5-08 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
It’s been nearly two months since I last touched base with the DragRaceResults.com crowd, and we’ve got a lot of catching up to do. On a lot of levels, I’ve been real fortunate--for the last few weeks I’ve been on fire on the race track. But the last two months have been a whole lot of work; a whole lot of driving; and as you loyal readers (bless your hearts, really) have come to expect, a whole lot of knucklehead decisions on my part that tend to make my life so thoroughly entertaining to others.
At the conclusion of my last column, I was all jacked up to test the new Stock Eliminator Nova of Bryan Robinson’s as well as my new 582 cubic inch Brodix 12* headed Huntsville Engine in the CSR Performance Dragster. The plan was to do that the weekend of March 8 at Holly Springs Motorsports. You gotta love plans!
I picked up the motor from the boys at HEPC late Friday afternoon, set it between the framerails, and headed for Bryan’s place in Iuka, MS. Thru some crazy phenomenon of the earth and the moon, the area got blasted with a snow storm that left over 4 inches of the white stuff that evening. In the midst of that, Bryan and I looked like a couple of elementary school kids, chasing each other thru the yard in what ended up being a pretty good snowball fight (I was pretty sure I had frostbite when we got done).
Even more entertaining than that; Bryan’s father sold his dragster to a gentleman from Missouri who had come to pick it up that night… With a rollback… In the snow… And I’m not talking about one of those extended rollback’s that’s actually long enough to haul a dragster. I’m talking about a 235” dragster, solidly hanging a good 6’ off the back, with a drag tarp, riding thru the snow. Yep--I went to hang out with my friends in Iuka, MS… And we were NOT the rednecks!
Anyhow, back to the task at hand. What we had originally hoped to be a one-day test session on Saturday turned into a 4-day thrash that concluded with flogging both cars at Holly Springs on Monday and Tuesday. The play-by-play of the whole outing would be pretty comical, but would take up ten pages; so I’ll try to hit the highlights. We ran 5 converters thru the dragster on Monday alone between finding what it wanted and doing some testing for BTE. All in all, I was very pleased with the new bullet: I rattled off some high 4.6 runs at Holly Springs (where it’s generally a little slow), and got a comfortable stop setup for 8.90 racing.
The American whip with a new HEPC 582: Hello 4.60's!! Photo Courtesy of BME Photography.
With the Stocker, we encountered some hectic new car issues that plagued seemingly the entire weekend. The ignition box fried itself (overnight--which made diagnosing that one interesting). The oil psi gauge either got stopped up or decided to quit working (which, understandably, created some panic). We changed converters (not quite as simple a job in a stock ‘68 Nova as in a 4-link dragster, by the way). And, after a couple test laps down County Road 25, we did get to make quite a few runs at Holly Springs and begin the long learning curve that is Stock Eliminator.
I got home from Holly Springs late Tuesday night, and after another two-day thrash, Matty and I headed West Thursday afternoon. I stopped by BTE and picked up some spare parts for the Stocker. By lunchtime Friday I was coming thru Dallas. Now, my initial plan was to leave Woodville and head south toward New Orleans, then catch I-10 West to San Antonio. But since I had to go by BTE, I went to Memphis, then down thru Dallas. This meant that I had to basically drive right past the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series event at the Texas Motorplex. I just couldn’t do it.
I was riding down I-20 thinking, “They’re paying 5 grand thirty minutes away.” I made a left on I-45 and pulled in the ‘Plex as they were starting run for the money. My stop wasn’t great. I pulled in the gate and promptly got stuck in the mud. I managed to get out on my own, and find a spot on the pavement only to have my hydraulic jack push thru the pavement. With some help from the Gossett family, I finally got unloaded just before my generator died. I lost first round in both tech cards with the dragster, bought back, and broke the transmission yoke. This is awesome!
My first run in the stocker it was only .2 slow from testing. Could this get any better? At any rate, with a little work I had the dragster back together and the Nova running close to what it should. I almost salvaged a victory in it’s opening appearance, but kicked it a couple thousandths red in the semi-finals of Sportsman.
After yet another long day, I packed up and pulled back out the gate, headed on to San Antonio. At about 2 a.m. I put the duallie truck in park outside the gate.
