O’Fallon, Missouri native Mark Buttrum doesn’t race much, but when he does he makes it count. In 2019, Buttrum took home a $10,000 payday and back-to-back NHRA Wally’s.
Mark Buttrum was 16 years old when he started racing and jumped right into his dad’s back-halved Malibu from day one. He was thrown right into the fire of Super Pro because junior dragsters weren’t a thing when he was younger.
“My earliest memories were going to I57 Dragstrip and pulling up to the fence and sitting on the tailgate watching the races with my dad every Saturday night,” Buttrum stated. ” I was probably 5 or 6 years old. Shortly after we got involved with a car of our own and the rest is history.”
Buttrum won the first race he ever entered which sparked his love for drag racing. He currently runs local big money bracket races and in the last year started to dabble in Super Gas races.
His current race car is a 94′ Lumina with a mild 540′ motor inside. Once they bought the car in 2016, he and his dad completely stripped the car and rebuilt it.
“When we bought the car, we wanted something simple, low cost, and low maintenance,” Buttrum stated. “It’s perfect, it prints tickets and makes clean runs. The Lumina consistently runs 5.40s in the 1/8th mile which is just right for me.”
The Switch to Super Gas
In the last year, Mark decided to make the switch over to Super Gas since it’s always been his dream to win an NHRA National Event Wally.
“I can remember as a little kid waiting for the Sportsman results from National Dragster and then getting the practice tree out trying to see how many races I could win,” Buttrum said. “I would make a hit for every race listed for Super Gas and Super Comp, not quitting until I had won every single one of them.”
The main struggle for Buttrum switching his bracket car into a race winning Super Gas car was trying to get a low horsepower car that is over-tired and over-chassied to react to a .370 tree.
‘We pulled all the tricks out of the bag to get it to work,” Buttrum stated. “We changed basically everything under the sun, especially raising the chip up to the moon. Surprisingly, it worked.”
Buttrum’s car hated the setup so it was difficult to dial in the tune up. With help of the Racepak, they were able to find a setup they like prior to heading to their first Super Gas race.
His first three outings did not go as he planned. With no weather station, Crew Chief Pro software, or as much seat time as he wanted, Buttrum suffered three first round losses. But, going into St. Louis he was feeling pretty good about his driving and had faith in his car.
“My wife, Amy, told me to go for it,” Buttrum stated. “She didn’t want me to give up, she wanted to see me fulfill my dream.”
Being one of the slower cars in Super Gas is a disadvantage, but it doesn’t change how Buttrum races. He tends to dial more honest considering he is out in front more and doesn’t have control of the race like a faster car would.
Back to Back
The St. Louis National event kept getting closer and closer, and Buttrum’s hopes of entering the race were crushed when the quota filled up and he wasn’t able to enter. The Sunday night before the event, a spot opened up and Buttrum grabbed it as quick as he could.
A week later, Buttrum crossed the finish line and his win light came on for his first NHRA Wally. His wife was the first one to the scales and met him with tears in her eyes screaming, “You did it!”
“The best memory I have was the Wally being handed to me and turning around to see Arti Maupin with his camera,” Buttrum stated. “That little kid who used to anxiously await the National Dragsters to come in the mail came out. Arti captured the raw emotion I had.”
Fast forward a week later, Mark was much calmer and more confident in himself at the St. Louis Divisional race. He kept going rounds and win lights kept coming on. Eventually he crossed the finish line for the 13th consecutive round win earning his second Wally in a week.
“To be totally honest, the double up never even entered my head until after I won the race and realized, “Holy crap, I just went back to back.”
Buttrum’s future plans include a mix of primarily bracket racing and along with some Super Gas races too. To read more on Mark, check out the Q&A below.
Mark Buttrum Q&A
Please list your major racing accomplishments.
I’ll be honest a lot of them I’ve forgotten but I’d say I’m most proud of:
- Winning the first race I ever entered at 16
- Won a $5K (that was big back then) when I was 17 and was in back to back big dollar finals at a Memphis Mega Bucks that same year
- Running myself in the final of a $5K
- Winning a track championship
- Winning the biggest paying race in my local track’s history ($25K) at Luke’s Elite 150 race
- The National event win was huge and the double deal this past week was even bigger
- Overall I’m just proud of the fact that we’ve been real competitive over a long period of time and have had a lot of success in cars that most would think aren’t the most ideal weapon (faster chassis door cars) for bracket racing
What’s on your bucket list, future goals, what do you hope to achieve?
