12-12 "On The Road" With Luke Bogacki - Viva Las Vegas
If you read the last installment of “On the Road” here on DRR, you know that I was riding high on some pretty fun and exciting times. I had just become an uncle for the second time, as our niece Avery was born in late September. I was in contention (albeit a longshot) for the NHRA Lucas Oil Championship in both Super Comp and Super Gas. And the biggest races of my season were looming on the horizon: the C.A.R.S. Million, and the final NHRA events of the year.
In retrospect, that excitement was nothing compared to the way the last 2 months actually played out; and the anticipation leading up to those last few events was just an appetizer to what 2013 will bring for me and my family. If you’re logging in to read about a train wreck, I’m sorry to disappoint. This column is going to take a very optimistic and satisfied tone. 2012 ended on a fairly high note, and I have a ton of reasons to believe that the future is very bright indeed!
At the close of my last column, I had just endured a disappointing outing at our hometown national event in St. Louis. The following weekend would be my last one at home for over a month, and I elected to spend that Saturday behind the wheel of my favorite vehicle: my ThisIsBracketRacing.com backed ’74 Vega. The event was the inaugural Footbrake Fest at my home track, I-57 Dragstrip in Benton, IL. The race featured 3 separate Footbrake events in one day. The purse wasn’t huge ($600-to-win the first two races, $1,000-to-win the finale), and neither was the car count (there may have been 40 Footbrake entrants), but it was a good excuse to have some fun and make a lot of runs in my little Vega.
The day couldn’t have gone much better, as I managed 21 consecutive round wins and won the first two races before falling in the final round of the $1,000 event. Scotty Vaughn kept me from making a clean sweep, but I had a ball and made a little traveling money for the upcoming trip. It would be easy to say that I drove great and was nearly unbeatable, but most of you (especially those of you who were on hand) know better than that! I felt good about myself, but I got incredibly fortunate and downright lucky throughout the day. I even managed to win back-to-back rounds with a broken rocker stud (one was the first final) before I had time to fix it. In the end, the day brought 30+ runs in the Vega, a lot of fun, and a great confidence builder for the year-end swing that I was about to embark upon.
The Vega strikes again!
I tucked the Vega away in the shop and loaded up the pretty cars for a long trip that would occupy my next 5 weeks. I would start things off in Reynolds, GA for the NHRA Division 2 closer, then make the short ride to Montgomery, AL for the C.A.R.S. Million. From there, I would trek across the country to Las Vegas, NV for two weekends; the NHRA national event and the final Division 7 LODRS of the season, before closing out the year in Pomona, CA at the NHRA Finals. The thought of the journey was exciting and daunting at the same time. The thought of racing in the richest event of the season, and then competing for a world championship is always exciting; if that doesn’t get my blood pumping then I have no business in a race car. The thought of living on the road for five straight weeks, however, is not as exciting as it was 10 years ago, when I was single, jobless, and didn’t have a care in the world.
That Wednesday, the day I was set to leave for Reynolds and the beginning of the journey, my wife came home with news that would change our lives. We’re pregnant!! Those of you who are parents or are expecting undoubtedly remember the joy of that moment. All at once, I had feelings of pride, joy, honor, and complete, unbridled fear. It’s not as if this announcement was completely unexpected, we had planned to start a family. But it’s incredible how much my perspective changed in an instant.
I thought that leaving my driveway and my wife behind for a few weeks was going to be difficult to begin with; to do it just hours after that breaking news was agonizing. Like it or not at times, the show must go on. After our first dinner as parents-to-be and I was headed south for Georgia late that evening. The nine hour drive, which would have been filled with thoughts of points implications, throttle stop setups, and race strategies for likely Division 2 opponents was instead dominated by thoughts ranging from nursery construction, to the values I want to instill in my child, to funding college education (in no particular order).
The trip to Reynolds went smoothly, and while thoughts of our family dominated my brain waves, we had made the decision not to tell anyone until we could tell our parents face to face. Keeping the big news quiet wasn’t as difficult as you might think, and not discussing the life changing events with anyone but my wife actually allowed me to focus on the task at hand.
