07-12 "On The Road" With Luke Bogaki - Redneck Hillbilly Genius
It’s time for the latest installment of the traveling road show known as my life. Strap down and settle in; I’ll try to keep this brief, but we’ve got nearly two months worth of racing to catch up on. As you’ll read, the win lights haven’t been too prevalent, so I’ll go ahead and start off by saying THANK YOU to ThisIsBracketRacing.com and our associate marketing partners who keep the wheels turning regardless of my on-track success: Tinsley Drilling & Co., C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Advanced Product Design, JEGS, Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, and BTE. With that shameless plug in the rearview, let’s pick up where we left off: the NHRA Summer Nationals in Topeka, KS.
If you’ll recall, I left the rig at Matt Driskell’s shop in Kansas following the LODRS event in Great Bend and flew back for a week at home prior to returning for the national event in Topeka. For the “off” weekend at home, I made my annual drive up to Byron Dragway for the Folk Race Cars Driving School. For some unknown reason, the Folk boys keep inviting me back as a guest instructor. This was our 4th annual school, and as always it provided a lot of laughs and some real on-track growth from our students. I look forward to number 5!
Jess and I flew into Kansas City late Wednesday night, and when I turned my phone on after landing, I was greeted with a picture from Brian Folk of their rig, or what was left of it. I’m sure you’ve all heard the details and seen the footage, but the Folk’s rig was destroyed in a highway accident and fire on their way to the Spring Fling in Bristol. I’m still at a loss for words. That could easily happen to me; it could happen to any of us. On one hand, you can’t help but feel the absolute devastation at seeing so many things that they’ve worked for all their life burn to the ground. On the other hand, especially after seeing the footage, you come to grips with the fact that it could have been much, much worse. I’m just happy that Brian, Nick, Ron, Walt, and KJ emerged unharmed and lived to laugh about it. As devastating as it is, cars and trailers and support equipment can be replaced. I’m just glad all my boys made it back to Durand safe and sound! If nothing else, I’m sure their incident provided a surge in the motorsports insurance industry: the next day I upped the coverage on all of my stuff… And I’m sure I’m not the only one!
We spent Wednesday night in the Driskell household, as Matt and his wife were gracious enough to offer us their spare bedroom. Thursday it was off to Topeka to prepare for the weekend. The racing didn’t go as well as I had desired. I was the first loser in Super Comp (first pair, first round) when Dennis Ridgeway showed me what a 26 mph drop to 8.91 looked like. Yep, that didn’t work out for me! In Super Gas I looked heroic in rounds one and two, only to back it up by getting completely outdriven round three. With that, we spent Sunday on the road back to Illinois rather than waiting on the call in Topeka.
Although I didn’t have much success in Topeka, we handed out lots of promo material and photo handouts thanks to our slick promotional display.
The Memorial Day holiday brought an overdue weekend close to home, as Jess and I attended the I-57 Mega Bucks event just 20 miles from the house. We arrived early on Saturday, and I got to do an impromptu condensed version of ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live” with Mia Tedesco and Jason Lynch’s daughter, Kayla. Once we hit the track, the Super Pro racers were rough on me and the little Vega. In round 2, I was .005 and took .003, but that was no match for Rick Harless’s .004 package. In round six, I was .009, dead on 8, but .001 behind Mark Holloran’s .016 package. I did manage to win the $2,000 Footbrake category, and despite it being my first bottom bulb competition of the season, I was actually pretty impressive in the process. I strung together five lights better than .024 to advance to the round of 5. There, I geeked with a .047, but got away with it. The only other remaining driver who hadn’t had a bye run was .048, so in a real stroke of good fortune, I soloed to the final. There, I raised the launch RPM and produced a .007. It was almost like I knew what I was doing!
The Footbrake win provided the opportunity to get my nephew, Kyler into his first winner circle photo.
On a side note, Kayla Lynch got down to 10 cars in Super Pro in her very first race with a delay box! She was driving the Lynch family Nova, dialed in the 7.80’s, and just wore out the faster cars all night. To say I was proud was an understatement, and you couldn’t wipe the smile off of her daddy’s face!
Sunday I just got smacked all around the I-57 facility. In Super Pro, I was once again .009 and dead on with an 8, and once again .001 behind. In Footbrake, I reeled off a string of RT’s no worse than .011 through the first four rounds. In round five, there were six cars remaining and I was holding the bye, so a victory would put me in the final. I was faced with local standout, Dustin Bryant and his cool little Monza. I leave and think, “you wrecked it again, just take the stripe.” As we proceed down track, I don’t have as much room as I want, but figure I have to take it. I make it real tight, and his win light comes on. My first thought is “Dang, I gave it back.” But then I look at the scoreboards: he’s dead-on, and I’m .01 under. “What the heck just happened?”
