Bo Butner wins Indy again in Super Gas, RL Butner claims class trophy in Super Stock

The Bo Butner Racing Sportsman team, flying the colors of Jim Butner Auto Group, Summit Racing, Mickey Thompson, and JHG, had an outstanding outing at the 69th annual Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals. Racing in four categories with husband-and-wife drivers Bo and Randi Lyn (RL) Butner, they came up aces twice to etch a memorable Indy in their book of drag racing history.

Bo goes back-to-back

Winning Indy is a rare and treasured accomplishment, and it’s at the very top of every NHRA drag racer’s wish list. Few are fortunate enough to win the biggest, most historic, and most prestigious drag race, and even fewer are lucky enough to repeat. That, however, is just what Bo Butner did in his Super Gas Corvette roadster with back-to-back wins at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals.

Bo Butner wins Super Gas at the NHRA 2023 U.S. Nationals

This year’s triumph was also a milestone as it was the 30th national event win of Bo’s career.

“I should be excited about that number, but I’m 49 – that’s not even one a year,” joked Bo, who has now raced in 63 national event final rounds. “But 30 is a great number, and just to be able to come out and do this so much, I’ve been blessed.”

Bo’s journey to the winner’s circle in his ’63 Vette began on Thursday at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park. It was the second win of the weekend for the Bo Butner Racing team; Bo’s wife, Randi Lyn, won FSS/L class in Super Stock on Saturday driving the team’s Cobra Jet Mustang.

After watching her race the first round of Super Stock in the main event on Thursday, he high-tailed it back to the lanes and hopped in the ‘Vette for his own elimination round. Last year at this race, Bo claimed a long-awaited Indy win – and he did so in the challenging Super Gas category driving the car that he acquired in 2019 and won with in its debut. The defending event champion arrived at this year’s rendition of the U.S. Nationals with three previous Super Gas wins.

Bo Butner’s Super Gas roadster in the early rounds at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park

Bo won his a first-round meeting with Johnny Cobb with a .005 reaction time and 9.930 on the 9.90 target to his opponent’s .007 and breakout 9.891, and in his Friday morning run he was .018 at the hit and recorded a 9.914 to eliminate Paul Richardson’s .006 and 9.952. Saturday brought another round win as Bo was .004 at the tree and 9.944 at the finish line to defeat Ryan Locke’s .023 and 9.969.

The lucky round

On Sunday, Bo’s fourth-round Super Gas win over Tim Lynch was a little more rewarding than a normal round win after he woke up to a set of dead batteries in his roadster.

“Both batteries just decided to die, so I had no power right before I was getting ready to warm up,” he explained. “There was a little bit of panic mode, but we stopped and checked all the wiring, and the only thing we could do was put some new batteries in it. We did that, but the problem is that they weigh 40 pounds more each. So, we had to throw 80 pounds in it, and I had to make sure we could go fast enough. We were lucky; I made a good guess.”

Bo was .009 as he left the starting line and ran 9.953 on the 9.90 (with a few whomp whomp whomps) to Lynch’s .013 and 9.955.

Bo Butner, focused and ready in his Super Gas ’63 Corvette roadster

In the fifth round, Bo was .011 and ran right on the 9.90 with a 9.902 to send Jesse Fritts home on a .040, 9.918, and then the long wait began. The semifinals were scheduled after the Pros, and Bo waited as patiently as possible to find out if he would be racing on Monday at Indy.

Bringing it home

Bo was ready when his turn came, and his .009 was laid down next to a red-lighting Gene Brown, who left -.004 too soon. The final was the 63rd of Bo’s career and fourth at the U.S. Nationals. He was runner-up there in Comp in 2004, runner-up in Pro Mod in 2020, and won Super Gas in 2022.

In this year’s Super Gas final, George Meyer left with a .002 reaction time to Bo’s .021, and it was a bit dodgy for a few seconds until the Jim Butner Auto Group (JBA)-branded ‘Vette crossed the finish line ahead of Meyer, 9.948 to 9.987, to set the win light flashing.