I came into Reynolds with a mathematical chance to win the world championship in Super Gas, and yet with the understanding that the title would likely be out of reach at weekend’s end. If nothing else, the championship picture would be much clearer at the conclusion of the event. My buddy Jeff Lopez was the leader, and was in the driver’s seat for the title. Sherman Adcock, Jimmy Lewis, and myself were the only racers who still had a chance to overtake him, and between the Division 2 event in Georgia and the Division 4 event in Houston we would all be in competition over the weekend.
As it ended up, Jeff clinched the championship when he took runner-up honors in Houston. That event concluded on Saturday night, which made our Sunday eliminations in Reynolds much less dramatic. Nonetheless, Sherman and I held up our end of the bargain, as we advanced through eliminations to meet in the final round.
Although the final with Sherman didn’t have championship implications, it proved to be a great race, and one that I’m really proud to have come out on top of. Sherman was .014, 9.903 for a great .017 package. I managed a .011 and 9.904 to get the finish line by just .002 and steal his Wally. That Wally, by the way, would have been his third of the weekend. Sherman won the weather-delayed Super Gas final from an earlier event in Bristol on Friday evening, then went on to win Super Comp at Reynolds in addition to his Super Gas runner-up!
Our final was a great run, and a great feeling. At three cars it was me, Sherman, and David Tatum. It’s not often that anyone goes into Georgia and goes through those two guys in Super Gas; so to be able to get the best of both of them meant as much as winning the event itself.
Not the biggest win of the season, but one of the most satisfying!
Coming into Reynolds, I actually had a much better chance at the Lucas Oil Championship in Super Comp than I did in Super Gas. There were a handful of competitors still mathematically within reach of the title, but the main contenders were Alan Kenny, Stefan Kondolay, and myself. Of the three, I was the only competitor at Reynolds, and I was attempting to improve upon a 3rd round loss to better my score. An event victory would catapult me into the national points lead (assuming that Stefan didn’t win at the Sportsnationals the same weekend), and any finish of 5th round or better would really increase my chances, as I could still earn points at the LODRS finale in Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, my Reynolds Super Comp outing didn’t go as well as it did two years ago (when I won the same event to take the national points lead, only to watch Gary Stinnett overtake me in Las Vegas a few weeks later). This time around, I ran into a buzz saw named Carl Watts in round 1. I made a solid run; I was .011, take .010. But he was .014 and 8.898 on the drop. So much for bettering my score! Despite the loss, I was still in mathematical contention for the Super Comp crown. With one event left to claim, I would need a final round appearance (and some help) to claim the lead. The good news was that I still had a reason to drive to Las Vegas a couple weeks later. The bad news was that I still had a reason to drive to Las Vegas a couple weeks later!
After an entertaining celebratory dinner with Willie Evans on Sunday evening, I was off to Montgomery, AL on Monday morning for the 17th annual C.A.R.S. Million. I’ve been at every Million since 1999, and my results have been a mixed bag. In the big show itself, I’ve really got a poor track record. In 13 appearances prior to 2012, I had only made it to the “split” on one occasion. The split is that point in the race where the remaining competitors divvy up the hundreds of thousands of dollars in the purse, and redistribute it so that everyone makes a healthy chunk. The only time I made the split was back in 2008, when I managed a quarterfinal appearance in my Vega.
In my other 12 appearances I’ve done everything from fail to win a single round, to falling one round short of the split (which I’ve done on more than one occasion). I’ve had some success in the events surrounding the big show: I’ve won the Triple 20’s events twice, and been runner-up twice more, plus I won a new dragster chassis at the event back in 2001. Those finishes, plus some well-timed deals and a few good payouts as a car owner have made the Million a fairly profitable experience for me over the years. Like anyone, however, I still dream of that life-changing day when I’m staging up for a final that will pay the winner six figures.
