3-06 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
Where to start?
I know that a lot of you folks reading this have either just started racing for the 2006 season, or are eagerly anticipating the opening day of action in a few short weeks. For those of you below the Mason-Dixon line like me, you know we’re already in full swing. At this point in late March, I’ve been able to race in some form just about every weekend for the last two months. And, as has become painfully normal over the last couple years, I’ve got my fill of tales of woe to share. So, kick back and enjoy the never ending adventure that I call my racing career...
I kicked the season off back on Super Bowl Sunday at Fulton Dragway in Eastern Mississippi. Fulton is just a little outlaw track that I probably wouldn’t dare take a dragster down, but it’s a lot of fun with the little Vega, and it’s the only track in this area that races for decent money throughout the winter months. After working out some off-season bugs in the Mickey Thompson Vega... Oh, I need to give everyone the update: The Vega is sporting some new color this season. Don’t get excited, it’s nothing special...but the Vega is Black! Don’t ask me when I’m going to paint it--it’s painted. It’s done. $58 worth of Tide, Scotchbrite, and Krylon got that job handled. The Mickey Thompson Vega is “Back in Black”--flat black to be exact. I’m not a painter, and I’ll never claim to be.. And the Vega isn’t a thing of beauty... But I’m confident in saying that it looks better than it did last year! Unfortunately, I don’t have any photos to share yet, but I’ll get on that for the next column!
Anyhow, the little Vega made it’s black debut at Fulton, and we were actually rolling along pretty good for awhile. Steve “Stone Cold” Stites drilled me in the quarterfinals of Footbrake, a class where he ended up running himself in the final (in not one, but two 10-second Cavaliers!). In Super Pro, I made it down to four cars, joining Acker McGee, and my good buddies Bryan Robinson and Lucas Bendall. Lucas beat Bryan, and a tardy reaction on my part kept it from being an all Luke final. I think I was .030, and Acker was...well he was better than .030 and it didn’t work out for me! While you always hate to lose, it was hard to be disappointed with two late round efforts in the first appearance, and I did feel like the car was pretty good and I didn’t drive badly (with the exception of the .030!).
That set the stage for the opening DragRaceResults.com Series event of 2006, at least for me and the rest of the Division 2 bunch, at South Georgia Motorsports Park. That brought the opportunity to unload the American Race Cars dragster for the first shot of the season, and the headache that went with it! On my first run, I go 5.03. That’s a little slow given the conditions, but I guess we’ll just work with it. I back that up with a 5.15... Okay, something is definitely wrong here.
Since I couldn’t feel anything real specific in the car, other than that the converter was a little loose, I figured I’d start by changing that. So, out comes the trans and converter as I swap that out during time trials. Keep in mind, that at some point I made the bright decision that I would enter this event not once...not twice...but three times, running the Vega in both Super Pro and Sportsman, along with the Dragster in Super Pro. This isn’t something I would recommend--especially without a ton of cars in the event, and no help at the track. So anyways, I changed the converter. When I fired the car back up to flash the new converter, I think “Boy, this thing sure is idled high...” Ding Ding Ding!!! I’ve sucked an intake gasket--and I just changed a converter for nothing!
So, off comes the intake manifold! At this point, I think some of my neighbors felt sorry for me--thanks to David Simmons and Scotty Richardson for their help getting things back in order in time for the first round call. Unfortunately for me, the day didn’t get a whole lot better. Sure, the dragster blasted off to 4.93, which was promising, but it didn’t result in many round wins, as my three entries captured a grand total of two win lights!
Saturday the South Georgia skies opened up and we got to watch it rain all day, making the Sunday race a little more critical in the early season points standings. Sunday, my little three entry gimmick had me running around like a chicken with my head cut off, as I actually managed to stage up for the fourth round with all three entries. I hogged the stripe in the Vega 4th round of Super Pro, broke with the dragster in 5th round, and managed to appear in the final of Sportsman before John Rollins sent me packing.
All in all I guess that wasn’t a horrible weekend, and I’ll take a runner-up to kick off the season.
Next up was Montana. Yep, you heard me. Somehow or another, I got to spouting off about how much I missed being on the road, and how much I wanted to get away...and lo and behold, my good buddy Bryan purchases a trailer from Vern Mills in Missoula, Montana. And, somehow or another, he actually talks me into driving up there to get the damn thing. Two days (and 2200 miles) later, I’m in Montana. It’s really beautiful country up there, through South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, and Colorado. I’d recommend a trip up there to anyone...in July, or August. When I hooked up to the trailer, it was 26 degrees below zero. I didn’t stutter... -26. The wind chill was 50-something below. It’s absolutely unfit for human habitation. Did you know the junk in your nose can freeze? I didn’t...Now I do!