I’m .008 take .001. That’s what happened. And my win light didn’t come on. Dustin is .004, dead-on 4. Nice.
Meanwhile, Mia Tedesco was rolling through the Super Pro field, and ended up winning the $2,000 purse in her C.A.R.S. Protection Plus Dragster! It was Mia’s first W of the season, and she did a great job! I’d like to take some credit for the class paying off, but in truth I think Mia was overdue to hit the pay window anyhow. She did great, and she continued her roll the following weekend with a pair of runner-up finishes at the IHRA event at her home track, Pittsburg Raceway Park!
Jess and I joined Mia and the C.A.R.S. gang in the I-57 Winner Circle on Sunday.
That’s probably been the most rewarding part of my 2012 season to date; watching our students and TIBR members enjoy success. Two of my associate partners this year are C.A.R.S. Protection Plus (Mia’s father’s company) and Tinsley Drilling and Company. With both businesses, part of my responsibility is to guide their racing ventures in a positive direction. Well, this season both Mia and Joanna and Joseph Tinsley have had great success. Mia has an NHRA runner-up in addition to her recent hot streak. Joseph won an IHRA TOC Qualifier event in San Antonio, and Joanna has a couple bracket wins as well. Again, not trying to take any credit for their successes, but it’s always good to help your friends and partners and watch them perform up to their potential!
Joseph Tinsley earned a Top Dragster victory at the IHRA TOC Qualifier in San Antonio earlier this season.
That Monday, the 30th, was my 31st birthday. My how time flies… I remember when I thought 30 was old! It’s always enjoyable to take a day to sit back and reflect, to think about where you’re going and where you’ve been. As you all know, I can find a way to piss and moan about just about anything. But my life is pretty awesome. I’ve made a living doing what I love more than anything. I’m married to a woman that is incredibly loving, beautiful, and understanding. I’ve got a great family and the best friends I could ever ask for. And we’re healthy and happy. If I could’ve scripted my life in my teens, I don’t think I would have drawn up anything as great as it’s turned out so far!
Speaking of great, how about a fourteen hour ride in the dually by yourself? That sounds pretty friggin awesome! That was the task ahead of me the following Thursday, as I set out for Brainerd, MN and the NHRA Division 5 LODRS event. You don’t have to reread that last sentence: I drove 14 hours for a division race. Yes, I realize that I am brilliant.
My wife was even smart enough to stay home. The conversation went something like this:
Me: “You wanna go to Brainerd with me this weekend?”
Jess: “I’m not riding all the way up there for a divisional! Is your Vega ready for me to take it to I-57?”
A couple of hours later the Vega was loaded up and ready for local action, and I was headed North (way North).
I stopped in and met the Folk’s for dinner Thursday night, and somehow I managed to escape the seemingly inevitable drunken evening that awaited and got back on the road and through Wisconsin Thursday night. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Folk’s. And any stop in or near Durand is a guaranteed good time, but I was only halfway to Brainerd, and I needed to make up some ground!
In Minnesota, I actually drove as well as I have all season. I was .00 on the tree in 6 of the 7 rounds of competition that I staged for, and drove the finish line well too! I thought it was finally my day to put both cars (or at least one) in the winner circle. In round two of Super Gas, I’m .007 to my opponent’s .012, but as we approach the finish line I don’t like the picture and drop. His win-light comes on, as I drop to 9.94. A quick check of the car reveals a broken valve spring (the culprit of its .05 slow to 1000’ run). OK, no big deal, I’ll just win Super Comp.
In that category, nasty isn’t the word for the runs I was making. Through the first three rounds, I was .00, take .00 to go 8.90 three times. In round four, I was .00 again and snuck past reigning world champion, Gary Stinnett. Sweet, I’m down to 4 cars, this one is mine. There, I’m paired up with Kevin Dyck, an excellent racer in his own right, but I felt like I was winning this thing. In the burnout, I thought my car sounded funny, but I talked myself out of it: “You’re just imagining things.”
I’m .014 to his .020-something, but as we approach the finish line, he’s coming by me. “This is easy, I’m going 8.86.” So I drop. And his win light comes on. What just happened?
What happened was, somehow my distributor moved and got out of phase, creating a misfire that I couldn’t hear down track but showed up plain as day on my Auto Meter multi-function data recorder. My 8.86 became an 8.91… And of course, I dropped to 8.95. Awesome!