“I am very, very happy – but you know me, in the back of my mind, I’m still upset about first round in the Pro Stock car,” Bo admitted. He had made one of the quickest passes in the fourth round of qualifying driving his Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage Chevrolet Camaro and felt it had promise, but on raceday he was relegated to a lane that remained troubled after an earlier oil down. He shook and slowed and did not advance, so winning the final in Super Gas at his home track – again – was particularly sweet.

“I’m very fortunate to do something like this. I do not know what it is about this car – it’s just such a good combination, but we actually changed the combination and it still won. To redo the car and for it to come out and be as good as it was before, I’m very happy. This car had won a lot before I ever sat in it, but a good car is a good car.

“It helps to have great people behind you, like Randi Lyn, everyone at Jim Butner Auto Group, Gage Green was helping us out here, and of course Summit Racing, Mickey Thompson, and Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage. Hopefully, there are more wins coming.”

Bo Butner celebrating the win with crewman and pilot Gage Green and wife and fellow racer RL Butner

Whose idea was this, anyway?

“I actually offered the Super Gas car to Randi for this race; I was going to try to sort out the Mustang [Super Stocker], but luckily she let me defend our title.”

RL’s side of the story is a little different.

“Bo really wanted to run Super Stock, but I know I’m not really that great at hitting the Pro tree in his car, and he obviously does really well,” she said, smiling. “I was like, no, you’re running Super Gas. Not that I knew this was going to happen, but I knew he had a better shot running this than I did. It worked out for the best.”

Just missing a friendly rival final

The Super Gas semifinals ladder had Bo on one side and good friend Austin Williams on the other. The thought of the two buddies racing one another in the final was an exciting possibility, and when Bo won his semifinals match with Gene Brown, all eyes turned to Austin. George Meyer was .008 to Austin’s .033, though, and it did not improve from there for the accomplished racer and two-time Indy winner. Meyer went 9.924 to win over Austin’s 9.930.

Bo Butner and Austin Williams watching the early pairs in Stock Eliminator at the U.S. Nationals
Austin Williams and Bo Butner reviewing the numbers back at the BBR trailer after a round of Super Gas

“To have them both in the final would have been crazy and fun; I don’t think Bo and Austin have raced in all these years,” said RL. “We all work together and race together, and it’s great to have that support between each other. Austin can dial half the Stockers better than the Stockers can dial themselves; he really knows his stuff. When you’re all working together on that, you have a really good trust and can make stuff happen. It’s just more fun when he’s around.”

RL claims coveted class win

Class eliminations have long been one of the most anticipated affairs at Indy, and on Thursday at the Dodge Power Brokers NHRA U.S. Nationals, Randi Lyn “RL” Butner claimed one of the most coveted trophies when she drove the Bo Butner Racing/Jim Butner Auto Group Cobra Jet Mustang to victory in the FSS/L class. It was the second Indy class win for RL, who earned the first several years ago behind the wheel of her usual ride, the 1967 Pontiac Firebird with which she claimed the 2021 Division 3 Stock Eliminator championship.

RL Butner and the FSS/L class trophy

“Indy is the class win that matters the most,” said RL, “It’s the one race everybody watches and everybody looks at to be fast. It’s a very big deal here, and I’m happy I was able to get it done.”

The feat was particularly notable as RL did it in Super Stock, a class she has never before raced. The first round of qualifying at the U.S. Nationals marked her first time behind the wheel of the Cobra Jet, a car that her husband, Bo, has had great success driving. He won the inaugural Factory Stock Showdown in 2012, on the very racetrack his wife claimed the class win 11 years later.

With just two runs ever in the Cobra Jet heading into class eliminations, though, RL was still finding her groove.

The Cobra Jet Mustang that Bo Butner raced to the first Factory Stock win in 2012 and RL Butner raced to the class trophy in 2023

“I feel confident that I’ll get better and more comfortable every run, but it’s been very nerve-wracking, and I’m definitely still out of my comfort zone. That was my very first run where I almost hit all my shifts,” she said. “I did way better that run than I had the previous two, and I hit the tree. Everything came together, and it felt good. Now I feel like, okay, we can go racing.”

