Apparently, past Pro Stock champion Bo Butner is not flattered by the notion of a rule named after him. As he sees it, it is what it is.
What it is – is a memo distributed to NHRA professional drag racers limiting their ability to use their cars as a political billboard whether compensated for or donated.
The controversy began two weekends ago when Butner, while behind the wheel of Rickie Smith’s nitrous-injected Pro Modified Camaro, unveiled a scheme touting the Trump/Pence ticket for the 2020 Presidential election.
“Well, first things first. I support what I support,” Butner said. “I support the good Lord above us. I support my family, my business, my fiancee, and I definitely support NHRA racing. I also support our president. Even if the presidents in the past, number one, that I didn’t really care for, you still support your president. That’s just positive, making good things happen.”
The car got minimal clear coverage in NHRA.tv broadcast with an even more unmistakable message on Tuesday with the memo from NHRA’s Josh Peterson.
NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series competitors,
We wish to call your attention to Section 11:1 of the NHRA Rulebook (below), as amended. (Rulebook additions are Blue underline)
NHRA believes that it is in the best interests of NHRA and the sport for our events to be inclusive and welcoming.
Given this and NHRA’s nonprofit status, the NHRA logo or name may not be used in conjunction with any election-related messaging, including a candidate’s name or image or any other indication of support for or opposition to a political candidate.
In addition, broadcasting standards and practices do not allow political candidate messaging to be prominently featured in our telecasts, and vehicles not in compliance may lose coverage and exposure.
11:1 ADVERTISING AND OTHER MATERIAL/DISPLAYS
NHRA reserves the right to regulate any advertising or other material that is present on site at any NHRA event including without limitation any material appearing on any participant, on the body or any other visible part of any vehicle or transporter participating in NHRA events including support vehicles, in any pit area, in any area of the dragstrip from the staging lanes to the end of the dragstrip, and any item or material on site that may constitute product placement. Participants and vehicles may be excluded from competition and from event facilities if, in NHRA’s discretion, any advertising or other material displayed on a person, race or support vehicle, or in a pit area or otherwise is not in the best interests of NHRA and the sport of drag racing, and/or is or may be in conflict with any applicable law.
Moreover, NHRA will require compliance with all guidelines and requirements of any telecaster for events that will be telecast. In addition, NHRA may require certain indicia to be visible on a vehicle as a condition of participation in competition if NHRA determines that such requirement is in the best interests of NHRA and the sport of drag racing.
The NHRA logo or name may not be used in conjunction with political candidates.
If a race team legitimately is sponsored by a political candidate then the candidate’s name and the year of the election may appear on the race vehicle (but the vehicle will not be prominently featured/emphasized on television or in other content, per broadcast standards and practices). Decal size will be limited to 144 square inches on a race vehicle and 48 square inches on a motorcycle. Location will be limited to the rear quarter panel of a race car, outside for the drivers compartment of a dragster and wheelie bar side shields on a motorcycle.
If a matter is deemed by NHRA not to be in the best interests of NHRA and the sport of drag racing, then NHRA will not allow such matter to be displayed or advertised on site or in connection with NHRA in any manner whatsoever. NHRA, in its sole and absolute discretion, may take any action, up to and including disqualification of a driver, for violation of this rule.
By way of illustration and without limitation, online gambling is an activity deemed by NHRA to be not in the best interests of NHRA and the sport of drag racing, and an activity that NHRA will not allow to be displayed or advertised on site at any NHRA event or in connection with NHRA in any manner whatsoever. Websites that allow gaming that is entirely free and for fun may be permitted pursuant to further guidelines that may be requested from NHRA. Violation of any part of any such guideline will be treated as violation of the NHRA Rulebook.
Josh Peterson | Vice President, Racing Administration
One might think Butner would be hopping mad.
“I really have to applaud NHRA,” Butner said. “Maybe I shocked them with that last deal with Rickie’s car, but there has been a rule stated, I know. They just added another paragraph to those rules. And believe it or not, I have to applaud the NHRA. They came the racer’s way. What I mean by that is they are going to allow us to support who we want to support.”