Unfortunately, that day will have to wait at least one more season. I raced my dragster in Thursday’s event, but got beat in round 4. My wife Jessica and her father Jack rolled in late Thursday night with the trusty Vega (you didn’t think it would stay at home, did you?). I raced it on Friday, but fell in round 2. I entered both machines in Saturday’s main event, but turned it red to defending champion Shane Carr in round 2 with the Vega. In the dragster, I made some really nice runs to advance to round 5, but fell there to Ricky Jones. Of course, round 5 was the round before the split. I got my $2,000 entry fee back. Losers in the next round got $10,000, and of course the winners of that round had a shot at much, much more. So it goes, close but no cigar!
On a more positive note, my mother came down for the Million. She doesn’t come to the track much anymore, but the Million is her “can’t miss.” I joke that she can’t get motivated about anything less than $100,000, but that’s not as applicable anymore, as she did make it to a few more races this season than in years past. When Jess and I told her that she would soon be a grandmother she went ballistic. I had no idea that a 61-year-old woman could jump like that! Needless to say, it made for a special weekend despite my lack of on-track success. We began telling our close friends the good news throughout the weekend, which was a lot of fun as well.
On Sunday morning, I drained the water out of the Vega and strapped it down for its last trip of the 2012 season; it was headed back home to Illinois with Jess and Jack. I loaded up a spare motor on loan from my buddy Bryan Robinson, and packed up my traveling circus for a long trip. By noon on Sunday, Jess and Jack were pointed North, and I was headed West.
Three days and a little over 2,000 miles later, I arrived at “The Strip” at Las Vegas Motor Speedway without incident. That weekend brought the Big O Tires NHRA Nationals. I had long since filled my quota of national events, so the race wouldn’t count toward my championship pursuit, but the national event was held one week prior to the division race. With so much hanging in the balance the following weekend, I figured the national would be a great opportunity to get some track time in Las Vegas. Plus, if you think about the financial side of things, it’s probably not particularly smart to drive cross-country to attend 2 national events and 1 divisional. But it’s a helluva lot smarter than driving cross-country to attend 1 divisional race!
The Big O Tires nationals proved to be a good one for me. I advanced into Sunday’s final eliminations in both Super Comp and Super Gas. There, Steve Williams ended my hopes of a double victory when he crushed me in round 4 of Super Gas. I made a pretty solid run: .006, take .013… But it was no match for his .012 package. I did, however, manage to win the Super Comp title with a final round victory over Steve’s K&N teammate Greg Boutte. The event was not my best performance behind the wheel, far from it in fact, but it was a great win nonetheless. Mom and Jess flew out for the weekend, but unfortunately they had to leave for the airport prior to the semi-final round, so they missed most of the excitement. Once again, I could look at this much like the Super Gas win at Reynolds; from a points perspective I picked the wrong weekend to win Super Comp. But to do that, I would have to complain about winning a national event. That will never happen.
My 2012 season ended on a high note, capped with the S/C victory in Las Vegas.
Instead, I want to focus on the good. I won the fifth national event of my career and third of the season. Early in the weekend, I received a deposit on my dragster. I agreed to sell it complete, turn-key at the conclusion of the season. This event would mark the last national event for the dragster in my possession. Back when it was brand new, we won Super Comp in Memphis together. That was just the second national event in which I drove the car. The years in between, we never got on the same page on the national level again, but I managed 4 LODRS wins in 6 finals with the car, and drove it to a Division 2 title and a pair of top-ten national finishes. In addition, it’s won a handful of races along the annual Winter Series in Florida, and Jason Lynch drove it to a $50,000-runner up in Belle Rose a couple of years ago. In short, it’s been a good one! I hate to see it go, but I was very happy to finish our time together on a high note.
Viva Las Vegas!
The “rocketship” as I’ve always referred to it, is a 2010 American Race Cars swing-arm dragster. It’s powered by a 632 cubic inch Huntsville Engine that is outfitted with a BRODIX aluminum block and PB1200 cylinder heads. I use an APD “throttle stop” carburetor, which feeds Renegade 116+ Racing Fuel through a Dedenbear throttle stop. The engine also features Wiseco Pistons, Crane Cam and lifters, and a Milodon oiling system. It’s all lubricated by Lucas Oil and surrounded by a J&J Engine diaper. I run Hedman Hedders and the motor features a bunch of components (including intake and valve covers) that were coated by Nitroplate.