But seriously, it was all pretty cool. I didn’t have any troubles at all with my truck or the trailer (I know that’s a shocker to any of you regular readers!). I drove over the continental divide, through the Rocky Mountains, and saw things that I’ll probably never get to see again, and that was awesome. I had to take the trailer back to Performax in Dallas to have some updates made, so I got to spend a couple days back home with some old friends too--which was my first trip of any length to Texas since I moved East nearly three years ago.
After a couple days back home, I headed for Montgomery for two $10,000 races. Actually, the plan was to race at Bama Dragway Friday night on the way down, then go on to Montgomery. So, Friday afternoon I’m headed to Bama--Duallie, enclosed trailer, dragster & Vega--I’m ready! About 30 miles from home, I have a blowout on the trailer. Of course, this can’t be an average blow out. Oh no, it goes ahead and takes out the tire behind, the fender, and the wiring to all of the right side running lights... Awesome! What’s more? My spare won’t hold air (I know, I know, the side of the road is not the time to realize this...get off me!). So, after an hour or so of work, I manage to get two tires on each side of the trailer (no middle axle on either side), and limp back home at 50 mph in a scene straight out of the Beverly Hillbillies.
Luckily for me (and unfortunately for the competitors who were able to make it to Montgomery Saturday), the Saturday event rained out. A trip to Quick Tire got me fixed up, and I headed out for Montgomery early Sunday morning, as George Howard went ahead and combined the two scheduled events, making one $20,000-to-win race. Well, the weekend just got better, as the intake gasket that I put on two weeks before started seeping water second round in the dragster. I elected not to buy back, and focused on Footbrake in the Vega. There, I get to 8 cars and completely fall out of the car. I moved a grand total of .004 on the tree in eliminations, and decide to get behind my opponent (okay--waaaay behind my opponent) in the quarters to go home a big loser.
The following weekend I roll into Huntsville Dragway for their opening Saturday night bracket race with just the Vega in tow. In Footbrake, once again, I wreck the tree all night, only to give away the finish line fourth round. This one was epic--I have a .04 advantage on the tree, and am in a car that has moved all of .006 since I pulled in the gate. And I light it up .06 over the dial in, .004 behind. BRILLIANT!
I really had not planned on going anywhere Sunday, but I thought that if I slept on that goof-up all week I’d kill myself, so I loaded up and went to Fulton. There, I’m rolling through eliminations in both classes, and actually driving really well. In Pro, my worst light was .012 (I was .008 twice, .007 once, .012 once, and .000 twice), and I drove the finish line really well. In Footbrake I wasn’t so impressive, but I was getting by. In the quarters of Footbrake I geek on both ends. I’m a nice, conservative .040 on the tree, which doesn’t deserve to win in the Trophy class, but is actually the light to beat my opponents .010 and a couple thousandths under...if I’d just STOP! But, rather than dump like a man, I dump like a wuss and only get .026 behind to break out .004 more. Another stellar decision!
In Pro, I get down to the semi’s. There, I square off with Jud Bostick, who is a great Footbrake racer. Did I mention we were in Pro? Yea, Jud is Footbraking in Pro, and he’s still in at 3, which should tell you something to begin with. Well, seeing as I’ve got a lot of respect for the guy, I leave the box alone, and I’m still set up .008. I’m spotting Jud 2 seconds or so... I let go, and think I didn’t just tattoo it, and I watch him leave. When my man Jud hits the gas, he looks like he’s every bit of -.050 on the tree...and it turns green. This isn’t a good sign. I go ahead and bump .010 out--which was a brilliant call as I bumped .010 to .000. So, now I’m .000 and going high-dead-on against this guy who’s hitting the bottom in something pretty close to a street car. And I’m in the way. My man is .001, and dead-on with a zero. Nice lap Jud!
So, that runs the yearlong tally to 3 quarterfinals, 2 semi-finals, and 1 runner-up. The getter closer is working great...but the finisher-upper ain’t gettin it done!
I piece the Dragster back together the next week (yea, I had the heads off before I realized the intake wasn’t sealed...get off me!). My buddy A.J. Ashe was in town, so I handed over the reigns to him, and we carried both cars to Brainerd Optimist Dragway near Chattanooga for a 5-grander. For the guy who has been all over the country by his lonesome, I had quite the crew this weekend: Myself, A.J., my Mom, and my girlfriend Beth--heck more people to celebrate, right?
Well, the good news for the day is that the dragster reeled off seven consecutive 4.91’s with A.J. at the wheel--which gave me some confidence that I finally had all the stupid problems worked out in it. Of course, his .010 react made him mathematically ineligible in the fourth round opposite some guys .008 package. In the Vega, I’m trucking along through the deal, until I pull into the water for fourth round and the steering wheel is on fire. Did you catch that? The steering wheel is on fire... Holy #$!* the steering wheel is on fire!
