator category, a Division 3 Stock championship, and the 2021 JEGS Allstars nomination that culminated in a final-round performance at the prestigious U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis.

“It’s like when Bo and I were learning to fly and license as pilots last year – I think people often limit themselves, but when you do something like that, it’s a good feeling,” she continued. “You get a new idea of what you’re capable of.”
 
RL laid down a series of burnouts in winter testing at different facilities, and then she was sidelined to watch as Bo slid behind the wheel of her car to help Gugliotta get it just right before she stepped into the hulking beast to launch for the first time. RL rolled up for her own first hit amongst a gang of Pro Mod racers testing their own rides at Bradenton Motorsports Park.
 
“Prior to firing up for that first launch, you’re nervous. There are a lot of people up there, and you’re in the middle of them all,” she explained. “That’s nerve-wracking because you don’t want to look like an idiot, but once you fire it up, all those thoughts leave. You do what you’ve been taught and go through the steps one-by-one.
 
“I made a lot of practice runs just sitting in the car, and I wanted to get in, get that first launch over with, and be able to move on. When they finally let me in it, I think they were very happy, and I know I was the first time matting it. Now we’ll be able to progress with me in the car.”
 
Pro Stock has long been part of RL’s world. Bo entered the NHRA Pro Stock class for the first time in 2015, and two years later, he was the champion. All along the way, from his first burnouts in a Pro Stock car to his most recent passes that landed him in the top 10 in 2023, she was by his side, watching and – inadvertently – learning. In a sense, she was destined for Pro Stock. RL grew up in Whiteland, Ind., in the same town as NHRA Pro Stock legend Bob Glidden, and from a very young age watched the Pro Stockers compete at Indianapolis Raceway Park.

“It was embedded in me from then on that this was the cool class,” said the former Jr. Drag Racing League competitor. “It’s the Sportsman racer’s class. It’s what everybody wanted to run. A Sportsman racer doesn’t usually dream of Top Fuel. They want to run Pro Stock. Now that I know that I can do this, I feel like I should have done it 10 years ago and run alongside Bo. A lot of people have said that over the years, I just never had the opportunity.”
 
With the support of Elite Motorsports team owner Richard Freeman and JHG teammate Erica Enders, the Butners will campaign a pair of sleek black-and-red Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage-branded Chevrolet Camaro Mountain Motor Pro Stockers powered by Elite Motorsports and tuned by class veteran Frank Gugliotta. Gugliotta, who spent the first chunk of his career racing and winning behind the wheel of an IHRA Pro Stocker, enjoyed a second coming as crew chief for JR Carr. In 2022, Elite Motorsports acquired Carr’s Mountain Motor Pro Stock assets, and Gugliotta came to the team to manage the program.
 
While her husband has been a large part of her learning process in the big-torque, big-power Mountain Motor car, Gugliotta has been instrumental.
 
“Frank has been really great, and even though I’m not really somebody that’s a good listener, I’ve listened pretty well to him,” admitted RL. “I’m outside of my element, so I take whatever they give me – both him and Bo have been good at showing me the ropes, so when I go up there, I’m very prepared.
 
“At first, I was unsure about how this was going to pan out, but the more we’re around Frank doing this Mountain Motor deal, the more exciting it gets. He’s really a good guy, and it’s already been a lot of fun.”
 
The team is complemented by the return of Darrel Herron, RL’s former Stock Eliminator crew chief who most recently tuned Bruno Massel to a pair of Comp Eliminator championships. Veteran Pro Stock crew member Rodney Crabtree, as well as Gage Green, who joined the crew in 2023, are rounding out the already well-bonded team. The story of a couple racing under the same awning but against one another for race wins and the championship is highly unusual, but RL sees it as a positive, in every way.
 
“It will be a whole lot of fun getting to race with Bo in the same class. We’ll be able to talk about the challenges and work through the mistakes together, and enjoy it when the cars are running well,” she said. “I’m definitely the underdog, but Bo brings out the best in me as a driver. Of course, I want to beat him, and he’s so supportive, he would love for me to beat him – but he’s also not going to let that happen.
 
“Who knows what’s in the future, but we’re enjoying this and looking forward to the season and whatever comes next. With support of people like Jason Johnson and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage, this class could really grow and become something bigger than it already is.”
 
After warming up at the Drag Illustrated World Series of Pro Mod  March 1-3, 2024, Butner will begin her NHRA season at the Amalie Motor Oil Gatornationals in Stock Eliminator, and she’ll gear up for her official debut in NHRA’s Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock category. The series is scheduled to start at the spring race in Charlotte, April 26-28, and continue with races in Bristol, Richmond, Brainerd, and Reading, with the season-closer taking place at the fall event at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The final round of each JHG Mountain Motor event will be featured on the NHRA on FOX broadcast.
 
Participants in the Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Mountain Motor Pro Stock series will race at each of the six scheduled events for a Wally, NHRA’s coveted national event trophy. For the first time, the class will compete for a world title, with a champion crowned at the end of the season in Las Vegas.
 
“I’m just excited to get it going,” said Butner, who will also run a mix of national and divisional events as a Sportsman racer in NHRA’s Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series. “There are still a lot of unknowns, but there is so much to be excited about. I’m excited for this opportunity and working with Frank, and I’m excited to go Sportsman racing with Bo again when we’re not racing Mountain Motor, grilling out with our Sportsman friends and watching Pro Stock at the finish line like we used to. More than ever, I feel like the opportunities ahead of us are endless.”

This story was originally published on March 2, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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