4-04 BRACKET RACING 101 with Luke Bogacki
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My name is Luke Bogacki. I am a 22 year-old graduate of Northwood University (Cedar Hill, TX), with a degree in Automotive Aftermarket Business Management. My father competed in motorsports, mainly drag racing, his entire adult life, and introduced me to the sport at an early age. In 1993, I began to compete in the Junior Drag Racing League, with seemingly instant success. After a few years away from driving, I purchased a '73 Nova at the age of 14, and with Dad's help made it into a competitive bracket car and began racing with "the big boys." In the years since our program has grown by leaps and bounds, into a semi-professional entity that houses between two and four race cars, a '94 Beaver Motorhome, and 32' trailer. Over the past five seasons, I've enjoyed what I consider to be great success; three IHRA Division Titles, a B&M Division championship, a Southern Super Tens Series Championship, a track championship, and several divisional and "big dollar" bracket wins. I feel very fortunate that my father was able to witness several of those fruits of our labor before he died of cancer in August of 2001.

In addition to my racing exploits with the Bogacki Motorsports team, I am also the Sales & Marketing Manager at Huntsville Engine & Performance Center in Huntsville, AL. In June of 2003 I relocated to the Huntsville area, and I thoroughly enjoy working with some of the most talented individuals in the racing industry: Todd Ewing, Andy Anderson, Garry Reavis, Dennis Kline, and more. Huntsville Engine and Performance Center is a high performance racing engine builder and retail/mail order parts warehouse. We stock every part you'll need for your racing operation, from bumper to bumper, wheel to wheel.

I have recently purchased a home in nearby Woodville, AL where I will be joined by my fiance Kari as soon as she finishes her schooling in May. Drag Racing 101 is designed to be an informative, and sometimes motivational series on just what it takes to be competitive and successful in the world of ET bracket racing. So, read on, and as always feel free to e-mail me with any comments or questions. LukeBogacki@aol.com


Last month, we talked about the importance of surrounding yourself with bright, knowledgeable, open-minded people. This time around, we’re really going to get back to basics. Some of the more experienced racers who are reading may consider this particular column fairly elementary. Nonetheless, the following principles are things that every racer needs to know and understand in order to be successful in the world of bracket racing.

Anyone who has ever bracket raced or been around the sport realizes the basic principle involved in winning or losing a race: The sum of your reaction time and time over your dial-in needs to be less than your opponents to win a round in which you are both over your respective dial-ins. (For example, your .000 reaction and 6.825 on a 6.81 beats your opponents .010 and 5.440 on a 5.43). In racing circles, we call that sum a “package”.

Within the example I just provided, your .015 total package (the sum of your reaction--.000 and ET over dial--.015) beats your opponents .020. In this instance, you arrived at the finish line .005 ahead of your opponent, and since both of you were over your decided dial-ins, that same .005 is your margin of victory. Congratulations, you laid down a nice lap (eight more like that and you win)!

But wait a minute. Did everyone here follow what I just said? Your .015 package beats his .020 package by .005. That means you arrived at the finish line first by .005. That theory works in reverse too: A + B = C means C - B = A.

In other words, assuming that (as in our first example) you are .000 on the tree, and take .005 stripe, you beat an .020 package by .005. Simple math proves that you had to run .015 above your dial-in. .020 (opponents package) - .015 (your package) = .005 MOV, just the same as .020 (opponents package) - .005 (MOV) = .015 (your package).

Understanding this basic principle shows the two contrasting ways to read a timeslip, and how these numbers effect each other. The margin of victory, or more accurately stated the margin of first finish, has as much to do with the outcome of your round as the reaction time and over/under dial-in.

A .000 reaction and dead-on with a .005 is no better a run than a .000 run in which you take .005 win stripe--no matter what your over/under is.

Don’t understand? Let’s put it this way: You’re .000 and run dead-on your 5.00 dial in with a 5.005--that’s a .005 package. Your opponent is also .000, and he beats you the end by .005. You’ve lost, with a .005 package, and your opponent has just made a perfect run. You’re .005 end-to-end, and your opponent is .000, and .005 ahead, which makes him dead-on with a zero.

