Article and Photos by OnAllCylinders Contributor Evan J. Smith


With a rich history in quarter-mile action, Randi Lyn Butner (formerly Shipp) has carved out a path to success in the high-impact, straight-line sport of drag racing. Coming from humble beginnings in Whiteland, Indiana, “Rocket Shipp,” or simply “RL” as she’s called, has been strapping in to race cars since the age of 8.

young girl in the cockpit of a drag race car
(Image/Randi Lyn Butner)

In the decades that followed, Randi Lyn has amassed an impressive resume in a variety of classes and she’s driven roadsters, dragsters and fast doorslammers. A Sportsman racer at heart, RL is most often seen behind the wheel of her Stock Eliminator 1967 Pontiac Firebird. She’s also competed in Jr. Dragsters, Super Street, Super Gas, bracket racing and over the past few months, has licensed in a wicked 830 cubic inch Mountain Motor Pro Stock Camaro backed by Johnson’s Horsepowered Garage. In fact, RL competed in the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals in Charlotte where she ran as quick as 6.25 at 224 mph!

Furthermore, Randi Lyn is working towards earning her Private Pilot’s certificate—not an easy feat—and she owns Hot Rod Randi’s Horsepower Headquarters, which sells racing apparel.

Bo Butner Pro Stock Camaro
(Image/Evan Smith)

Butner’s love of drag racing comes from her father Randy, a drag racer himself, in fact, racing has been a family affair with brother Joey, and sister Kristi, also competing, along with her husband Bo Butner, a former NHRA Pro Stock champion. Even her mom Jackie is a huge supporter, who attends the races regularly.

“My dad was always into drag racing,” Butner said. “He was friends with the legendary Bob Glidden, and he went with Bob to Gainesville Raceway for the Gatornationals many years ago. That’s all it took,” she explained. “I was like 7 at the time and there was a raffle for a Jr. Dragster. The guy who won didn’t have kids, so my dad bought it. He didn’t expect me to do well with it, but I won my third race. After that my dad was thinking ‘she could really be good’ and it turned into a whole childhood of racing.

“When I turned 16 years old, I got a Super Comp dragster and I won a national open at Indy, which is my home track, but my dad was more into full-bodied door cars, so he bought a 1969 Camaro for us to race. We brought it home in boxes and built it for NHRA Super Street, which is on a 10.90 index. At the time my dad and brother raced in Super Street so that made it a lot of fun.”

driver and chief discussion before drag race
(Image/Evan Smith)

The 1969 Camaro brought Randi Lyn a win at Summit Motorsports Park in 2009, but what made that race extra special was her final-round opponent. “That weekend I ended up racing my brother for the trophy,” she said. “It was exciting and kind of careless since we were both in the final. I would have been just as excited for him if he beat me.”

Randi Lyn then set her sights on Stock Eliminator, a class she’s always admired. “Stock is all about muscle cars and it’s real, there’s very little politics to sour the racing,” she added. “It’s not about money, you can have a $10,000 car and win and you can have a $100,000 Cobra Jet or COPO Camaro and win just the same, everybody has a shot. Plus, I like old cars and Stock is filled with them,” she added.

vintage pontiac firebird drag car launching at track
(Image/Evan Smith)

For Stock, Bo and Randi purchased a 1969 Firebird that they’ve built into a winning machine. Maintaining a relatively stock look, the Firebird is painted Axalta Herr’s Potato Chip White, and since the F-Body was originally equipped with a 285 horsepower 326 H.O. engine, they kept the factory H.O. stripe.

To fit in D/SA, Randi Lyn chose the 400 cube engine combination, rated by Pontiac at 325 hp and factored to 338 hp by the NHRA. It’s meticulously prepared to take full advantage of the Stock Eliminator guidelines and produces north of 500 hp.

mechanic working on a race car engine
(Image/Evan Smith)

Stock rules require the factory carburetor, intake manifold and cylinder heads (with correct casting numbers and no porting), along with stock valves and combustion chamber sizes. The short block is made up from a factory block and crank with a 4.125 x 3.750 inch bore and stroke along with Crower rods, CP pistons with Total Seal rings, a Melling oil pump and a pan from Stef’s Fabrication.

D-port heads feature 65cc closed chambers fitted with 2.11/1.77 inch valves that are activated by the 0.424 inch lift Comp Cams camshaft. The 400 also uses PSI valve springs, Cometic head gaskets, and fire in the hole comes from a MSD Digital 7 ignition with Denso plugs screwed to the heads.

