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Return Road: Virginia NHRA Nationals

Not even a six-week break could cool off Bo Butner.

The best comeback – from the shortest retirement, mind you – in recent memory has paid off in a major way for the Pro Stock standout, who debuted a new car in Richmond and kept right on rolling.

Pro Stock hadn’t raced since early April, hadn’t competed in a two-lane event since March and yet the story remained the same for Butner, who went 6.599 at 209.01 mph to beat KB Racing teammate Greg Anderson in the final round of Sunday’s Virginia NHRA Nationals.

That gives Butner four wins in five races, a commanding points lead and already a series of incredible moments this year.

“This has absolutely been an amazing season,” Butner said. “Again, a good call to come back. I’m racing the boss and they still give me the best. There’s never any monkey business. They give me the best. I had a new ‘19 Camaro out there this week. It was the first time for that car and that was cool. I can’t complain. Things are still falling our way. Greg is the most competitive dude you will ever meet, but we are still happy when we get two KB cars in the final round because that lets Ken and Judy (Black) win and that’s what’s important to us.”

It was nearly the perfect, dream weekend for Butner, who also advanced to the final round in the Factory Stock Showdown before falling to close friend Drew Skillman in a thrilling final round.

But he regrouped quickly in some sweltering heat to beat Anderson, as KB Racing showed a sizeable advantage coming off the lengthy Pro Stock break. Jason Line qualified No. 1, Anderson was solid all weekend and Butner ended up winning the hectic weekend.

How the other teams respond in Chicago will be interesting to see, but Butner simply hopes to keep this run going. He knows it won’t last forever, but he’s savoring every moment of it.

“It was very hot out and I’m way out of shape to be driving two cars seven rounds in one day,” Butner said. “It was fun. I would like to do it again. In Pro Stock, we have a good enough car to win the championship with, but we all know it starts over (in the six-race Countdown to the Championship) and you have to be this good every day. It is a tough class and a lot of the other racers and a lot of teams are going to be coming in and getting their fair share of wins, but let’s just hope it is one of the KB guys.”

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ANOTHER TORRID PACE FOR TORRENCE: Well, we’ve seen this song and dance before from Steve Torrence – and it wasn’t that long ago. Torrence won his third straight race in 2019, going 3.881 at 319.82 to charge past Antron Brown in the final round. It gave Torrence his 30th career win, but more impressively, his ninth win in his past 14 races and 22 in his past 51 events. Again, all-time, legendary numbers and something I’ll never get sick of writing about.

This is dominance you don’t see everyday, so at least appreciate it. Whether you’re a fan of Torrence or not, this is history in the making, so either cheer for him or cheer against him. This is too big of a deal to simply shrug it off. As for Torrence, he went the “aw shucks” route this time, beating Brown for the fifth straight time in the final round to keep this incredible streak going.

“It’s really humbling because this sport is in no way that lopsided,” Torrence said. “We’ve just had a really, really good car and a great group of guys. There are times when I go out and do my job, and I’ve won some races on holeshots. But time and time again, those Capco boys they don’t make mistakes. They provide me with a race car that can win every round. When you have that, it’s a confidence-booster, a confidence-builder, and it makes you go up there and drive the car. A great race car can make a mediocre driver look awesome. I would say that’s where I’m at.”

CAPPS DOES IT AGAIN: It’s been a rough start to 2019 for Don Schumacher Racing. Without Ron Capps, things would look even bleaker for the super team. Up until Atlanta, DSR had just one win – Matt Hagan’s victory in Phoenix – this year and none in the Top Fuel ranks.

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Cue Capps to the rescue. He’s won back-to-back races in Funny Car, beating defending world champion J.R. Todd in the final round at Richmond with a solid 4.097 at 310.98. Considering the 140-degree track temperatures, it was a pretty incredible run, and Capps and crew chief Rahn Tobler – who won for the 30th time together on Sunday – have put together a slew of them in hot conditions the past two races. That bodes well for the summer, where Capps will look to track down points leader Robert Hight in a loaded Funny Car class.

