Motorsports

NHRA Wrap-Up: Butner & B. Force Make History, Join Hight & Krawiec as 2017 NHRA Champs

 
2017 nhra champs

(Image/Santa Maria Times)

Bo Butner has overcome the odds more than once in his life and he did so again with a thrilling come-from-behind march to the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Pro Stock title. Butner entered Sunday’s event—the season-ending Auto Club NHRA Finals—trailing Anderson by 40 points, meaning he’d need to win two more rounds than Anderson to win the title.

Which is precisely what he did.

Butner topped Team Summit/KB Racing teammate Anderson in a thrilling 6.551 to 6.564 side-by-side race in the semifinals and clinched the title by beating rookie Tanner Gray in the final round.

Brittany Force—daughter of 16-time Funny Car champion John Force—became the first female driver to win an NHRA Top Fuel world championship since Shirley Muldowney in 1982. She also won the Top Fuel category by defeating Shawn Langdon in the finals.

Robert Hight in Funny Car, and Eddie Krawiec in Pro Stock Motorcycle, also emerged Sunday with freshly won championships despite both of them falling in the final round of their respective categories.

Tommy Johnson Jr. won his second Wally of the year of by outgunning Hight in the final round of Funny Car, and Andrew Hines notched his first win of the season after riding past teammate Krawiec in the final round.

Butner Overcomes Major Odds to Win Pro Stock Crown

bo butner nhra pro stock championship

(Image/NHRA)

Butner had previously been winless in four races against Gray. In the pivotal final, Butner drove to a 6.554-second, 201.70 mph pass to eclipse Gray’s 6.653, 208.62 run.

“This says so much about the KB Racing team,” Butner said. “I lease a car from them and they’ve given me everything I need to win a championship. What a great season. I’m very happy for all the guys who work on this team. They all pulled together and got it done. I’m living proof that miracles do happen. I’ve truly been blessed.”

Butner has enjoyed an amazing career as a sportsman racer with numerous wins in Stock, Super Stock, and Comp. He also won the Comp national championship in 2006. After moving to Pro Stock, he struggled in his first two seasons, and entered the 2017 campaign still seeking his first victory. Butner finally broke that drought when he won his first event in April in Houston. That confidence-inspiring win helped open the floodgates and Butner battled to additional victories in Atlanta, Norwalk, and Reading. Butner was also a finalist in Bristol, Denver, Sonoma, Brainerd, and the most recent event in Las Vegas.

“This has been a long season and a tough season,” Butner said. “We were all bunched together all year, but the KB guys gave me the best. It’s amazing. When you are a kid you dream about hitting a free throw with no time on the clock and that’s kind of what this deal was. I didn’t drive the best today. When it’s your day, I’m blessed. I like how it looked on paper. You have to have your destiny in your own hands. You don’t want to have to watch someone else. That’s shocking to me. I got butterflies in the semis and I had to get my game face on for the final. Then in the final; that’s tough. Tanner is going to be a champion.”

At the season-ending Pomona event, Butner qualified in the #5 spot with a 6.559 best. He worked his way to the final round for the 11th time this season following wins against Shane Gray, Jeg Coughlin Jr., and Anderson. He becomes just the 18th driver to win a Pro Stock championship since the inception of the class in 1970.

“I’m still a Stock racer at heart,” Butner said. “I still run Super Stock and Comp and I think I had the whole sportsman world backing me. When Dan Fletcher is down there screaming and hollering for you, it’s pretty cool. I think we’ll have more Pro Stock fans next year because of this.”

Brittany Joins Father as NHRA Champ

Brittany Force NHRA Top Fuel champion 2017

Brittany Force, daughter of 16-time NHRA Funny Car champ John Force, celebrates her first NHRA Top Fuel championship. B. Force becomes the second female driver to win an NHRA Top Fuel title, joining Shirley Muldowney,
who won the 1982 Top Fuel crown. (Image/Autoweek)

Force won her first Top Fuel world championship by piloting her dragster to a 3.679 at 328.22, defeating Richie Crampton and his 3.757 pass at 323.81 in the quarterfinals.

Steve Torrence, who entered the race as the Top Fuel points leader, fell to 2016 world champion Antron Brown’s 3.691 pass at 323.81 to guarantee the title crown to Force.

“I can’t believe we are here, it seems like a dream,” Force said. “The reason we are here is because of that Monster team and all the support I have and all the sponsors. Everyone at JFR and that is the reason we are here. We struggled, we had our ups and downs, but we pulled it together when it mattered most. I give all of it up to my crew chiefs, Alan Johnson and Brian Husen—they are the ones that made this possible. They always had my back and they kept pushing me that is what my Monster team did, they never gave up on me, pushing and fighting and never gave up. I can’t believe we are here. I have to thank my dad, my family—they always had my back no matter what. This is a very proud moment. I can’t believe we are here. It is the support system you have around you and that is why we are here.”