A Bill Taylor Enterprises “Top Dragster” powerglide transmission and 9” torque converter supply the power to a 9” Moser Fabricated rear end housing. The third member and axles are all Moser products as well. An Ohlins shock is an instrumental component in the suspension, and Mickey Thompson wheels and tires (I run the MT 3186 slicks) put the power to the ground. The combination runs the 8.90 index at over 180 miles per hour, putting me in the upper 10 percent of the category in terms of speed (which I feel is a slight advantage). I use an APD belt-drive fuel pump and bypass regulator along with a K&N Engineering hood scoop and filters. A K&R Pro-Cube delay box and severe-duty switch panel handle all of the electronic functions. The car also features a B&M Pro Bandit shifter with a Dixie Racing Products electric shift solenoid. My 8.90 program would be a fragment of what it is, were it not for my use of the Auto Meter Stack Multi-Function Data Logger, which has sped up my learning curve monumentally. The car still looks brand new thanks to a stunning paint job from Todd Zeller at Todd’s Extreme Paint. Additional components and support came from ISC Racer’s Tape, DragRaceResults.com, Charlie Stewart Race Cars, and Nitrous Express. Just about every component on each of my cars can be purchased at JEGS or online at www.JEGS.com.
I spent the next couple of days basking in my national event glory, and I got to watch my buddy Brad Plourd make a couple of runs in Mike Knowles’ Pro-Modified car during Monday’s test session. I took in the SEMA show, and spent a fairly low-key night on the town in Sin City. As Thursday approached, I prepared for my biggest event of the season, as the LODRS would determine my fate in the national points standings.
My friend and newly crowned Super Gas champion Jeff Lopez flew in Thursday night. I picked him up at the airport and he stayed with me all weekend. He flew in to drive Tommy Phillips’ dragster and attempt to lock down a spot in the Super Comp top 10, but it was also nice to have him in my corner for the weekend.
A ton of “what if’s” and potential scenarios were cleared up in the opening round of Super Comp. There, the two racers ahead of me in the standings (Kenny and Kondolay) were both defeated, and I managed to win a close race. That didn’t make my job any easier: I still had to advance to the final round in order to take the championship lead. It did, however, make the championship picture clear. If I could make the final, I would now take the lead, and only Kondolay would have a chance to retake it in Pomona. Essentially, I came into the event needing a whole bunch of things to fall into place; several of which were out of my control. After round one, I basically controlled my own destiny. Win the race, and I would likely win the championship. Lose and I would not. Either way, my fate was in my own hands.
Shortly after my opening round win in Super Comp, I got cracked in the first round of Super Gas. I made a really poor run. My car was much slower than I anticipated and I still don’t have a good explanation as to why. Any loss is disappointing, but to be honest my focus was almost solely on Super Comp, so the loss in the Corvette didn’t bother me in the least. I breezed through second round in Super Comp when my opponent was well off the index, which put me into Sunday’s final eliminations.
Sunday morning, I got past my friend Kyle Rizzoli in a great race. I was a little late, but did a great job (and got pretty lucky) at the finish line to take .007 and run dead-on the 9.05 index. That pushed me into round 4, still a long way from the round 8 appearance that I needed to take the championship lead. Having gone through a similar situation a couple years ago, I felt like I had a good idea of what to expect throughout the day. With each winlight, I would get closer to the ultimate goal. As a result, each round becomes a little bit more mentally taxing than the one before it.
Unfortunately for me, the dream came to an end in round 4 at the hands of Billy Torrence. I made a solid run, but not a spectacular one. I was .012 and took .016 on his drop. That put me .004 further under the index than he was, as we both went way too fast (my 9.021 to his 9.025). I could write a book about how I lost this particular round (believe me, I had 2,000 miles to think about it!), but the bottom line is that I made some mistakes and Billy did a better job than I did. I’m not disappointed in my performance. I don’t feel like I choked. I just came up .004 short in a good race, and 4 rounds short in a good season.
