The last time Bo Butner raced at the famed Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, he was sure it would be his last in a Pro Stock machine.
Announcing he was leaving the sport just a few weeks shy of the NHRA season finale in 2018, Butner had plans to hang up his racing gloves and boots and sail off into the sunset with a championship, a handful of wins and a two-year stretch as one of the most dominant drivers in the garage area.
And then stepped in good ol’ mom.
“My mother made the decision for me,” Butner said with a laugh. “I was ready to go. I am getting ready to have a grandkid in April and wanted to be around home more. Then, at Pomona at the finals, my mom who loves being around the fans, was like, ‘I think we need to keep doing this.’ She just turned 82 and wants to come to some races. That and my son being able to run our dealership. That was big for us. So here we are, we are going to try to do this again.”
So, three months after announcing his retirement, Butner showed up at the season opening Lucas Oil NHRA Winternationals presented by ProtecttheHarvest.com at the very same track where he planned to hang it all up and did the unthinkable – winning the whole thing.
Butner defeated Jason Line in an all-KB Racing final to earn his eighth career victory behind the wheel of the Jim Butner’s Auto Chevrolet Camaro, racing to a 6.522-second pass at 211.59 mph to repeat as Winternationals champion. Line ran into issues during his run ending in a smoky 7.160 at 148.58 mph.
“We had good hits this morning and that gave me lane choice. My car liked both lanes and they were all questioning why I took the right lane, but we just felt good in that lane,” Butner said. “The car would have been a very good Top Sportsman car today. It was very deadly. We were just blessed today and I am glad to be back.”
Butner had a solid afternoon during Monday’s rain-delayed final day of eliminations, defeating Alan Prusiensky, Chris McGaha and Erica Enders on his way to his 21st career final. Line had wins over Fernando Cuadra, Steve Graham and Alex Laughlin.
Butner’s semifinal matchup with Enders proved his toughest of the afternoon as a rare misstep at the tree by the Elite Motorsports driver allowed Butner to take the advantage and the win with a 6.518 at 211.53 mph to Enders’ 6.527 at 211.93 mph.
“I think she made a decent run, but when you miss (the tree) you miss it, and I can guarantee she knew it,” Butner said. “She is a great driver, just like Jason and everybody we ran today. She just missed the tree. And when it is your time it is your time. I definitely felt like we had the best car all four rounds today. This is the most competitive class and that is one reason why I came back.”
But it was still the win that almost never happened. And while Butner certainly had his reasons to step away from the sport, he was thrilled that his decision to come back paid off so quickly.
“The lord blessed us. This is the same car, same team. There are a few new guys, but the old guys are still here and everybody showed up this weekend and made this happen,” Butner said. “We were really struggling in qualifying. We were all struggling with this racetrack and somebody made a decision and the safety safari guys and the guys upstairs made this a great track. My car was great in both lanes, so hats off to those guys. They did their job so we could have a good race.”
Butner was also racing on Monday with a heavy heart, having lost his brother just two weeks prior to the season opener.
“I lost my brother two weeks ago and I was contemplating if I should even be out west. I talked to his family about it and this win is for them and my family,” Butner said. “It is tough. It still feels like he is just on vacation, but he was with us today and he is up there with my father.”
With the win, Butner has now won the season-opening Winternationals two years in a row, but he hopes this year turns out a litter better than the last. After winning in Pomona last year, Butner didn’t win again for another eight months when he collected another Wally at Las Vegas.
“You always want your first win to come earlier and the earlier the better,” Butner said. “Because I can say that, ‘now I have a win in 2019.’ But at the same time, it would be horrible if this is the only race I win. It actually felt that way last year. We didn’t have a bad car, we just didn’t have the luck. This year I feel like we have a great car and a great team and we are very excited to keep going.
“We are going to try to win them all. This KB team is just as strong as ever and will only get better.”
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 4, 2019