I don’t know how many of you have attended an NHRA division race, but let’s just say the payback leaves something to be desired. You can justify attending if you make the final: at least then there is some contingency money rolling in. But semi-finals pay $150. The entry fee is $160. Good math? Add in 1700 miles of driving, fuel, wear and tear… Add in four days away from work and home… On second thought, let’s not do the math. I already feel bad enough about it.
The only highlight of the Brainerd adventure was earning the Best Appearing Crew award. They said they loved my crew shirts (thanks Paintchip Designs), but a one man show wouldn’t do… So I had to recruit a few racing buddies as “crew” for the photo opp!
I had scheduled to drop off my trailer at Lamont Trailer Sales near Chicago on my way home from Brainerd to fix the refrigerator that went out back in April (I realize that should have been fixed before now). But I was so ticked off at my equipment that I decided to take everything home and give it a close look prior to my next event, the LODRS in Chicago, the following weekend.
Note that I piss and moan about the divisional payout, but I was back the following week to shove the needle in a little deeper…
Chicago brought more of the same frustration. I did manage to win the Moser Super Gas Shootout on Friday, which was cool. It’s just a little race within the race where each entrant puts up $20, and the 8 best runs in qualifying get to race for the pot. I managed to qualify, and then won the three rounds to pocket a little over $400. Not big money, but it’ll buy some diesel fuel, and I got three more hits at the track in my Charlie Stewart Race Cars/ThisIsBracketRacing.com Corvette.
Contrary to popular belief, I do sit down occasionally.
Come eliminations, I felt like things were rolling pretty well again. Both cars were cooperating, I was driving decent, and the ladder fell to where I could earn the bye to the final in both classes. My generator sprung a significant oil leak, which caused some issue. Thanks to the Lund family for bringing it to my attention and to Jeremy Duncan for loaning me a small generator to keep the cars charged up. In Super Comp, I got down to 10 cars where I had to run Larry Bernhausen. Larry crushed me in Super Gas at Bristol last season, so I felt like I owed him one. Now I owe him two. Actually, I’d say I just gave him this one, so maybe I don’t owe him anything… I’m not actually sure how that works.
At any rate, I was .00 to Larry’s .04. And I gave it back .005… To be 8.96. I’m so good at this - it’s ridiculous, isn’t it?
About fifteen minutes later the wheels came off completely. With six cars left in Super Gas, facing Bruce Johnson for the bye into the final I’m a stellar .059 on the tree. That’s not a misprint. The tree lit, and I just didn’t let go of the switch. What a disaster. After stringing together 10 nice winning runs, I completely fell off the wagon and went from visions of doubling up to the actual sight of ratchet straps and highway. Awesome.
While I couldn’t drive it to victory, the ThisIsBracketRacing.com Corvette was looking good in Chicago.
Two “Close, but no cigar” weekends couldn’t deter me, as I set out for Bristol Dragway and the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals the following week. Jess had class (she’s studying for her Masters), so she would once again stay home and race the Vega at I-57.
Our agreement when I left was that I would win in Bristol if she would win at home. Sounds like a good deal, right? Well, I had another pathetic outing in Super Gas, where I backed up the previous week’s .059 lamp with a .046 in round 2. I promise, I’m better than this…
But in Super Comp, I held up my end of the bargain through Saturday’s opening rounds. I got through round 4, which put me down to 5 cars and into Sunday eliminations. I made the call home…
“Hey, I’m holding up my end of the bargain. It’s on you.”
Jess gave me round-by-round updates, and then called a little after midnight. The first words out of her mouth:
“I HELD up my end the deal, now it’s on you!”
My sweetheart claimed the Super Pro victory at I-57 in the trusty ThisIsBracketRacing.com Vega. Way to go babe!
My wife, Jessica and her father, Jack in the I-57 Winner Circle.
The first hurdle in “holding up my end of the deal” was some guy named Edmond Richardson. You may have heard of him, he’s only won about a gazillion races. Big E crushed my dreams of Bristol glory in round five and went on to runner-up. Another weekend on the NHRA tour, another late round finish, and another lack of a paycheck. As I’ve said before, my “getter-closer” is working great. My “finisher-upper” leaves a lot to be desired!
In about 30 seconds, my weekend will come to an end. Not a great result from my standpoint, but a cool picture thanks to Samantha Abernathy.