Yep, it’s one of those things that I think only I could pull off, but the stretch cord for the transbrake button shorts out, and the steering wheel is on fire. Luckily, I’ve got all the stretch cords on a weather-pack quick disconnect, for the times that I go to Footbrake races where they don’t allow buttons on the steering wheel, so I unplug it and put the fire out. And, once again, fortunately, I’m holding a pretty fair amount, so I’ll actually have a legitimate shot to win the round without the aid of a transbrake or delay box. I Footbrake to a respectable .020 lamp, and actually manage to win the round with a crowd pleasing, smoke throwing drop--sweet, there is a chance here!
At this point, all I can dig up in the trailer to remedy my troubles is a roll of 10 gauge wire. After a healthy amount of zip ties, duck tape, and bailing wire (yes, seriously...okay, I threw the bailing wire in, but the Hillbillies would have been proud), I manage to barely make the call for the next round. I pull into the water, check everything, and--what do you know? I’ve got a transbrake! I’m .006, and take very little for a hard earned W, and a berth in the quarterfinals.
There, I’m decent--I think I was teen, and take .010 or so, but it didn’t work out in a double breakout match, and I’m out. I’m pretty upset, given my recent late round record, along with the fact that I tried to burn the car to the ground. But hey, it’s not a big deal, we’ll just load up and go home. I go to start the Vega to pull it in the trailer, and a needle & seat is stuck so I’ve got a cylinder full of alcohol, and she hydraulic’s when I give her the go. Great.
So, here are A.J., Mom, Beth, and myself PUSHING this #$%@ race car into the trailer. I’m steaming, but I’m trying to be calm and not completely blow my top in front of everyone. We get all loaded up, and go to pull out. We go to pull out... We go to pull out onto the road... Yea, we’re stuck.
The track tractor came and pulled us out, and we went home. It was a great, great night at the races!
Anyhow, I recover from my outing at Brainerd and get everything ready for the first Tenn-Tuck event of the season at one of my favorite facilities, Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green, KY. In addition to the Tenn-Tuck, Lake Cumberland Dragway (about 90 miles from Bowling Green) has a big No-Box race on Saturday. So, I solicit Lucas to ride up with me, and haul the Vega over to Cumberland (from Bowling Green) to run that race while I run the Tenn-Tuck.
Friday I’m red first round of the big race, but manage to roll through the little race and into the quarterfinals. There, I get the bye--maybe things are finally going my way. I break a converter on the bye run, and I’m a sitting duck in the semi’s. You gotta love it!
The comedy of errors continued Saturday, as I went through a string of mechanical problems that I care not to relive. The basics: we had the transmission out three times on the weekend. We changed carburetors a couple times (once between third and fourth round), and had a variety of once-in-a-lifetime kind of problems all come up in one day... A day that my trailer, tools, and most of my spare parts are 90 miles away at a No-Box race. A huge thank you to Bryan Robinson for all his help over the weekend. We had a bunch of hands pitch in at some points, including Tim Archer, Jimbo Fields, Lucas before he left, and others--so thanks to ya’ll as well.
At any rate, throughout that string of events, the win light kept coming on. Some of the folks watching the race probably thought it was pretty impressive, because I did run anywhere from 4.80 to 5.10 throughout the event...but it wasn’t impressive at all. I drove horribly for the most part, and had constant problems. But a group of really good racers kept screwing up in the other lane. I didn’t deserve to kick the win light on in any of the first four rounds, and the next thing I knew there were 12 cars left! From that point on, I actually drove like I might want to win, but I was still lucky as anything to make the final. There, Greg Coffman put an end to the ride, but I escaped with a healthy chunk of money I had no business winning. Maybe that’s payback for all the times I’ve been .00 and take .00 for the ‘L’ in the last year--I just didn’t expect it all to come back in one day!
Sunday morning we finally fixed my car for good, and it went 4.80 three times on Sunday--and wouldn’t you know it, I failed to turn on a win light! Amazing sport sometimes!
Oh yea--no change in the finisher upper: through 6 weekends of competition I’ve racked up a pretty impressive record of late finishes: 4 quarterfinals, three semi-finals, and 2 runner-ups...but still a goose-egg in the win column. Maybe we can turn that around soon!
Once again, thanks for reading--I hope it provided a laugh if nothing else! And if you have an opportunity, please support the manufacturers who make my racing possible: Mickey Thompson Tires, American Race Cars, Bill Taylor Engineering, Advanced Product Design, Auto Meter, K&R Performance Engineering, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Milodon, Rockett Brand Race Fuel, J.W. Performance, Goza Racing Products, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance, Nitroplate, Dixie Race Products, and DragRaceResults.com.