The divisional at San Antonio was not one of my better outings. If you’ll remember, I said when I left Immokalee in February that I didn’t feel like I could drive much better, and came away with next to nothing. Ditto that in San Antonio. It’s so frustrating because I want so badly to prove myself on the national and divisional stage--and I come out and do all I’m capable of doing, only to come up short. In Stock on Day 1, I’m .020, take .005. My opponent is .010 and low dead-on.
I come back around in Quick Rod, and my opponent is .006, 8.907. He was more upset about that than I was--he lost. I was .000, take .006. Second round, I’m .008 take .003. It was one of those days where I didn’t feel like I could miss the tree, and the finish line was in slow motion--everything seemed easy. Third round, at the end of my burnout, the brass fitting that holds the C02 regulator to the bottle snapped. All the C02 leaks out. I’ve got a Pro-Stage setup on the car, so without C02, I don’t have any throttle pedal. Great. I stage and idle down the track for the L.
On day 2, I’m .013 take .008 first round of Stock and that actually beat someone. Second round I’m -.003 to Terry Emmons. Before the run Terry asked me not to mention his run in this column if it was embarrassing. So I won’t. It didn’t matter--his beacon was on, and he went on to the final. Those Emmons boys are great--they helped me out back in the day when no one else would; they’re awesome people and excellent racers.
In Quick Rod, it was more of the same. First round I’m .009 and my opponent breaks. Second round I’m .008 and my opponent is red. I get to looking thru the log book and realize that I’ve moved a grand total of .004 all weekend on the pro tree (which is unheard of for me). So, I decide “Why be .009 when you could be .004?” and pull .005 out. The result: -.0004 (thank you accutime for not just rounding that off to a -.001).
The following weekend, I made my way to “Smokin” Mo-Kan Dragway in Joplin, MO for a driving school. Yep, you heard right. My good friend Blake Allen approached me late last year and asked if I’d be interested in teaching a course on bracket racing. I was pretty timid about the idea, but the more we talked about it, the more I warmed up to it. By the time the actual class came around I was really nervous and had no idea what to expect.
We split it up into two segments: a classroom portion, which we held in a meeting room at a local motel Friday night; and an on-track portion, which we did at the race track the following day. For as hesitant as I was about the whole thing, it couldn’t have turned out better. It was a great experience for me, not to mention a lot of fun. More importantly, I felt like everyone involved gained a little bit from the class, and I felt like everyone had a good time and felt like they got their money’s worth, which was my main concern.
Bracket racing isn’t rocket science. And I don’t think that I just lit a light bulb over anyone’s head. But, I think I helped some of the guys to approach each round a little differently. And, while I doubt that I said much they didn’t already know, hopefully I helped them connect the dots a little bit. Several of the alumni have enjoyed a lot of success since the class, which may be a complete coincidence, but it makes me feel good!
I want to again thank Blake Allen, as well as Carl Blanton at Mo-Kan Dragway for putting everything together; and each of the students who had enough faith in me to come out and listen. It really was a great time. I don’t see myself as a threat to Edmond Richardson or anything, and I don’t have the time to market and schedule schools; but given the opportunity to work with Blake and Carl, or folks like them, I’d jump at the chance to do it again.
Despite the fact that I've won a grand total of two rounds in Stock Eliminator thus far; we did get to take a picture at San Antonio for winning AA/SA class eliminations (I know what you're thinking, and no, I wasn't the only car in the class--I did beat one poor sap). Photo courtesy of BME Photography.
On the way back to Texas from Mo-Kan, I made a stop at a Casino in Oklahoma (for those of you who haven’t been to OK in a few years, they are now on every corner). Although I hadn’t had much of any success on the race track recently, I must have been living right. I sat down at a 1-2 no limit hold ’em table, and within 45 minutes the players to my immediate left and immediate right got involved in a hand that ended with quad aces beating aces full of kings, which hit the bad beat jackpot. The bad beat was up to $24,000, so the guy on my left got $12,000. The guy on my right got $6,000, and the remaining six chumps at the table split the other $6,000. Yep, I got $1,000 for sitting at the table! How cool is that?
Anyhow, I made it back to the DFW area Monday morning. I had left the Stocker with my old friend Butch Young, to do some brake work. Plus, Butch has a shop with a lift, so that made another converter change a whole lot easier. Since we’re pretty much novices to the whole Stock eliminator thing, Bryan and I aren’t exactly sure what we need to go fast and be competitive; and the only way to learn is to work and test.
