Lucas Oil Comp Champion: Bo Butner

Bo Butner

The scorecard for Bo Butner's 2006 season reads like that of a champion, but falls far short of telling the tale of Butner's 2006 national championship campaign. The season began in controversy and ended with Butner in the hospital and was filled with equal parts jubilation and frustration.

Much controversy centered on the car itself, Butner's 2005 Cavalier which had been retrofitted with a new supercharged powerplant for the new AA/SM class. Team crew chief Jeff Taylor, who last year won the season championship for the team, poured his skill and knowledge and that of blower manufacturer ProCharger and fuel-injection guru John Meaney into the new combination and it was a winner from its first start.

Butner won in his season debut, in April at South Georgia Motorsports Park, capping an index-crushing performance with a final-round victory over Taylor, just one of three times the teammates would face off with the event title on the line.

"People think we just jumped right into this and went fast because it was a new class, but we worked hard on it over the winter and did a lot of testing," said Butner. "We won our first time out because we didn't come out until we were ready to win."

Internet message boards lit up with complaints about the index, which NHRA initially adjusted from 8.30 to 7.90 then 8.15 and later 7.90 as it weighed the desire to perpetuate interest in the class against the combination's unknown potential, but that controversy was nothing compared to the dustup that occurred at the Division 3 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. Chassis specifications dictated that the car was not allowed to run quicker than 7.50 in its current configuration, so when Butner accidentally ran 7.49 on a shutoff pass in qualifying, he was disqualified from the event and faced the potential of having to count the event as a zero score, which would have ended his championship bid before it ever really got started. NHRA ultimately forced Butner to count it among his eight allowed events, but did not require him to count it as a scored event.

The car was sent to Vic Custer's EasTexas Race Cars shop and, in just 10 days, was refitted with the required tubing to allow it to run below 7.50.

Even though controversy followed the team from allegations about traction control to gripes about "team racing" (Taylor "lost" all three final-round encounters with Butner) once the team got the AA/SM car back, they kept their heads down and just kept winning. Right off the bat, Butner dominated the Division 3 Lucas Oil Series event at Route 66 Raceway, qualifying No. 1 and again besting Taylor in the final. Butner was unapologetic about the team's racing strategy.

"We talked before the season even started," said Butner. "We agreed that whoever got off to the best start was the car we were going to take to the championship. It's a business to us. I did it for Jeff last year and he did it for me this year. We're in this to win."

And win they did. Butner completed another wire-to-wire win at the Jegs NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals in late June and followed a month later with a big win at the Division 3 meet at Beech Bend Raceway Park. If not for a last-second semifinal decision to try to save index at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals that resulted in a .005-second loss, Butner probably would have counted an Indy win among his scores. As it was, with Indy's 64-car field, the semifinal counted for as many points as a normal runner-up.

Three weeks later, Butner scored again, at the Division 2 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event at Atlanta Dragway where he took a final-round bye after Taylor was a strategic no-show, to all but sew up the title. Ironically, Taylor himself was the only driver with the chance to steal the title from Butner, but needed to win the Division 7 event in Las Vegas and the Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals to do so. Even though taking the title from his boss' son was the last thing on Taylor's mind in Las Vegas, it became even less so when an O-ring on one of the injectors on Butner's 2,600-horsepower engine failed and his Chevy erupted in flames at 190 mph on a qualifying pass.

Butner suffered second-degree burns to his face and the fingertips of his right hand, and had to return to the hospital three times to have dead skin removed, but wanted to finish out the season in Pomona because Meaney, as well as representatives from ProCharger, would be on hand, and he wanted to reward them for their season-long support.

Taylor and crew repaired the car and Butner made a heroic return to the cockpit in Pomona, but various woes associated with the fire kept him from getting past the first round. Still, the championship was his.

Butner acknowledged the support of the Jim Butner Auto dealership as instrumental to his campaign, as well as parents Jim and Dotty and his family, Jeff and Patty Taylor, Darrell Herron, Michael Arms, John Meaney, ProCharger, Big Stuff, Coan, Goodyear, and Valvoline.

Butner's 2006 Track Record 652 Points
South Georgia Motorsports Park Won event
Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals Quarterfinals
Route 66 Raceway Won event
Jegs NHRA Northern SPORTSnationals Won event
Gateway Int'l Raceway Second round
Beech Bend Raceway Park Won event
Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Semifinals
Atlanta Dragway Won event

National Hot Rod Association