The National event win was really the last thing on my bucket list. Overall right now I’m pretty content but who knows if I get on a roll again next year maybe we’ll try to get that Top 10 in Super Gas.
What is your favorite race car, and why?
My favorite race car was my Old Cutlass. Without a doubt the coolest car I had and I won a lot of money in that thing. It’s always cool going low 5.0’s in a door car.
Tell us what you do for a living?
My official title is Director of Finance for Emerson Electric, which essentially means I’m a CFO for a business that Emerson owns. I manage a team of analysts and accountants that are responsible for anything money related with the business I’m involved in. I work directly with our senior leadership to mold and shape the strategy for the business to ensure it’s profitable and successful.
How do you support your racing, side hustle, sponsor, partner, etc.?
My checking account, haha. Honestly my dad helps with some of the bills and spends some money but I’d say 90% is on me. That’s why it’s important for the racing to kind of pay it’s own way.
Who do you hate to see in the other lane, and why?
Good question. I’d have to say Buddy Ferrell. I think that guy had beaten me every time I staged against him until this year.
What’s the hardest part of drag racing?
Oh man, what’s not hard? For me it’s mainly the time away from home and work. Also, the money needed to keep these things going and enter in the events. The racing part is the easiest part probably.
What’s your most embarrassing moment in a race car?
Any time I flinch off the button. Hate that habit.
What are you saying to yourself just before you stage the car?
Be double 0.
What do you enjoy the most at the racetrack?
Sitting around on Friday or Saturday after the races having beers with friends.
Are you superstitious? If so, what are they?
Not really although the last 3 races I won I wore the same shirt, so maybe I am a little!
Do you love to win or hate to lose?
Hate to lose!
What motivates you to continue racing?
The competitive aspect. If it weren’t for racing I’d have to feed my competitive side somehow. Once I step away I will probably feed that with something fitness related.
If money were no object, what would your racing operation look like?
Motorhome. Stacker. Olds Cutlass T/S Car. Olds Cutlass SC car. And my current car in SG.
How often do you use a practice tree?
Is never an option? I don’t think it’s been taken out of the case in 2 years.
What is your daily driver?
Hyundai Santa Fe
What is your favorite sport or team?
We’re a big hockey family and you can’t live in St. Louis without watching the Cardinals, so obviously the Blues and Cardinals.
Besides racing, what do you do in your free time?
Work, haha. Honestly, not much. I try my best to get to the gym a lot but other than that it’s just hanging around my girls. When you leave at 5:30 in the morning and get home at 6:30 or 7:00 every night it doesn’t leave much time for anything else.
What are you really good at?
Hmm…good question. I really don’t know that I’m really good at anything but I would say I do have a don’t quit attitude and I’m always striving to do more in my daily life.
Name one thing most people don’t know about you?
That I have three degrees…Accounting, Finance and MBA
Would you rather hang out with a crowd or have a quiet evening at home?
My wife and I are big introverts so much rather be at home.
What’s your favorite thing to eat?
BBQ from Sugarfire or 17th Street (local BBQ joints)
Who would you like to thank?
Easiest question on here…my dad by far. Without him I literally would not be racing. The entire operation is at his house 2.5 hours away. He literally gets the car to and from the track and does all the maintenance.
When I show up to the track I usually haven’t even seen the car for 4 or 5 weeks. He also has so much knowledge and is kind of the local “go-to” guy for racers when they need help with an issue.
Plus he’s one of those old school guys that can do everything. He builds motors, transmissions, rear ends, does welding, fabrication, body work, he knows chassis setup, everything, he knows how to do it.
I’d like to thank my wife, Amy, too. Her unconditional support and constant encouragement is integral to my success on and off the track. And my mom for being my BIGGEST cheerleader!
“I’ll be the first to admit any time I’d see someone win a Wally, I’d think to myself “what’s so special about that?” Buttrum stated. “Well let me be the first to tell you, it’s special because it’s really, really, really hard to win one of these.”
“I promise I’ll never say ‘what’s so special about that’ in regards to Wally winner’s posts again in the future. Good luck to all of those still chasing that Wally. I truly hope you get it.”
About the author: Megan Strassweg is a 21 year old Super Comp racer from Louisville, Kentucky. She races a 2015 American Dragster sponsored by Coolshirt Systems. Megan is a student at Western Kentucky University and is pursuing a degree in Photojournalism with plans to graduate in May 2020. Megan works at Jim Butner Auto in the Finance Department. Growing up at the racetrack, drag racing is all she has known and never plans to give up on it.