The plan from there was to take the rig to David Tatum’s house just south of Atlanta, leave it there for a few days, and fly back to spend some time at home and catch up on some work before returning to Atlanta for a division race the following weekend. I leave Bristol, and make it nearly to Cleveland, TN, just North of Chattanooga. There, I look in the rearview mirror and see what looks like smoke. About that time, I clearly smell diesel fuel. This isn’t good.
I ease off the interstate and up an off ramp in the country. It’s about 10:30 and pitch dark. Thankfully (and luckily), I’m not on fire; but I’ve obviously got a serious diesel leak. I’m completely inside the engine compartment examining the situation with a flashlight when a guy pulls up in his 4-wheel drive and asks, “Need any help?”
Now, when I say this dude is a redneck hillbilly, I don’t mean that in a derogatory way. I’m kind of a redneck hillbilly myself; they’re really my kind of people. And this dude was redneck hillbilly. By this time, I’ve diagnosed the problem: one of the steel high pressure fuel lines that feeds the fuel rail has rubbed up against the intake manifold, which has resulted in a small hole and a big leak. I tell the fella that I really don’t think I can fix it, and ask if there are any nearby parts stores that will be open in the morning. He gives me directions to a couple. At this point, it’s looking like I’ll miss my 1:00 flight from Atlanta, which will likely mean spending the week on the road.
My new friend then says, “If you wanna fix it, I’ll help you.”
“Buddy, I appreciate it, but I don’t know how I can fix it short of finding another fuel line. It’s dark, the truck is hot, I’m going to bed and I’ll worry about it in the morning.”
He says, “Alright,” and turns to go. Then he turns around and says, “I might have something that’ll help you. I’m gonna run home and look, but if someone’s knocking on your trailer in about 20 minutes, ain’t nobody trying to kill you; it’s just me.”
I thank the man again, fully expecting that I’ll never see him again.
Sure enough, 20 minutes later, there’s a knock on the trailer door. My man has produced a -4 brass union, with one coupler and one cap. I look at what he’s handed me, and I still can’t put it all together.
“You got a flaring tool in here, don’t ya?”
“Yes I do.”
“Well, you can cut that line, flare it, use this here coupler for one end. I didn’t have another coupler, but I reckon you can drill a hole in this cap and use it. It might get you to the airport.”
Redneck hillbilly GENIUS.
The next morning I got up with the sun. I cut the line. Of course, the back fitting is up under the turbo and looks like hell to get to. So I’m laid over the grill, in the diesel filled intake manifold flaring what’s left of this fuel line. Believe it or not, about an hour later I hit the key to no leaks! As I pulled back onto the interstate, I felt like MacGyver. If this thing held to Atlanta, I could actually make my flight!
Wonders never cease, I made it! David Tatum’s father met me at his house and drove me to the Atlanta airport. Of course, I was flying on a buddy pass from a racer friend who will remain unnamed (thanks again!), so I was on the standby list. And of course, the flight that I had worked all morning to make was full. Awesome. Five hours later, I caught a plane to Chicago, then a connector to St. Louis. Jess met me at the airport, and we made it home at nearly 2 AM. That makes for a long day!
A couple of days later I flew back to Atlanta and followed Tatum to the track. There, I ended my string of getting close and not finishing the job by failing to get close. This season has really taken a turn for the worse! I can’t be too upset about either loss. In round 2 of Super Comp, I miss the tree a touch to be .016 and take .008. My opponent is .017 and 8.902. In round 3 of Super Gas, I miss the tree a touch to be .017 and take .012. My opponent is .016 and 9.905. And with that, I’m pointed back to Southern Illinois!
After a brief stop at home, I headed back to Route 66 Raceway for the NHRA Route 66 Nationals. There, I continued my string of terrible Super Gas runs for a fourth straight week in the opening round. What happened? My opponent laid down a run I couldn’t beat… He was .026 and 9.85 (I’m not making this up). In Super Comp I once again polished on the “getter closer” but couldn’t shine up the “finisher upper.” I made a crummy lap in the semi-final round beside eventual winner, Tom Stalba. My run looks bad on paper, but it was actually the first time all weekend I executed my gameplan. It was just a bad gameplan! My hat is off to Tom for doing a great job and making me look pretty silly. That round seems to sum up my season to date. Two years ago, when I had a lot of success in NHRA competition, it seemed like every opponent did what I expected, planned, or wanted them to do. This season nothing seems to happen like I envision it, and that has certainly shown through in my results.