Would I have liked to win the championship? That’s an incredibly stupid question; everyone would like to win the championship. But I don’t have anything to hang my head about. I finished the season ranked third in both Super Comp and Super Gas (on a side note; the top two get a pretty substantial check… Third gets nothing. Sweet!). I managed to win 3 national events and runner-up another. I also won the LODRS event in Reynolds. I’m actually more proud of my Super Gas season than anything; we came into the year with a brand new combination and this was my first attempt at fielding a competitive Super Gas entry. To have the success that we did is a tribute to Charlie and Jason at Charlie Stewart Race Cars, and everyone who had a hand in that combination.
On the bracket scene, I had some success, mostly locally, and managed a runner-up finish to Gary Williams at the $50,000 main event of the Great American Bracket Race over the summer. When it was all said and done, I finished the season with 10 victories in 14 final rounds. More importantly, I had a lot of great times and have some very fond memories. I made some new friends, and I feel like I represented my sponsors well.
I had planned to leave Las Vegas and continue on to Pomona for the NHRA Finals the following weekend. In fact, that was my plan as late as Sunday night following the divisional in Las Vegas. I woke up Monday morning, however, and took inventory of the situation. The points chase was over. My dragster was sold; and while I had an agreement to race it the remainder of the season I’ll admit I was a little bit nervous about something crazy happening on the track. My Corvette had inexplicably slowed down .06 on its last run. The weather in Pomona is traditionally questionable this time of year. And most of all, I missed my wife and my home. With a couple clicks of the mouse, I was withdrawn from Pomona. I dropped Jeff off at the airport, and pointed the rig east. 2,000 fairly uneventful miles later, I was in Illinois.
I want to take this opportunity to congratulate the champions. I ran NHRA Super Comp and Super Gas this season, and I know first hand that they are two of the most competitive categories in all of drag racing. My hat’s off to Al Kenny, the Super Comp champion, and to my good friend Jeff Lopez. Al is no stranger to the winner circle, and this was his best season to date. His championship was well earned, and I want to say congratulations to him, his wife Carol, their son Jason and daughter Samantha. They’re a great racing family. Also congrats to Tex Mex. Jeff and I grew up together dreaming about winning an NHRA title. There is no one who I would rather see achieve success than Mr. Lopez.
On the divisional front, I claimed Division 5 this season. That gave me an opportunity to race at a couple of facilities I had never been to before and meet a lot of great people. Congratulations to Division 5 champs Chris Brown (Super Comp) and Kevin Moore (Super Gas). I met Kevin at the first Division 5 event of the year in Great Bend, KS (he helped me jumpstart my truck in line outside the gate –imagine that!), and I’m proud to call him a friend. His championship was his second consecutive Division 5 title, which is a feat worthy of recognition. Chris and I have known each other for years, but we became much better friends throughout the season. He’s an incredibly talented driver that will be a major factor in the 8.90 category for years to come.
Congrats to Al, Jeff, Kevin and Chris; it was a pleasure racing with you guys and trying to keep up with you all season!
Just as an update, I’m writing this column the day after Christmas and we have about 10” of snow on the ground here in Southern Illinois thanks to a Christmas night blizzard. Jess is now halfway through pregnancy, as she is a little over 20 weeks along. Baby Bogacki is due on May 10, and we’ve decided that we don’t want to find out his or her gender until birth. At this point, I’m pretty sure that the ultrasound technician knows if we’re having a boy or girl, but we do not. We think the surprise will be fun.
My beautiful baby and our growing baby!
To those of you who live in snow country, this may not look like much. For a southern boy like myself, however, it pretty much has me on lockdown!
I’m busy preparing for life as a Daddy and the 2013 season. We’re in the midst of a home addition, as we’re renovating one of the attached garages and making it into living space. Once that’s done, we’ll move my office into one of the new rooms, and I’ll convert my current office into a nursery. A couple of weeks ago, I met with the proud new owners of the Rocketship and said my goodbyes. The car now resides in Wisconsin and is in capable hands. A few days later, I took delivery of my new 2013 American Race Cars dragster.
