9-06 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki

I know, I know... I made a promise to myself and to you loyal readers (both of you--Hi Mom!) to update this column more often this year, and I did... For about three months. I haven’t made an entry since August, so we’ve got some catching up to do. I’ll try to condense the drama as much as possible, but there’s been a lot of it in the twelve weeks since my last column, so make sure you’re comfortable--this could be a little lengthy! And, if you’re one of those sick, perverted individuals who get their jolly’s laughing at other people’s misfortune... rest assured, you’ve found the right place for a real knee-slapper!

I know I usually save this for last, and by the time most of you finish reading this monthly (okay, tri-monthly sometimes) blurb you’ve either got pity for the poor, misled individual writing it, or you’re doubled over in laughter because well, it’s not you--but you might miss out on this important bit. For all my whining and complaining, I’ve got an awesome gig--I run my own small business and get to drive race cars nearly every weekend. And I usually even manage to keep the bill collectors from calling! That wouldn’t be possible without the help of some great companies who I hope see some benefit from involvement in my race team.

That being said, it’s nearly the offseason, which means it’s time for new acquisitions and freshen-ups. If you’re in the market for a new dragster, check out www.AmericanRaceCars.net. They build a great race car, at a fair price, and Mark and Travis are awesome to work with. When it’s time for engine and driveline freshen-ups this winter, give “Bones” and Andy at Huntsville Engine (www.HuntsilleEngine.com), and Bryan Robinson at BTE (www.BTERacing.com) a shot. They’re racers like us. They do great work and really know how to treat their customers. Finally--don’t forget the carburetor. Advanced Product Design (www.Apdracing.com) offers rebuilds and freshen-ups on carburetors (alcohol or gas), whether they were the original assembler or not. Their stuff is unbelievably consistent, so give ‘em a try!

I want to give additional kudos to Mickey Thompson Tires, Brodix Cylinder Heads, M2 Race Systems, Goza Racing Products, Rockett Brand Race Fuels, Milodon, K&R Performance Engineering, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, Auto Meter, J.W. Performance, TD Performance Products, Dixie Race Products, and DragRaceResults.com. Each of these manufacturers make quality products that have been instrumental in any success I’ve achieved (and rarely do any of them have anything to do with the monumental failures I regularly incur).

This column’s bloopers begin with the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series event at National Trail Raceway in Columbus, OH. There, I pretty much sucked (I told you I’d try to condense each event within the column, right?). I went in hoping to earn my final out-of-division claim in the series and walked with nothing. What’s better? The closest points competitor at the event, Drew Phillips, beat me. Drew didn’t beat me once. He didn’t beat me twice. How about 4 times? Four is a nice, round number.

A few highlights from a miserable weekend? I hit a driver across the adjacent highway on the 5th hole on Saturday afternoon, without making contact with any of the vehicles on the four lanes of fairly heavy traffic--and got to see how far a dinner roll can fly when it makes contact with a ceiling fan. Once again, names withheld to protect the innocent, and Johnny C...

In Columbus, I continued to have issues with the mandrel system on the front of the HEPC 565 in my American Patriot Dragster, which was beginning to get very frustrating (amazing how slinging the mandrel along with the alternator, fuel pump, and vacuum pump belts off in the water box will do that). The next week, Bubba and I concluded that the culprit was a bent fuel pump shaft, which was easy enough to fix. Of course, we determined that as we put the engine back into the car, after having it torn down at Huntsville Engine because I was absolutely convinced that a cracked crankshaft was the cause of my harmonic problems. And, that trip to Huntsville was preceded by a trip to Milbury, OH and the American Race Cars shop to borrow an engine from Mark Horton, because, as I stated a second ago, I was convinced that I had engine trouble. Pretty brilliant, huh? At any rate--a huge thanks to Mark Horton, and to the entire Huntsville Engine staff, and especially to my roommate Bubba Stephenson for all his help that week. I could’ve never made Bluegrass without them!

Fast forward to Bluegrass Raceway Park the following week, for yet another DRR Series out-of-division event in my quest for the national title. I borrowed a second dragster from my buddy Dereck Denney (most of you know him as “Double D”) in Nashville, and set out for the hills of Eastern Kentucky. The generator on the Beave’ quit on me about an hour into the trip, which wasn’t a big deal either--it just clogged up a fuel filter and lost prime, which wasn’t hard to fix (the following Monday when we realized that was the problem--notice a trend here?). Hey, it was only August.

Thankfully, the generator issue was the worst thing that happened all weekend. I actually managed to drive my dragster to a runner-up finish in Saturday’s event, boosting my points total and giving me a nice warm and fuzzy feeling about my title hopes. Later that night, several frosty beverages mixed by the Phillip’s family gave me different warm and fuzzy feelings--but I think their plan of intoxication backfired. See neither Drew nor I did anything good on Sunday, and I think we both had pretty strong headaches... I don’t know what causes things like that.