A Weldon pump feeds a 750 Q-Jet that was set up by Jason Line and Danny Ashley. Expelling the burnt gasses are stainless headers, bent and TIG welded by Mark Lelchook of Performance Welding. Other essentials are the Butler Performance valve covers, Meziere water pump, and C&R Racing radiator with an electric fan.

v8 race engine in a pontiac firebird drag race car
(Image/Evan Smith)

The torquey mill sends its power through a Coan Engineering converter and a GM Metric 200 three-speed automatic prepared by ReMax Transmissions. A Turbo 400 would be stronger, but the Metric is lighter and quicker on track. Converter stall is roughly 3,500 rpm. Traction and reduced weight is the name of the game for drag racing.

Randi Lyn fitted her Bird with lightweight Pro 5 wheels from Mickey Thompson (15 x 4 and 15-10 inch), along with 9 x 30 inch radial slicks and short 25 inch skinnies from M/T. The short front tires are used to help dial in her reaction time.

vintage pontiac firebird wheelstand at drag race
(Image/Evan Smith)

The suspension consists of Santhuff springs and shocks, the rear utilizes CalTracs and Santhuff shocks. Butner runs in D/SA with a 400 cube Poncho mill, GM Metric automatic, and a 12 bolt rear. Inside, Randi Lyn set up her office with parts from Summit Racing including a Sparco wheel, Turbo Action shifter, a VDO tach.

She even added a cup holder because, as she stated, “the new Cobra Jet Mustangs have a cup holder, and I was jealous.”

The Firebird is a consistent 10 second machine that launches hard with the front wheels dangling. RL has amassed and amazing seven NHRA national event wins, and in 2012 she scored the Division Three Stock championship. Running at 3,210 lbs. (with driver) in D/SA (11.55 index), the Pontiac has run 10.40 at 124 mph.

When set up lighter for C/SA, it’s run a best of 10.31 at over 125 mph. Typical 60-foot times are 1.28-1.29, the Poncho sings to 6,800 before she clicks the gears and it revs to 7,800-8,000 rpm in the lights.

“It’s a lot,” she says, “but it stays together and it’s so much fun to drive.”

driver Leaning against a race car
(Image/Evan Smith)

For 2024 Randi Lyn and husband Bo will embark on a new adventure in Mountain Motor Pro Stock for a six-race run in the NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series. It won’t be an easy road, but she’s got a great team and a winning, yet realistic attitude. With the help of Bo, Darrel Herron, Jack Line, and Greg Esarey at the shop, they plan to be very competitive.

“I have so much confidence in the Firebird, both in its performance and my driving ability,” she explained. “And that’s what I lack in the Mountain Motor car. It’s new and exciting, but there’s also something about being comfortable and confident. I typically run mid-10s at 123 mph, and I went 180 mph in Top Dragster, but only twice,” she stated. “That car ran sevens but it’s relatively easy to drive. The Mountain Motor car has 2,000 hp, a clutch, and a five speed. I never really drove a stick before, other than an old Mazda streetcar, so I was intimidated when I got in the car.

“I feel like they broke me in the hard way,” laughed RL, referring to learning, recognizing, and responding to tire shake in a finicky Mountain Motor Pro Stock.

“It was a little shaky, literally, but we have the smartest guys out there, and I knew they would figure it out. I don’t know if I would have called it fun in the beginning, because it was nerve-racking, and I was out of my element. But sometimes change is good, and it was empowering to make good runs. I never thought I would have this opportunity—I’ve seen Bo do it a million times, but it’s so different to be the one inside the car controlling it,” she explained.

rear view of a pontiac firebird launching at dragstrip
(Image/Evan Smith)

“I’ve learned a lot already,” said RL, who will continue to race her 1967 Pontiac Firebird in Stock Eliminator throughout the season along with the new JHG Camaro. “I have way more confidence in myself now, and I almost feel guilty that the guys go to so much trouble and so much hard work for me to have six seconds of fun. I’m very excited about the season. A couple months ago, I didn’t even know if I could drive a clutch car. Bo could drive anything, if it had four pedals, he’d probably be amazing it and him helping me through all the steps has made a big difference.

“It’s always good for a relationship if you’re working toward a common goal, and I think our whole team will be better off because of it.”

Race Car Driver in Cockpit of vintage drag racer
(Image/Evan Smith)
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Author: Evan Smith