10-06 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki

Next up was the “grandaddy of ‘em all” for bracket racers: the BTE Million Dollar Race. The one round of the season you’re sure to remember come Christmas is the round you got whacked in the Million. As a seasoned professional of getting whacked in the million (and just about any other event), they all kind of run together for me.

Let’s go with the good news first. I got the miss out of Dave’s car (thank you Johnny Labbous, Jr.). And, I managed to win one of a handful of “Run for the Money” events I’ve ever conquered in my career with his car on Thursday. And, that particular “Run for the Money” was a good one to win, as it earned me a free entry into the big go. Okay, that’s about it for the good.

Thursday, I wade through the 500-car field to lose fifth round in one car, and sixth round in the other--which paid a grand total of nothing (thanks George!). Friday, I roll into the 6th round with my car to pick up $300. Saturday, in the big show, the day that it actually pays to go a few rounds... I get whacked 3rd round in both cars. Sunday, I make it to the sixth round in Dave’s, where I’m -.001 to Labbous, Jr. The 12 round winners split the purse and walked with a little over $4,000 each--which would’ve paid for my weekend. As a loser, I took a consolation prize of... $300. Sweet!

The million was, as always, as good a time as a guy can have for a couple thousand bucks. And hey, “You can’t put a price on a good time!” It was cool watching it all shake down--Greg Sesti became the 11th winner of the big show--beating my buddy (and back-to-back finalist) Jeff Rucks in the final. A couple my pals made the semi’s too: Tommy Phillips and Nick Folk.

Tommy had one of the best quotes of the weekend: “Man, I just wanted to stage up and set the transbrake button for $100,000... And see if I could let it go!”

Tuesday following the Million, I parted ways with my partner of nearly five years: the old reliable Beaver. Sometimes, it’s just time to move on. Without a motorhome, what better time to set out to the other side of world? Wednesday, I loaded up my duallie and headed West for the DRR Series event in Tucson, AZ... I didn’t stutter.

As I said earlier, Rustin Mayse’s win at Noble got him within striking distance for the DRR Series title. Coming into Tucson, we had both claimed 6 races, and he was just four rounds behind me. Once again, I couldn’t claim points at Tucson (my last two claims have to come in division 2), but Rustin could--and I’m not one to leave destiny in the hands of others. 1700 miles later, I was in Tucson.

I had a couple stops along the way. I spent Wednesday night at the Robinson household--where Bryan’s wife Cassie stocked me up with enough sweets and goodies to gain 50 pounds on my journey. I swear, if I ever decide to grow up, I’m finding a wife just like her! Thursday I made it to DFW, where I got to catch up with my old friends, the Dunaway’s and the Hamlin’s--which was a lot of fun.

On a 3400 mile journey, a man has a lot of time to think. In fact, I’d say this entire column was written on the way to Tucson. And I had some other musings as well--some pertinent and important, and others... well... For example:

Did you know that once you set foot in Texarkana, TX, you’re closer to Chicago than El Paso? True Story, I checked it out.

Is it just me, or does every state in the union have a city of Stanton, Madison, and Decatur?

In the state of Texas, I passed over Big Creek, Deep Creek, and Stinky Creek. Although I was neither born in nor do I currently reside in the state of Texas, I did grow up there, and consider myself a Texan--so I can speak for the creativity that came into these unique monikers.

Why is there an Arizona Street in Texas, and a Texas Canyon in Arizona?

And finally--did you ever wonder what made a town, well... a town? Let’s take El Paso. It’s a huge city. Not sure of population numbers, but I’d say it’s nearly the size of Memphis or Nashville... And it’s 200 miles from any sign of civilization, in any direction. At what point did the pilgrims come in and say, “Yep. This looks good!” I don’t get it.

Anyhow, back to the race at hand. Saturday at Tucson was an absolute disaster. I chased Rustin around all day. I hooked him second round, but he ran his ‘X’ number (the non-points number), and I managed to beat him. The rest of the day, I couldn’t run the guy. It’s hard to imagine how difficult it is to pair someone that doesn’t want to run you. As it ended up, Rustin passed me for the points lead by earning a competition single in the quarterfinals (his opponent broke in the water), which gave him a bye run into the finals. There, I finally got my chance to put a finger in the levy and stop him from earning any additional points--but he crushed me. Talk about the absolute worst case scenario: Not only do I fail to keep him from earning points, once I finally get a shot at him, he 100% outdrives me and makes a mockery of my 1700 mile journey! Great!