I just began the assembly process on my new American Race Cars Dragster.
The new ARC whip will be the first of two major offseason projects, as Mark, Travis, Brett and the boys at ARC are finishing up another new dragster for the Bogacki stable. The second will be driven by my wife Jessica. Obviously she won’t be taking the wheel until the summer months, so I may get to do some “testing” in her new car early in the season myself!
My new dragster will feature a 615 cubic inch powerplant from Huntsville Engine & Performance, complete with BRODIX’s new SR20 cylinder heads and of course a BRODIX aluminum block. I’m excited about the new combination; we think it will make power similar to the 12 motor, and hopefully provide an easier maintenance routine with less valve train attrition.
HEPC is also in the process of building a 582 for the Corvette, which will feature the BRODIX Head Hunter heads and an aluminum block, though I’m likely to start the season with the combination that I ran in it last year (it would be helpful to roll into my first event with SOMETHING that I have a little data on).
I’m happy to announce that all of our Major, Associate, and Exclusive marketing partners are back onboard for 2013. In the current economy, I think it’s a huge honor to continue to build each of those alliances going forward. A lot of my partners have been with me for a long time, and my racing program could not be what it is without their continued support. A huge thank you in particular to our associate marketing partners: Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, JEGS, Tinsley Drilling and Company, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, and Advanced Product Design (APD). Also, thank you to the contributors, advertisers, and most importantly the members of ThisIsBracketRacing.com. Those of you who are members know that we’re having a lot of great discussion on the TIBR message board and we’re looking forward to another great season of guest tutorials and instructional information on TIBR.
I’m currently in the process of negotiating with a few select companies on additional partnerships for 2013, so hopefully we have some more exciting announcements on the horizon. I can at this point use this platform to announce an increased partnership with K&N Engineering, who has come onboard as an Associate Marketing Partner with Luke Bogacki Motorsports for the 2013 season. K&N is a company that most of us are familiar with, and one whose products I’ve used for my entire career, even before working closely with the company for the last 5 years. I’m extremely excited to work alongside Steve Williams, Greg Boutte, Tony Yorkman, and the entire K&N staff to continue to promote their quality line of filtration products. Like many of you, I’ve used K&N products on my street vehicles and race cars for years; K&N is the industry leader. What’s even better as far as I’m concerned is that the company has deep roots in sportsman drag racing (K&N sponsors the Spring Fling, they’re a major contingency sponsor, headline the K&N Pro Stock Challenge, and nearly a dozen K&N employees are sportsman racers themselves). In addition to their wide variety of products for vehicles of all makes and models (if it has a motor, K&N makes a filter for it), K&N offers a lot of products that have been designed specifically for drag racing. I use K&N carbon hood scoops, seal-off trays, air filters and oil filters on the dragsters and Corvette. My Vega features a K&N filter that slides into the opening of the hood scoop (they make these for most common scoops, which eliminates any excuse for not running a filter due to carburetor height constraints).
Bottom line: whether I’m racing at 180 miles per hour, towing 1,000+ miles to an event, or sending my wife off to work in the snow, I depend on K&N filters. You can too. Learn more at www.KNFilters.com.
I’ve got a lot of work to do in a short time period, but my plan is to kick off the 2013 season with another long trip to the west coast at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA. With the baby due in May, I hope to get as much racing in as possible early in the season, then take about 2 months off for baby time. The plan is to compete in the NHRA national events in Pomona, Phoenix, and Las Vegas, as well as the double divisional in Phoenix, the Vegas divisional, and hopefully the Spring Fling West before returning home. That schedule will allow me to knock out nearly half of my points earning season in just one drive, and a few flights back and forth.
Stay tuned, hopefully we’ll have more exciting news on the marketing front in the weeks leading up to the 2013 season. Thanks again for reading, and happy holidays to everyone! I hope you all have a safe and happy new year’s celebration and a prosperous 2013 (filled with win lights)!
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