This wasn’t the start to the 2017 NHRA season Pro Stock driver Drew Skillman had in mind.

Skillman, who had two wins and finished sixth in the 2016 points standings, began the new campaign with a thud at the season-opening Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.

Skillman qualified in the No. 12 position and then lost in the first round to Bo Butner.

Butner clocked a 6.550-second run at 211.43 mph to defeat Skillman’s 6.579-second effort at 210.87 mph.

“We just went the wrong direction,” Skillman said. “We tried some stuff that was absolutely the wrong way to go and Sunday (Feb. 12), we knew what we were dealing with as far as information and we made leaps and bounds, but overall we struggled. We had a bad start and we have some work to do.”

Back on June 1 of last year, Skillman turned plenty of heads when he switched teams from Elite Motorsports to Gray Motorsports.

Skillman’s first race with Gray Motorsports in his family-owned Camaro was Epping, N.H. (June 9-12). His best finishes since joining Gray Motorsports were two victories – at Brainerd, Minn., and Dallas. He also had a runner-up finish to Shane Gray in Las Vegas.

Gray Motorsports is once again supplying horsepower for Skillman this season, and he had no reason to believe he wouldn’t perform well at the Winternationals.

“We tested really well,” Skillman said. “We were definitely in the top five of testing as far as what we saw from everybody else and we were pretty darn confident going into this deal and we just made bad calls on the race car and I didn’t drive well. We tested at Bradenton (Fla.) and Phoenix and I would guess we made around 30 test runs.”

That’s why it’s hard for Skillman to digest his first-round defeat to Butner.

“It’s never good to lose first round, it just kills you,” he said. “We have a lot of ground to make up, and that’s not really how you want to start your season, but that’s where we are at, and we are going to do the best that we can do to bounce back.”

Skillman, who just began his third season competing in the Pro Stock ranks, isn’t pushing the panic button yet.

“We just have to get back to what we know works instead of trying to turn the Earth,” Skillman said.

The next stop on NHRA’s Mello Yello Series is Feb. 24-26 at Wild Horse Motorsports Park in Phoenix.

Skillman said he ran his 2015 Camaro at the Winternationals and he also will drive that car at Phoenix.

“I should have my new 2017 Camaro out by Gainesville (Fla., March 16-19),” Skillman said. “It’s easy to blame things, but ran we did pretty decent when we ran that (2015) car. We were never the fastest car, but we were always pretty close. We were a top eight car and qualifying 12th (at the Winternationals) was not in the top eight and I don’t think that car got that bad over the winter and that’s the car we tested with. The same motor, the same transmission, same race car. I tried to get rid of (the Winternationals) that night (Feb. 12).”