I tested at Texas Raceway Wednesday night with some promise, and headed to Houston for the NHRA O’Reilly Spring Nationals. There, I’d like to say my bad luck continued. But the truth is, I didn’t drive very well. First round of Stock, my opponent made a representative run; .010 and .02 above. That’s a good lap, but I was .014 and should have beat it. I gave the stripe back .003, to run my Stock Eliminator record to an impressive 1-3. I overcame a tardy reaction first round of Super Comp with a great job on the finish line (8.900 taking .004 on a double-drop), but that was the end of the good news. Second round was a similar race, but even a .002 finish line couldn’t overcome another sub-par reaction time and Craig Anderson sent me packing.
With nothing but time to kill leading up to the San Antonio IHRA National event the following weekend, I sat in the stands and watched Sunday’s eliminations with some friends and a cooler full of beer. From there, Troy Williams, Jr., Michael & Connie Hunt, and myself set out for SAR on Monday, only to realize that we couldn’t get into the track until Friday. Michael found an RV park that would accommodate us, and we set up camp for a few days.
Here's the digger with a big white bottle on back. This is actually the run I'm giving it the wiggle. Thanks to Nitrous Express, I got in the show at SAR with a 4.56 on a real light tune up. Photo courtesy of BME Photography.
There, the crew helped me install my new Nitrous Express nitrous kit on the dragster. I needed to run Top Dragster at San Antonio, and we all figured the bump would get silly fast, so I was prepared to get after it. In qualifying, I started with a real light tune-up, and went 4.56. When it became apparent that the field wouldn’t get nearly as fast as I had envisioned (the bump ended up being 4.68), I changed converters back to my normal bracket setup and raced. I could have gotten in without the juice, but it would’ve been close enough to make me nervous, so I’m glad we put everything on and got solidly into the field.
In Saturday’s Sportsman National event, things went really well. I was comatose late in Stock 2nd round against Myron Piatek (not the guy you want to miss it against); and he made my .040 look real bad. In Top Dragster, however, I got really lucky. In the first four rounds, I had two opponents red-light, one opponent break on the starting line, and a bye run. That got me into the semi’s, where I had to run my buddy Jason Lynch. Luckily for me, Jason missed the tree a little, and I snuck past him to match up with another close friend, Troy Williams, Jr. in the final. It’s kind of funny, with the exception of the Immokalee race in February, the last IHRA national event I attended was Norwalk in 2004. There, Troy and I ran in the final of Quick Rod. He whipped me, and went on to win a bunch of those races and a national championship in years since.
So I guess this was a rematch. Like Jason, Troy was a little late, and I snuck by him for a double breakout win. The win was just my second national event victory, first in Top Dragster, and first in four years, so it felt really good. It’s funny--financially, it’s no bigger deal than winning a big bracket race. But, for whatever reason, it feels like a bigger deal. Maybe it’s because of the fans, or the media coverage, or that most of the guys who had lost were still there watching--but it’s a really gratifying thing to win. I wish everyone that races competitively could experience it.
The crew after a triumphant day at San Antonio. Photo courtesy of BME Photography.
Now for the hero to zero part: Sunday brought the main event, the Amalie Oil Texas Nationals. And, it was then that the Bertozzi family officially made me their bitch for the day. Anthony showed me why he’s won 94 world championships: he was .000 and going high dead-on in round one of Stock. Then, his wife Malinda gave me a lot more room in first round of Top Dragster: .003, dead-on with a 5. They’re off the Christmas list.
After a month out West, I headed home to Woodville.
"I'm gonna win." "No I'm gonna win." "I'll crush you." My cars talk strategy at Gainesville. Photo courtesy of Whitney Wesson.
My stay in the great state of Alabama was short lived, however. Thursday afternoon, my friend Whitney Wesson accompanied Matty and I to Gainesville for the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series race. Friday, I got whacked early in Super Pro with both cars, but managed to win Sportsman in the Vega.
Saturday, I put together a performance that I will never forget. I entered my CSR Performance dragster and Mickey Thompson Tires Vega in Super Pro, and put the Vega in Sportsman. At the end of the day, I hadn’t lost a round to anyone but myself! I had the Vega and the dragster in the final of Super Pro, and won Sportsman as well! Both cars were awesome. I drove really, really well for the most part. And of course, I got some big breaks when I needed them. I had won two classes in the same day before. I had run myself in the final before. But to do both in the same day? That’s crazy--and to do it on that stage with the competition that was at Gainesville was absolutely awesome; not to mention a lot of fun!