My semi-final loss in Chicago, which would usually rank pretty high on the disappointment scale, was largely overshadowed by a much bigger issue. Saturday night, my wife Jessica and my father-in-law Jack rode up to spend Sunday with me. That evening, Jack had a stroke at the track. We didn’t know it at the time. He didn’t feel well and didn’t look well, but he didn’t have symptoms (numbness, slurred speech) that we knew to associate with stroke. We even had him checked out by the on-sight EMT’s, but the checks they ran didn’t reveal any major red flags either. We considered a trip to the hospital, but elected not to go thinking it wasn’t a big deal.
Jack is the most selfless individual I’ve ever met, to a fault. He wouldn’t let us know how bad he felt, in large part I think because he didn’t want to distract me from racing. We rode home Sunday evening, and on his way from our house to his, Jack missed two turns. His wife took him to the ER late that night. They determined that he’d had a stroke, and he’s still in the hospital getting all kinds of tests done. Fortunately, at this time it seems as though the only lasting effect will be some loss of peripheral vision on his left side. We’re lucky it wasn’t much, much worse.
I share this personal tale in hopes that anyone reading this can learn from our mistakes. If you or anyone you know has sudden symptoms of stroke, call 911 or get to the hospital immediately. There are treatments and medicines that can minimize the effects, but they have to be done quickly. Symptoms can include numbness, slurred speech, confusion, disorientation, severe headache, and blurred vision.
If you’re anything like me (and my father-in-law), you’re not a big fan of hospitals in the first place, so attending the local ER some 300 miles from home isn’t high on the “to do” list. But believe me when I say that there is no greater feeling of guilt than letting a major health problem go undetected and untreated when you could have done something about it. I wish we had the whole situation back to do over again, but we don’t, and we’re very lucky to have seemingly avoided more significant long term effects.
My plan for the week of July 4 was pretty elaborate. We left the rig in Chicago with Ray Connolly, who graciously offered to drive it to Norwalk for me (the NHRA Summit Racing Equipment Nationals were the following weekend). Jess, Jack, and I rode home with intentions of double teaming the Vega in the $5,000-to-win Mega Bucks event on Tuesday at I-57 Dragstrip. Thanks to another (different) racer friend, we were able to secure a flight to Cleveland Wednesday night to return to Norwalk (thanks again JT). Obviously Jack’s health scare has changed all of our priorities around, but the Tuesday race at I57 was cancelled due to the heat anyhow (making my elaborate logistical plan, well… useless). Depending on how Jack’s test results come back, I’m tentatively planning to go on to Norwalk Wednesday evening.
After that, I’ll get a reprieve from NHRA competition for about a month, but there’s no rest for the weary! On July 21-22 we’ll host the second annual JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout at I-57 Dragstrip. Track owner Scott Bailey and myself joined forces for the event last summer and it was a huge success. We once again invite each and everyone one of you DOOR CAR fanatics to attend. It’s a two-day race, and we’re guaranteeing a huge purse: $7500-to-win each day’s main event. In addition, we’ll have 100 percent + payback bonus events Saturday night (the APD Quick 16 and the Ohlins King Of Illinois Shootout). We’ve assembled over $25,000 in prizes and awards in addition to the purse; our goal is for every entrant to leave with something of value! Holley Performance Products is hosting a Racers Appreciation BBQ on Friday night that’s free for all racers and weekend spectators. We’ve got “Big Jed” Jared Pennington back behind the microphone for a second consecutive season. In short, it’s going to be a lot of fun, and we’re going to send some great Door Car racers home with tons of cash and prizes. Come on out to I-57 and enjoy a fun weekend with us! Shameless plug I know, but you won’t be disappointed if you make the trip!
That’s it for this edition of “On the Road.” I already mentioned our major and associate partners, and I urge you to send some business their way whenever you’re in need (keep in mind that I am a stocking APD dealer, and keep a number of carbueretors, fuel pumps, and fuel system components on the trailer). In addition to those partners, we depend on the following manufacturers week in and week out to keep our cars competitive and consistent. Give them a shot when you need components for your racing operation: you’ll be pleased with the results. Those manufacturers include Lucas Oil Products, Moser Engineering, Auto Meter, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine and Performance, BRODIX Cylinder Heads, Charlie Stewart Race Cars, J&J Performance, Frankenstein Racing Heads, ISC Racer’s Tape, Dedenbear, K&N Engineering, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, K&R Performance Engineering, Wiseco, Milodon, B&M, Todd’s Extreme Paint, Renegade Race Fuels, Nitrous Express, Ohlins, Dixie Racing Products, California Car Cover, Paintchip Designs, and DragRaceResults.com.