MOHNTON, Pa. – Starting the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship in ninth place, defending Pro Stock world champ Bo Butner is well aware of the position he’s in heading into the playoff opener at this weekend’s 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway.
For Butner to have any shot at repeating in the loaded Pro Stock class, he knows he needs to get off to a quick start in his Jim Butner Auto Chevrolet Camaro. Butner is just fine with that pressure, even if it means having to advance to the final round or win his first race since the season-opener in Pomona. The past three races indicate Butner may have regained his championship form, leaving him focused on repeating his Pro Stock event win from a year ago at Maple Grove.
“We’re fortunate to be in the top 10, but if you want to make a run at it you’re going to have to get final rounds the first few races and take out some of the guys at the top,” Butner said. “I would like to be starting first, but we have a good chance to move up and maybe we can make up some ground these first few races. We’ve had a lot of good fortune at (Maple Grove Raceway) and have a good record going there. It’s a cool place and a very cool area.”
Brittany Force (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Butner (Pro Stock), and Eddie Krawiec (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were all winners of an event that will be televised on FOX Sports 1 in 2018, including final eliminations coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, Sept. 16. It is the 19th of 24 races in the 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the first of six in the Countdown to the Championship, and Butner enters the playoffs having regained his confidence.
The team went through a troubling spell of six first-round losses in a span of eight races, a stretch even more frustrating after the team’s hot start to 2018 included the Pomona win and three final rounds in the first four races. But Butner has qualified well at the past three events, advancing to the semifinals at two of them, including the most recent race at Indy, giving the six-time event winner a much-needed boost heading into the Countdown to the Championship.
“You want to roll into the Countdown thinking you’ve got a good car,” Butner said. “I feel like we’re ready for it. We got in that slump, but I feel better after the last three events. We’ve had a good car and one that was capable of winning the race. We’re definitely fast enough to have a shot to win. I feel good about the performance side and now it’s up to me, and that’s what I strive for.”
But Butner is also well aware he will have his work cut out for him during the six-race playoffs, starting this weekend at Maple Grove Raceway. He’s had success at the track in Pro Stock and in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series sportsman ranks, but Butner will be facing off against a loaded Pro Stock Countdown to the Championship lineup that includes points leader Tanner Gray, who has five wins in 2018, Greg Anderson, Erica Enders, four-time race winner Jeg Coughlin Jr., Vincent Nobile, Jason Line, Drew Skillman, Deric Kramer and Chris McGaha. Butner, though, hopes to surprise some people over the next six races to end his 2018 on a good note.
“It’s going to be really tough for someone out of the top five to win, but again who would have thought I would win last year,” Butner said. “We have to go to some final rounds, but really anybody in the top 10 has a legit chance to win a race and the championship. It’s definitely the most competitive Pro Stock has been since I’ve been racing in the class. We’re happy to be part of the deal. It’s an awesome class and it’s still true, competitive racing.”
Defending Top Fuel world champ Brittany Force will look for a second straight win at Maple Grove against points leader Steve Torrence, Clay Millican and eight-time world champ Tony Schumacher.
Ron Capps will begin his quest for a second Funny Car world title in three years against points leader Courtney Force, reigning world champ Robert Hight and Matt Hagan.
Eddie Krawiec has six Pro Stock Motorcycle wins at the track and the reigning world champ and current points leader will try to add to that against Andrew Hines, LE Tonglet and Hector Arana Jr. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport. After Nitro qualifying, fans can watch the spectacular Hanna Motorsports First Strike and Top Secret Eastern Raider Jet Funny Cars. Jet cars are thrust driven propelled by jet engines with exciting pre-run flame shows.
Those in attendance will also have the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to interact with some of the biggest names in drag racing during the NHRA Legends Tour. This includes meet-and-greets, autograph sessions, and a variety of other activities. Legends scheduled to attend the Dodge NHRA Nationals include Al Segrini, Frank Manzo and more.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 14, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Sept. 15, at 1:15 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 16.
The Mopar Mega Block Party will rev up Dodge NHRA Nationals race weekend for the third consecutive year. The free-admission fan event, set to roll into FirstEnergy Stadium in Reading from 4 -10 p.m. ET on Thursday, September 13, will offer a jam-packed slate of fun activities for Mopar and Dodge//SRT enthusiasts.
NHRA stars and TV personalities will step to the plate and take their cuts in the annual Mopar Mega Block Party home run derby. Mopar Dodge//SRT NHRA drivers Hagan, Pritchett, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., and Tony Schumacher will slug it out alongside NHRA on Fox play-by-play announcer Dave Rieff (the defending champ), color commentator Tony Pedregon, and pit reporter Bruno Massel Jr. to determine who will wear the home run crown.
