Meet Bo Butner's JHG Team: Butch Peterson
The racecars get a lot of attention in this sport. The drivers get almost as much. But the crew? The guys behind the scenes who make the impossible possible? Those incredible individuals don't often step inside the spotlight, but they deserve it just as much.
If you've followed Bo Butner Racing (Facebook.com/BoButnerRacing) this year, you've seen the cast of characters over here in the JHG pit – and you may recognize our man Butch Peterson as the guy who stands in front of the #JHGDriven Chevy as Bo lays into those smoky, monstrously powerful burnouts.
Butch wears a patient, observant demeanor, and maybe that's what makes him so good at what he does. But he's also been committed to the sport of drag racing for a very long time.
"I've been doing this all my life. I mean, literally all my life," said Butch. "I was born March 13, 1964, and my mom tells me we stayed in the hospital for seven days. It was a Friday that I was born, and she called my father later the next week and said I'm getting out next Saturday morning. He said, 'It better be before noon, because I'm headed to the track at 12:00.' So, Saturday at about 10:30, he scooped us up from the hospital with the racecar in tow – and we went straight to the dragstrip."
Walter Peterson (shown in the center of this photo) raced Stock Eliminator in a 1967 427 Ford Fairlane – the car in which Butch learned to drive and which the family still owns.
"I got one of the first whoopins I ever got for driving that car," he recalled with a chuckle and a shake of his head. "I was like 14, and I begged my father to let me drive it. He told me not to tear up his car, that it was going to wheelstand and I shouldn't panic. Well, I panicked. It came slamming to the earth and wrecked the oil pan, bent the headers all up. He was not pleased, especially after he told me I wasn't ready but I begged him to do it. I was all swole up at 14. You know how teenagers get."
Butch couldn't help it; he had racing on his heart from the beginning as he spent every summer drag racing with his dad. While the other kids were going to Disney for vacation, the Peterson family was planning their big trip to Indy, and Butch wouldn't have it any other way.
In college, he studied engineering and played football. Butch's first professional job was in 1989 as crew chief for Larry Nance's Pro Mod car. He built a team and won an IHRA Pro Stock world championship with Chris Holbrook, who he still says is "a hell of a driver, to be perfectly honest." Later, Butch worked with Cagnazzi Racing and then Gray Motorsports, ultimately securing the second championship of his career with young Tanner Gray.
"I've been here and there over the years doing different things, but that was really cool because he did it for his Grandpa [Johnny Gray]. Being part of that was big," said Butch. "And now I get to be here, doing this. It's a pretty good life."