“I can’t say enough. I’m so lucky to be driving this car,” Capps said. “For NAPA to let us do this on a national stage, to give it two wins, this is what dreams are made of. I told Tobler and those guys that I’ve never won at this track. Don Schumacher gives us everything we need. And Rahn Tobler, this is our 30th win together since 2012. That’s craziness.”

NO CATCHING HINES RIGHT NOW: Much like Butner, Andrew Hines is simply having his way in his respective class. He picked up his fourth win of the year in five possible races, continuing his dominant start with a stout 6.845 at 195.68 to beat Eddie Krawiec in the final round. He’s had his teammate’s number thus far this year, a tribute to the new chassis Hines debuted this year.

To be blunt, it’s utterly flawless right now and Hines is taking full advantage. He’s been great on the tree, the bike is putting together 60-foot times on par with the best in the class and the rest of the race hasn’t even been close. It’s been consistent and dominant all at once, and the results have been evident.

“Cool to win here in Richmond,” Hines said. “I went to the finals here last year and runnered-up to L.E. Tonglet. I’ve really looked forward to coming back to this event because it’s pool-table flat out there. You don’t have to worry about a single bump all the way down the race track. I knew my bike was 60-footing really well last year and we just kind of took the same mentality into this race.”

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FAST FRIGO: Sidnei Frigo was faster off the line and faster down the stretch, and that’s what mattered in his Pro Mod final round against points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson. Frigo claimed his third career Pro Mod victory, going 5.796 at 256.55 to beat Jackson’s quicker 5.768 at 251.16. But Frigo drilled Jackson on the starting line – something that surely won’t sit well with Jackson – going .035 to Jackson’s .073. That made a huge difference, as Frigo clipped Jackson by four feet at the finish line.

“My team really pulled through today,” Frigo stated. “For some reason, our turbo car runs really well in the heat and I wouldn’t be mad if it was this in Topeka at our next race. I saw Stevie over there at halftrack and I know that the turbo power really comes on at the top end. All I could think of was that we had him. It was really cool.”


GIMMIE ALL THE NITRO: An excellent view – sorry, no smell, though – of some nitro warm-up action for defending Funny Car world champion J.R. Todd.


NO LET UP FOR MILLICAN: Despite major changes to the team, Clay Millican keeps piling up the big performances, grabbing his first No. 1 qualifier of 2019. The Top Fuel class is loaded with some stellar single-car teams, and Millican is chief among those.

WES BUCK SHOW: Drag Illustrated Founder and Editorial Director Wes Buck delivers an epic episode with standout tuner Shane Tecklenburg. This one is a definite must-listen.

World-Renowned Tuner Shane Tecklenburg Talks 300 MPH Doorslammers, Dopamine, His Father’s Influence, Remote Tuning, Torque Converter Tech & More

NOMEX EFFECT IS BACK! J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon make up for lost time with a 12-hour episode of their podcast. Not really, but they get extensive getting everyone up to date with their seasons. It’s always awesome to hear no-holds barred opinions from two standout professional drivers.

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My favorite type of racing shot – the overhead track shot.

Been that type of stretch for Bob Tasca.

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John Force qualified No. 1 for the 157th time, but win No. 150 will have to wait.


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You know you’re doing something right as a track when you’re as universally praised as Virginia Motorsports Park has been over the past two years. Even in million-degree heat over the weekend, fans came out, the track was as good as it could possibly be and there wasn’t a negative word to be heard. On that front, kudos to the Franklin family and VMP for the awesome transformation that has taken place at that track over the past few years. That’s what makes this sport special and there’s a lesson to be learned for all tracks trying to create a special environment. VMP has given you the blueprint – let’s all oblige. See you in Chicago in two weeks!

This story was originally published on May 20, 2019. Drag Illustrated

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