Bo Butner stymied by the light in Carolina Nationals qualifying
CONCORD, N.C. (Sept. 23, 2022) – The first day of qualifying for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals, the second race of six in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship, concluded abruptly with a flash of red for 2017 Pro Stock world champion Bo Butner. Just one week ago at Maple Grove Raceway, Butner was the No. 1 qualifier in one of the quickest cars in competition, but on Friday at zMAX Dragway, Mother Nature interfered uncharacteristically and Butner could not display the power of the Johnson's Horsepowered Garage Chevrolet Camaro.
Butner came to the starting line at approximately 6:20 p.m. Eastern Time, and as he pulled forward after the burnout to begin the staging process, it became evident that the pre-stage and stage bulbs were illuminated by the direct light of the setting sun. Opponent Camrie Caruso completed her portion of the staging process in the left lane, but Butner, unable to see that the LED lights designating that she was fully staged, continued to wait.
When the car in one lane fully stages, the other driver has seven seconds to complete the process and also light the bottom bulb by rolling forward just enough. If they do not do so within the seven-second period, they are considered timed-out by the auto-start system and must forfeit the run.
As Butner paused, unable to see that both of his opponent's staging bulbs were lit, his crew realized what was happening and moved to alert him. They were unable to do so before the disqualifying red light came on, however, and Butner will go into the second day of qualifying on the outside of the field with no time on the board.
"It just puts us behind a little bit," said Butner, who was initially perturbed but settled into acceptance as his hard-working JHG team prepared their Chevrolet to be stabled for the night. "I'm not saying we can't run really good tomorrow, but you have to go A to B and get qualified. That's what we'll have to start with, and then hopefully the second run we can improve."
Butner's Elite Motorsports teammate, Erica Enders, earned the pole for the day, and in her pressroom interview expressed that she, too, could not see if her opponent had fully staged. After Butner's misfortune, though, the teams behind him were prepared and had their crew alert them over the radio when their opponent was fully staged. For Butner, there was no do-over.
"In 30 years, I've never been in the position of not knowing if the other driver is staging or not," said Butner, who entered the event No. 9 in the Pro Stock standings. "I'll mess up a lot, but I don't usually mess up staging. I thought something was wrong. But our JHG Pro Stocker is going to be good. It's still the same car we had in Reading where we went No. 1. We would like to have gotten that run in tonight, because it's probably going to be the best session. But it doesn't matter, as long as we can get in, we can win from any position."
Qualifying for the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals will continue on Saturday with sessions at 1:30 and 5:15 p.m. ET.