Force, who was also the #1 qualifier, finished the season with four race wins, the first coming at the New England Nationals in Epping, NH. Force went on to win three events in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Countdown to the Championship, the Dodge NHRA Nationals in Reading, PA, the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, and this weekend’s season ending event. She has two runner-up finishes and two #1 qualifiers.

Hight Captures 2nd Funny Car Title

Hight secured his second NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series Funny Car world championship in the first round of eliminations Sunday.

Hight powered his Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to a 3.839-second pass at 332.51 mph to defeat Tim Wilkerson who smoked the tires at the starting line. Ron Capps, who was Hight’s nearest championship contender, smoked the tires and lost to Del Worsham ensuring Hight the world title.

“Everybody worked their tail off and was quiet and knew they had a job to do,” Hight said. “This is just huge for John Force Racing. For a couple of years, we have struggled, but it is such a great group. We signed a long-term deal with Auto Club and they deserve better than what we were giving them. Jimmy Prock, Chris Cunningham (co-crew chief) they got us back in the game. It’s been a long time and you want it so bad.”

Hight’s championship season had four race victories including two wins in the famed Western Swing and two victories during the Countdown to the Championship. He earned eight #1 qualifiers and had two runner-up finishes. At the event in Brainerd, MN, Hight set the Funny Car national elapsed-time record with a 3.793-second pass and in Sonoma, CA. Hight went on to set the national speed record with a pass at 339.87 mph. Hight closed out his 2017 season with a runner-up finish, falling to Johnson Jr. in the final round.

Krawiec Adds Championship #4 to NHRA Resume

Krawiec officially locked up his fourth career championship after qualifying, where he had a mathematically insurmountable 156-point lead before elimination racing ever started on Sunday.

Krawiec previously won titles in 2008, 2011, and 2012.

Krawiec’s success comes in a transition year for the factory Harley-Davidson team after they made a mid-season switch from their V-Rod bikes to the new Street Rod model. The new bikes were introduced at the Englishtown race in June and the team struggled to make them competitive. Prior to the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, the team made another bold move when they adapted the new Street Rod body to their old V-Rod chassis. Since then, Krawiec has won five of six races with a 22-1 record. During the Countdown, he has dominated with wins in Charlotte, Reading, Dallas, and Las Vegas. The only blemish on an otherwise perfect Countdown is a round-two loss in St. Louis to rival LE Tonglet.

Since joining the Vance & Hines Screamin’ Eagle Harley-Davidson team in 2008, Krawiec has been remarkably consistent. In the past 10 years, he has not finished lower than third in the standings and he’s ridden to 43 career victories, third-most behind teammate Andrew Hines (47) and the late Dave Schultz (45). This year, Krawiec has been especially strong with seven national event wins in eight finals. He’s also been the top qualifier at five races and entered the Pomona race with a 38-8 record in elimination rounds. As a whole, the Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team has now won nine world titles with Andrew Hines adding five championships to Krawiec’s four.

For me, this has been most rewarding championship that I’ve earned,” Krawiec said. “This one was done in a different way. Having the tuner. We changed the way we do things internally. Basically, between Matt, Andrew and I we took our three heads and look at it collectively. Drew does the engine, Matt does the chassis and I bounce between the two. We can each say we agree or don’t agree but the confidence level is that much higher. It’s fun and rewarding.

“Each championship is special in their own right. My, first championship was a unique one. I won nothing. I never got to hold up a Wally but at the end of the year I got this massive championship trophy. In 2011 and 2012, we dominated. This one is more humbling. Five years later I can say I appreciate this one a lot more. You never know when next will be so cherish ones you do get.”

The 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season will begin Feb. 8, 2018 right where we ended, at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, CA.

Here are the final standings for the top four NHRA classes:

NHRA Pro Stock Point Standings

1. Bo Butner          2,731
2. Greg Anderson      2,724
3. Jason Line         2,644
4. Tanner Gray        2,558
5. Drew Skillman      2,476

NHRA Funny Car Point Standings

1. Robert Hight       2,686
2. Ron Capps          2,588
3. Courtney Force     2,543
4. Jack Beckman       2,519
5. Matt Hagan         2,470

NHRA Top Fuel Point Standings

1. Brittany Force     2,690
2. Steve Torrence     2,609
3. Doug Kalitta       2,553
4. Antron Brown       2,508
5. Leah Pritchett     2,452

NHRA Pro Stock Motorcycle Point Standings

1. Eddie Krawiec      2,783
2. Andrew Hines       2,614
3. LE Tonglet         2,591
4. Scotty Pollacheck  2,492
5. Jerry Savoie       2,472

Drag Race Central and NHRA contributed to this report.

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