NHRA reissued the statement on Thursday with a clarification memo.
Butner said NHRA’s willingness to work with teams is a significant step in the right direction.
“That to me shows a big step in the right direction for NHRA,” Butner said. “They could’ve just said, ‘No, we’re not going to be involved in it.’
“It didn’t happen that way. They also assured me that it might state in that email that maybe they’re not going to show us on TV, but if we go by the rules we’re going to get the TV time we were supposed to get. So this is the total opposite.”
Butner said he never intended for this incident to be a Bo Butner versus NHRA fight.
“The threats to NHRA, all that, is amazing to me,” Butner said. “I read some of the comments, and I stay off that [internet] stuff. I do read them, but you’ll notice [fiance] Randi Lyn does not stay off of it. So she’ll voice her opinion and defend what she thinks is right. And it’s all about passion. And at the end of the day, all we want to do is go to a race. And have a good race.”
Butner wants race fans to understand his mission initially was never to heap burning coals on NHRA in the middle of which has been one of the most challenging seasons ever. And no, Butner adds, NHRA has not coerced him to say anything. He’s speaking on his own accord.
“I completely understand NHRA’s in the middle of the COVID pandemic where, day-to-day, whether we can even go to a race,” Butner explained. “Or we can show up. How many people can be there? But their stress level, I understand, is high. But I really believe they made the right decision, or maybe made the right steps here, by allowing us to do something.
“There are not any other organizations if you’re watching right now, whether that’s baseball, basketball, NASCAR, they’re just flat against it. It’s getting horrible, but it just shows me that they’re trying to grow. I think that’s great of them, honestly. So this is probably a different interview than what you’d ever think you’d hear from me.”
Butner sees a race series that is striving to do the right thing.
“They’ve all been trying,” Butner said. “It’s not been a one-way street, which we all have always thought NHRA was all about. So, hopefully, they’re getting back to their roots of Wally Parks, and what his dream was. So I don’t know. I’m very happy with the outcome. And don’t get me wrong, U.S. Nationals is going to be Trumped out. You’re going to see Trump everywhere you look because I still have some sponsorship from a guy that doesn’t really want to be known. But he’s very good friends with Donald Trump and his family. He’s probably their number one contributor, but he’s actually rented a suite. He’s coming to the race.
“It’s going to be cool. I just really want to put out there that they’re coming our way, and when’s the last time you’ve heard that?”
And for the record, Butner has no problem with a Biden/Harris car.
“And neither does NHRA,” And I’ll take it one step further, I have Summit Racing. They’re good friends of mine. Butner added. “They’ve supported me. They support me, Jason and Greg. They allow me. They’re not a Trump supporter. They’re not a Biden supporter. But they do know you should have your choice. And to me, that might make 0.2% of the country mad, but 99.8%, it’s going to make them stronger, in my opinion. Now, I feel NHRA is the same way.”
Having a choice is as American as American can be. At least this is how Butner sees it.
“That’s what America was supposed to be from day one,” Butner said. “It just says wonders to an organization like NHRA, ‘Do you know what? You all go do what you want. Do we want you to have it all over the car?”
“I’m sure they can’t be shown as, ‘Hey, we support Trump. Hey, we support Biden. Hey, we support Black Lives Matter. Or Blue Lives Matter.”
“They have to stay out of it. And I completely understand that. And I think every fan understands that. But at the end of the day, when you see my car this weekend, they’re going, ‘Oh, Hey, Bo Butner is a Trump supporter. That’s on his car.
“I don’t care who you vote for, or what you vote for. But if you have a problem either way, just get out and vote. Get your vote out there. Then, let’s see what happens in November. But I’m banking my man wins.”
The NHRA has cracked down on political advertising when it comes to its competitors. Josh Peterson, NHRA’s Vice President, Racing Administration, issued a memo to race teams reminding them of Section 11:1 of the NHRA Rulebook. #DragRacingNews https://t.co/DmvVmK9OtB pic.twitter.com/wWW36wd9Fq
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) August 27, 2020