A whole bunch of my buddies gathered in the Gainesville Winner Circle after one of the most amazing days in my racing life.
Sunday’s event rained out, and we headed back to Alabama still soaking up the events of the day before.
The following weekend, I set out to Rockingham for the IHRA Spring Nationals. Once again: hero to zero. This can be a very humbling sport. I ran Hot Rod and Quick Rod, and failed to illuminate a win light. There’s something about that place--when I pull in the gate I forget how to drive a race car. In Hot Rod, I took the finish line by a couple of weeks (in fact, Steve Earwood just called to inform me that my opponent did cross the finish line--just yesterday) and I broke out. In Quick Rod, I forgot to let go of the button when the tree lit. The good news: while everyone else was busy racing on Sunday, I was home catching up on some yard work!
Here’s the part where I get to do a little shameless promotion (as if that isn’t what this entire column is for anyhow). I have a new American Race Cars dragster coming in June. This means that I don’t need my current car. So, I’m happy to announce a unique raffle for my ‘07 American Race Cars Dragster. This is my personal car, that I’ve been running this season, and debuted last March. It’s the car that I won the DRR Championship in last season; it’s got all the best components and no expense has been spared in assembling and maintaining the car.
Here’s the basis of the raffle: I’m selling 110 tickets at $300 each. The first ticket drawn wins the car, as a complete roller--no motor and trans (e-mail me for a complete parts detail). The 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th tickets drawn will win $1,000 cash. I’m giving away $4,000 in cash, and keeping $29,000 for the roller, which I think is a fair price. Someone will win this car, and be in it for 300 bucks!
I started taking entries last week, and I’m already over 40, so this should go pretty quick. I’m going to hold the drawing at the Jeg’s U.S. Open Bracket Championships in Indianapolis on June 15th. No money will be deposited until all 110 tickets are sold. If we don’t sell out by June 15th, I’ll refund everyone’s money. For more info, e-mail me: LukeBogacki@aol.com
Last weekend I withdrew from the Southern Nationals at Atlanta due to some mechanical problems with the Stocker. After studying my options (the Farmington 50-grander, the DRR event at Kennedale) and looking at the weather forecast, I opted to stay close to home. Friday night I went to Sand Mountain with the Vega, and was laying down pretty good runs until I fell out of the car. My quarterfinal red-light in Footbrake wasn’t enough, so I turned it red in the semi-finals of Pro as well.
Saturday, I went to Huntsville Dragway for their monthly $5,000-to-win Super Pro race, and was once again fortunate enough to win in the Vega. I swear, that thing has been on 6.10 for a month! I ran the dragster as well, but fell in round 4 when my .013 take .001 was dwarfed by my opponents .009 package. Ms. Whitney was in attendance once again; I see a trend here. I’ve never considered myself to be particularly superstitious, but she may have to come along a little more often!
Me & Whit after the Vega bowed up for 5 at Huntsville last week. Photo courtesy of Lifetime Photography.
That pretty well brings us up to date. In the next month, I’ve got a good mixture of “TV” racing and big bucks bracket races. Brian Rogers has the Stocker back and ready for action, so I’ll have it and the Vega in Baton Rouge this weekend running the IHRA Pro-Am, then it’s off to Nashville for the Southern Survival Shootout. I’ll spend the next two weeks in Bristol, for the NHRA National event, and the World Footbrake Challenge, before heading North for a three week stint that will include the IHRA Pro-Am at Milan, the Ultimate 64 Shootout in KY, and the Jeg’s U.S. Open at Indianapolis.
Thanks again for reading, and please help me by supporting my marketing partners when you have a need for quality components for your racing machine. These companies are great to deal with, and each manufacture reliable consistent products that I depend on: CSR Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, Jeg’s Mail Order, Bill Taylor Engineering, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Rockett Brand Race Fuel, Moser Engineering, Advanced Product Design, Milodon, Goza Racing Products, Auto Meter, K&R Performance Engineering, B&M, Figspeed.com, Dixie, ISC Racers Tape, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate Coatings, Nitrous Express, Brodix Cylinder Heads, K&N, AFCO, and TD Performance Products.