RL recorded a .005-second reaction time and raced to a 9.702-second pass at 139.52 mph to defeat Curtis Hieb’s .126 reaction and 9.849, 134.98 for the trophy, which will travel with the Bo Butner Racing team back home to Clarksville, Ind., to be prominently displayed.

“No matter if it’s a class win, a divisional, or a national – all of the Indy wins are front and center. This is home for us,” said RL.

Stockers are Way Cool

The pristine white 1967 Pontiac Firebird is one of the most recognizable cars in NHRA Stock Eliminator, and with seven national event wins and a division championship to its credit, it’s RL’s baby. Unfortunately, after claiming the FSS/L class trophy in Super Stock, RL entered the third day of the U.S. Nationals in completely uncharacteristic fashion – her D/SA Pontiac was on the outside of the field in Stock Eliminator. If she was going to have a chance at racing for the Stock trophy at her home race, she would have to be inserted as an alternate. Thankfully, fate saw fit to give the Indiana native a shot, but it was going to be a steep challenge as she was paired with Ellis Buth and his 15-second W/SA ’91 Ford Ranger.

RL Butner’s D/SA ’67 Pontiac Firebird at the U.S. Nationals

In their early morning round, RL kept her composure as her opponent left the starting line first on a .035 reaction time to begin his unhurried journey, and after launching on a .031, she made haste down the quarter-mile in her sleek Pontiac to close the gap. RL timed the finish line just right, crossing the final stripe and putting up a 10.688 on her 10.64 dial to Buth’s 16.011 on a 15.82.

Narrowing the focus

The first round of Super Stock didn’t quite go as planned, despite a strong effort and a showing of ever-increasing comfort for RL. She left the starting line with a cool .008 reaction time and worked to complement the excellent start with a strong performance at the finish line. Unfortunately, opponent Dave Dupps Jr. overcame his .034 start with a dead on 9.709 (9.70) to her 9.748 (9.70), and that ended RL’s Super Stock debut.

RL Butner in the JBA-branded Super Stock Cobra Jet Mustang

She claimed another win light on Saturday in Stock, though, launching on a .014 and going 10.707 on her 10.68 next to Jim Beuthel’s .019 and 10.772 on a 10.73. With just one round of racing on the Saturday schedule for the Stock and Super Gas competitors, both RL and Bo earned a ticket to race on Sunday and continue pursuing their dream of hoisting a U.S. Nationals trophy in 2023.

The call for “Stock to the lanes” echoed through the pits bright and early on Sunday at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Dew was wiped from windows, trailer doors were let down, and the rumble of warming racecars broke the quiet. Wide awake and with 10.71 on the window, RL came to the starting line for a third-round meeting with Howie Smith. There, she threw down a .014 reaction and surged to a 10.731 to eliminate Smith’s .064 and 11.963 (11.95).

In the fourth round, Mike McMahan was red by -.007 next to RL’s .027 and consistent 10.733. The tables were turned in the quarterfinals when RL’s side of the tree glowed -.021 red, and her weekend at the U.S. Nationals came to a disheartening conclusion.

RL Butner and Mike McMahan

“That was really out of nowhere,” she said. “In all of my hits – other than the one I chipped up real high trying to qualify – I was between .015 and .032. I was not worried about going up there and being red; I trust myself, and I was set up right. They say, ‘were you pumped up,’ bt no. I have a job to do, and I keep all that contained. I didn’t feel like, ‘Oh, it’s fifth round at Indy, I’m so nervous.’ It was just kind of a fluke, and I must have really met the tree when it came on. I thought I crushed it when my leg let go. I did not ever think it was going to be red.”

On the road again

Overall, the Bo Butner Racing team had an exceptional outing at the 2023 U.S. Nationals, and the two trophies claimed will stand as reminders of what is possible in the incredibly competitive world of NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series competition.

“Our Indy was very exciting,” said RL. “We had an eventful couple of weeks getting cars together and getting things on track, we were testing cars in Bowling Green while also racing. The Super Gas car just got painted and put together, so to make it here and win back-to-back – plus win the class trophy – is epic. We can’t wait for the next one.”

The team isn’t planning to haul the Sportsman cars to Maple Grove Raceway for the next event on the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series schedule, but they’ll be back on track shortly thereafter. Stay tuned.

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