Now that you understand how the finish margin coupled with your reaction time corresponds to your opponents package, you can determine how to make this information work to your advantage. Reaction time is obviously extremely important.

In fact, I would say it is the determining factor in winning or losing a drag race--but it’s not just the number that appears on your time slip that makes it a winner or a loser. Allow me to explain.

The difference in reaction times determines what needs to happen on the finish line in order for your win light to glow. In it’s simplest form, think of the difference in this light: if you have an advantage on the starting line by X amount, and you take the finish line by X or less, you can’t lose. Repeat--you can’t lose.

For example, if you are .010 on the tree, and your opponent is .030, then you have a .020 advantage. If you take the finish line by .020 or less--you win. It doesn’t matter if you run your dial-in, go 1 second under, or 1 second over, you win.


Let’s say you’re dialed 7.00, and your opponent (for simplicity sake) is dialed the same, 7.00. You have an .020 advantage on the starting line, and take the finish line by .010. If your opponent runs 7.000, he has a .030 package (.030 light + .000 over). If you are .010 on the tree, and beat your opponent to the end by .010, that means that you ran a 7.010 for a .020 package (.010 react + .010 over dial). You win despite being one hundredth further off your dial by virtue of your .02 advantage on the starting line.

“Well, what if my opponent goes under?” you ask. You still win. Your opponent goes .030 on the tree, and runs 6.950, .050 under. This puts him at -.040 end to end. If you have a .010 light, and take .010 finish, you run 6.960, still a hundredth slower than your opponent which means you win by breaking out the least. If you’re opponent runs 6.000, you win with a 6.01. If your opponent runs 8.000, you win with an 8.01. That’s the golden rule-take less stripe than your advantage on the tree, and you win.

Keeping this in mind, you’ve got to realize it works the opposite way as well. If you’re opponent takes a .020 advantage on the tree (say his .000 to your .020), and you follow him through by .020 or less, you lose. Doesn’ t matter if you’re dead on, way under, way over--you lose.

Take this information, and put it into play on the race track. Most of the time, a fairly experienced racer knows if he/she has a good reaction when they leave the starting line. Granted, even the most experienced racer will be surprised by what his or her timeslip says from time to time, but for the most part you know when you’re .00 on the tree, and you know when you’re .050 or worse.

At that point, you know something that your opponent doesn’t! Use it to your advantage. Generally Speaking, that means that if you feel good on the tree, you should try to get to the finish line first. And, as hard as it is to do at times, when you don’t have a good light usually the only way to win is to get behind your opponent (keep in mind you have to get behind by as much as your reaction time).

Allow me to use one more example. Let’s say that I’m racing my dragster in a pro bracket event somewhere, and I just geek the tree. I don’t know what it is when I leave, but I know it’s green--real green. Let’s assume that I’m .040, and let’s say my opponent is .010.

Now, by understanding the mathematics of bracket racing, we know that I cannot be .030 or less behind at the finish line, or I’m doomed. That leaves two options: either get ahead by as little as possible, or get behind by more than .030. Keep in mind that if I’m going to take the finish line, my opponent has to be at least .031 over his/her dial-in to give me any chance of winning (.010 reaction + .031 over = .041 package---with my .040 light, I could conceivably take .001 win stripe, and win with a dead-on with a zero).

The odds of a competitor in today’s world of pro bracket racing being .03 over is not good at all. So, I would probably take my chances on the dump. If I can get .031 behind, and my opponent is under, then I win by running .001 slower than he or she. If my opponent is .010, and .009 under his/her dial, and I am .040 and drop to .031 behind, then I win despite my .008 breakout. In this situation, there’s no way to win if I’m any closer to, or (god forbid) ahead of my opponent.

Basically, reaction time is the pivotal factor in deciding the outcome of any round of competition, assuming you have the knowledge to take advantage of it. I hope this hasn’t been more confusing than helpful, and I’ll elaborate more next month when I get into focus and driving tactics. As always, if you have any questions or comments, please feel free to e-mail me at lukebogacki@aol.com. Thanks for reading, and we’ll do it all again next month!

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