In all honesty--my hat’s off to Rustin and the entire Mayse family. They’re great people, who I have a ton of respect for, on and off the race track. Rustin is only 18 years old--and he’s awesome... It’s not a stretch to say he outdrove me in the final--he drove the finish line perfectly and earned a huge, pivotal victory. And, more importantly (at least in my mind), he did it with class and integrity. He went in needing to win the race, and he won every round that day--like he’s won every round all season--and he’s earned his points. There won’t be any lay downs or gifted rounds between the two of us--the champion in the end will earn that title, which is awesome.

Sunday things got a little bit better. Rustin got beat in the second round, and I claimed yet another runner-up finish, as Larry Spitali put a great run on me in the final. I added a runner-up in Sportsman to points leader Benny Gossett--who helped me out a ton throughout the weekend and on the drive home. The racing and the competition is what drives each of us, but the people that I’ve met along the way make it all worthwhile--and Benny (along with the entire Gossett family) is definitely one of those special people.

Final Round Butt-Whooping number 2 (of 3) on the trip West.  This one at the hands of Larry Spitali.

Final Round Butt-Whooping number 2 (of 3) on the trip West.  This one was at the hands of Larry Spitali in Sunday's S/Pro final.

So the trip West can’t be classified as a complete disaster--even though it certainly didn’t go the way I had planned. Three final round appearances can’t be a bad weekend, but the runner-up bit is getting really old. I’ve been really fortunate, and it’s been a great season--heck, I’ve been in 23 final rounds. But that final round record of 10-13 (and 1-8 in my dragster) is absolutely unsatisfactory when you’re depending on a paycheck at the end of the weekend.

I followed Benny and his buddy Brad home from Tucson until they exited I-20 near Abilene--then I spent Monday night with my second set of parents: Rodney and Jacque Horton in Fort Worth. It was really fun catching up with them, even if it was short-lived.

After a couple days of recovery at home, I loaded up the Vega and headed to Music City--”The Hill” for the Southern Survival Shootout. I met up with “Little John” Labbous (although that’s not a name I’ll call him to his face) Friday morning for a round of golf. A friendly bet of $2 per hole only cost me $36 (for those of you who are mathematically challenged, that’s 18 holes x $2)--yea, either he’s pretty good, or I’m not.

The weekend at “The Hill” went pretty well. I went -.003 red with five cars remaining in the $5,000-to-win Super Pro race Friday night to Scotty, who (wonder of all wonders) went on to win. Saturday I actually managed to win a final round--albeit by the slimmest of margins--when Susan McMillan broke out by .0001 in the opposite lane. But a win is a win, and I’ll take a $2,000 payday in Footbrake anytime! Sunday I rolled into the semi-finals of Footbrake, and had what I considered to be a stellar run: .007, take .005. And the win light didn’t come on. And it wasn’t broke. My opponent laid down a stellar-er .004, dead-on with a 2. Nice!

I figured Adam Davis had plenty of practice taking pictures at Music City: we was in 6 Footbrake finals in the 9-days that made up the '06 Southern Survival Series.  Here, he and his buddy Brett actually got to be in mine!  Photo courtesy of Rick Gonzalez and Music City Raceway

Okay--deep breathe--we’re almost caught up. Last week I took both dragsters to the final Tenn-Tuck event of the season at Bowling Green. Let’s see... It’s been a long column... I SUCKED! I screwed up the finish line in 5 of my 7 losses on the weekend, and never staged for sixth round! That’s it! I’m done! 8 pages later! Be good, drive safe, and be .00, take .00 until next time!

The next column should be the season closer, sure to have great follies and fumbles from the two season-ending DRR Series events (where I'll duke it out for the National Championship with Rustin, his father Robbie, Drew Phillips, and others), the $100,000-to-win Footbrake race in Montgomery, the Florida Winter Series, and Thanksgiving weekend (which will undoubtedly take me to a big bracket race somewhere in the Southeast).

As a quick shameless plug: it’s almost the end of the season. Those of you who are serious about acquiring sponsorship for your racing exploits in 2007, now is the time to get started! Contact me at Bogacki Marketing Solutions for some information on the various programs we have designed to assist your marketing efforts. Thanks as always for reading, and please feel free to e-mail me with questions or comments: LukeBogacki@aol.com.

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