NHRA announcer Alan Reinhart will provide the play-by-play. Donations to the Make-A-Wish and Infinite Hero Foundations will be made in the name of the winner of the elimination-style competition. Mopar Mega Block Party attendees can also meet their favorite drivers in a one-hour long autograph session, hop in the cab of the 10-ft. tall Raminator Monster Truck for a once-in-a-lifetime ride and test their virtual racing skills in the “Drag Strip Showdown,” a head-to-head competition in Dodge Challenger SRT Demon simulators. A HEMI-fueled, 100-plus Mopar car show, giveaways, food and drink booths, vendor displays and live concerts by bands Liquid A, Go-Go Gadjet and TJ Bebb are also on tap, with a Mega Fireworks display to close out the night.
For more information on the Mopar Mega Block Party, visit www.moparblockparty.com.
To purchase general-admission or reserved seats, call 610-856-9200. Tickets also are available online at www.maplegroveraceway.com. Kids 12 and under are free in general admission areas with a paid adult. To honor the Salute to First Responders, military and first responders can save 20 percent on general admission tickets at the gate. For more information about the NHRA visit www.NHRA.com.
DODGE NHRA NATIONALS FACT SHEET
WHAT: 34th annual Dodge NHRA Nationals, the 19th of 24 events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series and the first of six races in the NHRA Mello Yello Countdown to the Championship playoffs. Drivers in four categories – Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle – earn points leading to 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series world championships.
WHERE: Maple Grove Raceway, Mohnton, Pa. Track is located off the Pennsylvania Turnpike (Exit 298), 10 miles south of Reading, Pa.
COURSE: Championship drag strip; Track elevation is 548 feet above sea level; Track direction is north to south.
WHEN: Thursday through Sunday, Sept. 13-16
THURSDAY, Sept. 13 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
FRIDAY, Sept. 14 – LUCAS OIL SERIES qualifying
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 2:00 and 4:15 p.m.
SATURDAY, Sept. 15 – LUCAS OIL SERIES eliminations
MELLO YELLO SERIES qualifying at 1:30 p.m. and 4:15 p.m.
SUNDAY, Sept. 16 – Pre-race ceremonies, 10 a.m.
MELLO YELLO SERIES eliminations begin at 11 a.m..TELEVISION:
Friday, Sept. 14, FS1 will televise an hour and a half of qualifying coverage at 7:00 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 16, FS1 will televise one hour of qualifying coverage at 1:00 p.m. (ET).
Sunday, Sept. 16, FS1 will televise three hours of finals coverage starting at 7:30 p.m. (ET).
2017 EVENT WINNERS:
Brittany Force, Top Fuel; Ron Capps., Funny Car; Bo Butner, Pro Stock; Eddie Kraweic, Pro Stock Motorcycle.
John Force, FC, 7; Angelle Sampey, PSM, 6; Tony Schumacher, TF, 5; Jeg Coughlin, PS, 4; Warren Johnson, PS, 4.TRACK RECORDS:
Top Fuel – 3.688 sec. by Antron Brown, Oct. ’16; 334.15 mph by Shawn Langdon, Oct. ’12
Funny Car – 3.844 sec. and 339.02 mph by Robert Hight, Sept. ‘17
Pro Stock – 6.465 sec. by Erica Enders, Oct. ’14; 214.59 mph by Greg Anderson, Oct. ’15
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. and 198.73 mph by Andrew Hines, Oct. ’12
Top Fuel – 3.628 sec. by Clay Millican, Feb. ’18, Pomona, Calif.; 336.57 mph by Tony Schumacher, Feb. ‘18, Phoenix
Funny Car – 3.793 sec. by Robert Hight, Aug. ’17, Brainerd; 339.87 mph by Robert Hight, July ’17, Sonoma, Calif.
Pro Stock – 6.455 sec. by Jason Line, March ’15, Charlotte, N.C.; 215.55 mph by Erica Enders, May ’14, Englishtown N.J.
Pro Stock Motorcycle – 6.728 sec. by Andrew Hines, Oct ‘12, Reading, PA.; 201.01 mph by Hector Arana Jr., March ‘18, Gainesville, Fla.
For tickets call (610) 856-9200. Tickets also are available at www.maplegroveraceway.com.
Photos courtesy of NHRA
Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for the sport of drag racing in the United States. NHRA presents 24 national events featuring the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series, NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, and E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service. NHRA provides competition opportunities for drivers of all levels in the NHRA Summit Racing Series and the NHRA Drags: Street Legal Style presented by AAA. NHRA also offers NHRA Jr. Street program for teens and the Summit Racing Jr. Drag Racing League for youth ages 5 to 17. In addition, NHRA owns and operates four racing facilities: Atlanta Dragway in Georgia; Gainesville Raceway in Florida; Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis; and Auto Club Raceway at Pomona in Southern California.