On paper, Bo Butner is most definitely set up for success heading into Sunday at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at venerable Maple Grove Raceway, and if he’s able to connect all the right dots, he’s got a chance for a momentous close to an already extraordinary weekend.
Early Saturday in Reading, the U.S. Nationals Super Gas winner secured a trip to a second-consecutive final round in the class, and later that afternoon he locked into the 12th Pro Stock No. 1 qualifier award of his career. Butner, driving the swift and increasingly fearsome Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Chevrolet Camaro, will square off with Fernando Cuadra Sr. in the first round of Pro Stock eliminations, and he will accept a bye run into the Super Gas final shortly thereafter.
“This is very cool,” said Butner in his pressroom interview after earning his first Pro Stock No. 1 of the year and his first since the 2019 U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. “I’m glad it held up, but this field is tough. You have to make a ‘right time, right place’ kind of run to do this. Everybody is so close, so it’s going to be a good race tomorrow. Our JHG crew and the Elite team try very hard, and it’s showing with our car.”
Butner entered Saturday holding onto the pole thanks to a 6.523-second pass at 210.08 mph in the Friday session. The strong run breathed fresh life into the #JHGDriven team; prior to the Reading event, their best qualifying position of the season came at the spring race in Las Vegas, where Butner started third.
Here at Maple Grove and through three rounds of qualifying, Butner’s JHG Chevy maintained its position as one of the quickest and best-tuned cars, ultimately earning the 2017 Pro Stock champion a total of five bonus points that assisted his ascension from 11th to No. 10 in the Pro Stock standings.
Butner has proudly flown the colors of Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage on the side of his Pro Stock car all season long, whether he was in the silver Chevrolet that he piloted for the majority of the regular season or the striking red #JHGDriven Camaro he settled into at Topeka. In a curious twist of fate, Butner will actually race against the car he drove for the first part of the season – first-round opponent Cuadra took possession of it beginning with this event.
“The drivability of this red car compared to the gray one is close, but I don’t do the tuning,” said Butner. “It’s really tough on the crew chiefs when you can’t make the car do the same thing, and it wasn’t consistent for us. But Fernando is in the car this week, and maybe they’ll get it figured out. It’s really cool that I get to race that car, though – I want to get it back for how it treated us the first part of the year.”
In the Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series – NHRA’s premier Sportsman series – Butner has so far accumulated 11 consecutive Super Gas round wins after the Indy win two weeks ago. On Sunday at Maple Grove, Butner’s semifinal bye run guarantees a shot at his 29th national event trophy and third in Super Gas. Also of note, Butner won here at Maple Grove Raceway in Stock Eliminator in 2010 – it was his first Stock win – and again in 2011 in Comp and 2017 in Pro Stock.
Competing in two categories also gives Butner the opportunity for a unique and coveted double-up win. If he can sweep both Super Gas and Pro Stock, he will have 30 overall national event trophies.
“That would be awesome,” Butner said with his signature smile. “I’ve been fortunate to double-up before [Las Vegas 2012 in Comp and Super Stock], so it would be really cool to do it again. But my goal is for Randi Lyn [Shipp, fiancée] to win Stock, too. Then we triple-up. She’s as much a part of my car as I am of hers.”
Butner and Shipp doubled once before, at the 2019 Gatornationals in Gainesville, when Butner won Pro Stock and Shipp won Stock. So far this weekend, Shipp has reached the semifinals wheeling her 1967 Pontiac Firebird. The seven-time Stock winner was runner-up in the category at this event in 2019.
Final eliminations for all categories at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway will commence at 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday.