6-06 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki

For those of you who are faithful readers (bless your misguided souls), you’ll recall my apology last month for not having a dreadful series of events that everyone could double over in laughter reading about because, well, it didn’t happen to them. If last month’s column wasn’t any fun for the ambulance chasers, then this one will be downright miserable. Call it dumb luck, but I’m in the midst of one the most successful runs of my entire racing career.

I try to find humor in the bad times, and I like for everyone to get a good laugh--so I’m going to try really hard not to sound like I’m boasting for the month, but in all honesty I feel like I’m on top of the world right now. I’m sure I’ll wake up and start getting my rear end kicked into oblivion again sometime real soon, so I’m living it up while life is good!!!

We’ll pick up with the Southern Survival Series to Music City Raceway in Nashville, TN-and my first trip to the facility I’d heard so many stories about. You know, I called it Music City, but I rarely hear it referred to as that. In fact, I’m not sure any one facility has so many nicknames. I’ve heard “The Hill,” “Union Hill,” “Nashville”, “Music City”, and of course, “the onion”. I have no idea where “the onion” comes from, but I do think it’s by far the funniest nickname of the bunch, so for the sole purpose of entertainment, I will refer to the facility as such for the remainder of this story.

To begin with, “the onion” is not a real easy place to find for a fella who’s never been before. After taking about every wrong turn that was available through the hills of central Tennessee, and clearing a railroad bridge that I was pretty certain the Beave’ wouldn’t get under, I did arrive at “the onion” in time to make a couple time shots prior to Friday’s event. I just had the Vega in tow, with the Dragster temporarily sidelined (I yanked the motor out and carried it to Huntsville Engine after Farmington because it made one goofy run and a funny noise. And because, quite honestly, I can‘t afford not to be cautious).

In Friday’s event I lost early in Footbrake, and made my way down to 6 cars in Super Pro before falling to eventual winner Ken Sullivan. On Saturday, I managed to snag a victory in the Footbrake class, in a super close final round matchup with Darel Parish, Jr. The numbers all run together for me, but I think I was teen and dead-on, to his teen take teen to be .001-under. So I was a big winner at “the onion!” In a shocking turn of events in the Super Pro class, John Labbous, Jr. claimed his 92nd win of the season, taking a $10,000 victory over Scotty Richardson (okay, maybe 92 is a stretch, but the man has won a ton in 2006). Although Sunday’s action didn’t go as well, my ‘W’ would prove to be a huge momentum builder for the next month.

The Mickey Thompson Vega at "The Onion", photo courtesy of BME Photography

I flew into Philadelphia the next weekend to drive Chris “Spanky” Wilson’s new American Race Cars dragster in the DragRaceResults.com Series event at Maple Grove Raceway. My driving career behind the wheel of Spanky’s machine lasted all of one run, however, as he pushed out the cam seal on his time run and we had to park it. That put Chris and I both in Chris Reynolds’ Mullis/Forrester machine for the remainder of the weekend. Plus, I pulled double duty in a Mercury Montero rental car, which I wheeled in the Sportsman class.

On Friday, I lost second round in the rent-a-wreck, and got busted on a good run at 10 cars left in the dragster. Saturday, things really came together, and despite another early exit in the Montero, Spanky and I ran off in the final of Super Pro, with both of us driving the same car. Obviously, that finale couldn’t play out, so I staged her up for single and the big ‘W’!

Sunday, Mr. Reynolds’ (who had just returned from his honeymoon the night before) brought his other machine, an Undercover Dragster, and let me double with him in that car as well. So, for the Sunday event I was triple entered (The Mullis car, the Undercover Car, and the rental). It was at that point I pulled off a feat that I’m not sure I’ve ever seen duplicated, and am equally sure I don’t care to relive. The good part: I had all three entries in the semi-finals (I had both dragsters in at 4 in Super Pro, and the Rental in at 3 in Sportsman). The bad part: I had zero entries in the finals. The ugly part: I actually got to see the wrong win light come on four times for my three losses... Story time!!!

My first semi-final snub took place in the rental--and far be it from me to knock my equipment, but the rent-a-wreck SCREWED ME! All day (I swear) the rental moved .04 to the quarter mile, and under .01 to the 1/8th. I could push her in deep, put both pedals to the floor, hit the flash, and be better than .040 on the tree.

So anyways, I end up in the semi-finals, racing another deep-stager for the first time all weekend. Once he pre-stages and stages, I put both feet on the floor, fearing that autostart will activate the tree before he gets completely deep (he does have 7 seconds after I leave the line). Obviously, auto-start wasn’t on, and the tree was held until we were both deep (as it would be at every event in a perfect world). Well, I was on the rug for awhile, and wasn’t particularly concerned about burning up the converter in the rental car... Until she went dead. I’m not a mechanic, and I didn’t familiarize myself with the owners manual, but the best I can figure the Montero has some type of governor that only lets you beat her up against the hi-side for so long before she says “Uncle.” About the time my opponent got deep, my ride goes to idle (with both feet still on the floor). I let off the throttle, and stand back on it as my tree starts down, but to no avail. I leave at idle with a nice, conservative .3-something reaction time. About twenty feet out, the 16-second beast comes back to life, but it’s a little too late, as my .3-something induced 1-second over run didn’t quite hold up!

Next up, I roll in for the semi’s with the Mullis car, where I’m running another dragster and I’m spotting him about a tenth-of-a-second. I take a small advantage off the tree, and kill what should be plenty but get kind of complacent to take .015 of stripe. The car sped up a ton, and I lost a double breakout, needing only to take .011 to win. Okay, it’s not the end of the world, I’ve still got one shot at the $5,000 winners check, with the Undercover Car. So, I roll up for the other semi opposite Jeff Palmer (who, in a side note let me drive his car the day before, and cooked an awesome meal for us Saturday night). There, I turn the button loose and cringe, thinking I crushed the tree. It’s green, and we roll to the finish line. As we roll thru, I know I’ve made it tight, maybe too tight.... and his beacon flashes. “Wow--I’ve just lost three semi’s in a row,” I’m thinking. I’m just about ready for the single gunshot when the girl at the ET shack tells me we’ve got to go back to the lanes to re-run. Something blew through the lights in my lane, so we’ve got to try again. We were both .00 on the tree, and Jeff was .01 above--leaving me .011 in front of him (That‘s the margin I had to take to win, he‘s .004 and .014 over (.018 package), to my .007 lamp). I was fairly confident that I took less than .005 at the stripe, but who’s to say I wasn’t .001 behind? A rerun was the only way to handle it.

On the rerun, I’m .00 again, but this time we’ve got documented proof that I screwed up, as I rolled myself through .004 behind Jeff for my third official butt kicking of the semi-final round. Jeff went on to win a well deserved $5,000 in a no-split final.

On the weekend at Maple Grove--so many people went out of their way to help me out and make me feel welcome. Thanks so much to Chris Wilson and his family for their hospitality, to Chris Reynolds’ for allowing me to drive two excellent race cars, and to the Palmer family for their help all weekend. I really had a great time, and I could say that win or lose!

After the flight home, I picked up my engine from Bones & Andy at HEPC (now a 565 after a freshen up). It turns out absolutely nothing was wrong with it, just my paranoia, but it was in dire need of a freshen. I slid the beast back between the frame rails of the American Dragster, and set out for Nashville where I met up with Scotty Richardson and we hauled together to the Mega Bucks event in St. Louis. It was actually me, Scotty, Mee-Maw (Scotty’s mother), Supee (Brandon Jarrell) and Tracy Sons. We took Mee-Maws motorhome, my trailer, the dragster, and Scotty’s Chevy II, while Tracy followed in the DragRaceResults.com rig.

Friday at St. Louis was hot and fairly uneventful for me. I had two entries in with seventeen cars remaining, but lost one there, and the last one to eventual winner Buddy Ferrell at nine. Saturday, the ball kept rolling for me, as I advanced to the $10,000 final before red-lighting to Shane Carr (who was .000 beside me). Sunday’s eliminations ended early for me, and after Scotty took it on the chin in the fourth round, we were headed back South.

As you might imagine, Scooter is about as die hard about this racing stuff as I am. We ended up at I-57 Dragway in Benton, IL Sunday night for a $2,000 race on the way home. Benton was actually the hardest I’ve laughed at the race track in a long time. Part of it was my company--quite a crew--and the fact that even pulling in was completely a spur of the moment idea. But a lot of it was just the manner in which the event at I-57 is run. I’m not knocking the place--I had a ball--and every little race track has their own way of doing things. But at least for me, it was like going back in time just a little bit--and maybe racing was a little more fun back when I didn’t take it quite so seriously.

How about this: Incandescent bulbs, no cross-talk... The only timers are for the 60’, 594’, and the finish line (no 330’), and your 60’ comes up on the scoreboards (yes--in eliminations!). Add in the fact that it was essentially a one lane race track that night (I was .06 slow in the right, Scotty lost between .12 and .16 in 60’ each time he ran the right), and that the faster car got lane choice (and I was the second fastest car on the grounds!). It really reminded me of the racing I did growing up back home, and I had a blast. Plus, I really thought we were looking good--Scotty and I were both in at 6. He got bounced out of his lane and lost .16 in 60’ against a 4.90 car, so he was done. In my heat, I’m .497 red, but my opponent was .502 and a couple thousandths under, so I was probably beat anyway.

Did I mention Die-Hard? We leave Benton, drive all night back to Scotty’s shop, where we unload and I sleep for a couple hours. At 8:00 AM I’m back up, and headed South. I swing by home to get the Vega, and drive to Sand Mountain for their big Memorial Day event on Monday! There, the roll continued, as I managed to take the Vega to a win in Footbrake.

Next up was a Mega Bucks event at Huntsville, where the streak rolled on. I drove the dragster to a $7,500 Super Pro victory over Tracy Sons in a close final. He was .015 and a little under, I was .004 and took .010 to be .001 less under. Of course, Scotty had to show me up Sunday by taking both of his entries into the semi-final of the $10,000 event before rains forced a split of the money between the three entries remaining.

Here I am with Jim Howard and all my friends after a shocking win at Huntsville!

My buddy Bubba Stevenson from Louisiana came to town the Tuesday following Huntsville to hang out for a few weeks, and he helped me get everything ready for the big Ultimate 64 Shootout event at Mountain Park Dragway in Clay City, KY the following weekend. We got up to Clay City late Wednesday night to be sure that we were a part of the golf tournament Thursday morning.

Generally, I think that they try to put players of varying skill levels together for a 4-man scramble, but our team convinced the coordinators that despite our lack of talent, we were playing from the same cooler. Once more, I’ll conceal identities to protect the, umm... The innocent. Our team proceeded to shoot a blistering 79 (hell, I was really pretty proud of it), to the winning teams 56. But no one, and I mean no one, had a better time!

Friday at the Ultimate 64 my roll continued, as I won the 32-car Footbrake Shootout for $5,000 in the Vega. I was really impressive on the tree all weekend, but of course I had some big breaks. In the quarterfinals I was late with a .037 opposite arguably the best foot brake racer in the country, Anthony Fetch from New Jersey. As luck would have it, he’s red behind me. I won a tough race with Scotty in the semi’s to run Jeff Pasquerillo, Jr. (JP Jr.) in the final. He’d been unbelievable on the tree all night (I was told he was no worse than .007 the first six times he staged!), but luckily for me he was tardy in the final and I snuck in. It’s amazing how things steadily fall into place when it’s all going your way. The same way you can be .00 and take .00 all day and get beat when you’re not winning, you can be sloppy and get away with it when you are--it’s mind boggling.

The rest of the Ultimate 64 weekend didn’t go so well. I screwed up the finish line second round of the $50,000 event, and was -.001 third round in the 64-car Footbrake race. I made it to the quarterfinals in a couple of the smaller races, but got popped there. It’s hard to look back on any significant victory and not think it was a great weekend--but I was entered in every event at the Ultimate 64 Shootout (10 races in 3 days), and my win came on Friday. By weekend’s end, I had gotten my butt kicked so many times since winning that it was hard to feel real good about it!

That’s it for this month. I’ve enjoyed a string of finishes that just blow my mind, and I’ve made a bunch of money and had a lot of fun. I celebrated my 25th birthday a couple weeks ago, and I’m loving life right now. This weekend, we’re off to the DragRaceResults.com Series Gainesville Bracket Nationals in Florida, then the Jeg’s U.S. Open at Tri-State. We’ll squeeze in the Rocket City Nationals at Huntsville, a Tenn-Tuck event, and the upcoming big dollar race at the new Holly Springs Dragway in Holly Springs, MS.

In closing, I know I say it every month, but I really would like to shed some light on the manufacturers that I depend on week in and week out to have a competitive race car. I’m not saying that my way is the only way to go, but if you’re having trouble with traction, try a set of Mickey Thompson Slicks. They’re inexpensive when compared to competitors, and they’ll work in any condition. If you’re in the market for a new dragster, give Mark Horton and Travis Colangelo at American Race Cars a shot--once you do business with them I can’t imagine you’d ever go elsewhere. And if you need an engine or machine work done, call Bones or Andy at Huntsville Engine. They’re racers like we are, and they understand what it takes to be competitive.

Plus there are a host of smaller products that I’d love for you to order from Bryan and the staff at Memphis Performance/Bill Taylor Engineering when you need them. Please support Goza Racing Products, K&R Performance Engineering, BTE, Advanced Product Design, M2 Race Systems, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Auto Meter, Dixie Products, JW Performance, DragRaceResults.com, Rockett Brand Race Fuels, Milodon, Nitroplate, Hedman Hedders, and TD Performance Products. As always, thanks for reading! For questions or comments, feel free to e-mail me: lukebogacki@aol.com.

 

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