Next up was yet another DRR Bracket Series event, this one a pivotal home-division race for me at South Georgia Motorsports Park. I had grand visions of putting up a marquee weekend that would put the points chase seemingly out of reach, but it didn’t happen. I actually drove pretty well all weekend but I couldn’t put anything together, and a fifth round loss on Friday was the best finish I could muster.

From Adel, we hit the road, stopping in Woodville for just over 24 hours and heading out to Stanton, Michigan for the annual World Super Pro Challenge. I love the event, I’ll go every year that I’m able--it’s a great track with great people. It’s a great excuse to head North in the middle of August, and it pays 50 friggin’ grand to win! My Michigan weekend was far from spectacular, as the highlight was a loss at 14-cars left in Friday’s 10-grander. But, it was well worth the trip to see my buddy “Racin” Jason Lynch claim his second $50,000 victory of the season. A lot of really good racers go a whole career without winning anything like that (myself included--on the not winning anyhow--maybe not the good racer part). To win two in one year (Jason won the $50,000 race at Farmington in April) is absolutely remarkable. Add to that two IHRA national event wins and a huge gamblers race triumph at the Million, and JJ might need a new nickname. “Winnin” Jason has a nice ring, don’t you think?

I made a vacation of the Michigan trip (I know what you’re thinking--my whole life is a vacation...), and spent a couple days at my Aunt Sarah’s lake house near Martin. There, I was joined by a close group of racing friends: of course Bubba, Troy Williams, Jr., J.P. Hickman, Jeff Keen, Kenny Underwood, Emily Lewis, and a few others made the week a lot of fun.

From the lakehouse I made a couple small detours on the way to Woodville: the first to Elyria, OH to pick up Dave Connolly’s new American Dragster. Dave (yep, that Dave Connolly) is obviously busy pursuing the NHRA Powerade Pro Stock World Championship, so he didn’t have much time to race his new dragster. He called me a week or two before the 50, and we worked up an agreement for me to race it until the Winter Series in Florida, where he’ll have a couple free weekends to take the wheel.

From there, I headed to Memphis for the NHRA national event. Of course, seeing as I hadn’t attended an LODRS event in, uhmmm, 4 years--I couldn’t actually compete at the national event. It’s kind of a long story--but the only way we could get everything home from Michigan was to put both my dragster and the one that Bubba had borrowed into Jason Lynch’s trailer, and put his Super Gas Vega into mine. So, I had a Super Gas Vega that was entered at Memphis to deliver. I spent most of the weekend at Memphis and played pit crew (or brew chief) for Jason--which wasn’t as much fun as the week before: he lost second round in both cars.

After such a strenuous vacation, I made the executive decision to take the next weekend off, and hang out with some friends at Bryan Robinson’s place in Iuka, MS. Somehow or another, we found ourselves at a race track--and I drove Bryan’s Geo Prizm to a runner-up finish in Street and a quarterfinal in Footbrake at Pickwick Dragway on Friday night. The Geo went a blistering 12.50 at 55 mph on the 600 foot strip (yea, that’s not even a full 1/8th mile!)--I’ve driven Junior Dragsters that were faster. But I didn’t have to worry about not getting a clean tree, and I had more fun and laughed harder (Bryan was my co-rider until a track official spotted him and made him get out before the final) than I have at any race all year!

Okay, vacation is over--Labor Day meant a trip to Atlanta Dragway for another Division 2 DRR Bracket Series event. Coming into the race I knew I had a good shot at the national and divisional titles in Super Pro, and Atlanta has been very good to me in the past--so I felt good about my chances. With so much on the line, and having been in similar situations in the past, I made a promise to myself that I would let it all hang out. I wouldn’t be upset if I was close red, and I wouldn’t be upset if I gave the stripe back--I was going to try to be .00 and take .00 every time I staged. I was going to try to be the man.

That being said, I couldn’t be disappointed in my performance, even though I didn’t get the end result I was looking for. My worst light all weekend in my car was .008--time runs included. Saturday I screwed up the finish line by less than .001 in the fourth round. Sunday, I was .000 take .005, and .001 take .002 in the two rounds we got in prior to the rain. It just wasn’t meant to be for a big score.

I drove home Sunday night and wheeled into Sand Mountain Dragway Monday for my first appearance in the Vega since installing a new Huntsville Engine and Performance 350. It didn’t take long for the Vegamatic to return to form, as I managed to make the final of Footbrake before falling to Jason McClure.

I had all intentions of barnstorming across the country to Noble, OK the following weekend for another DRR Series event. At the time, I was the national points leader in BTE Super Pro. Even though I couldn’t claim another out-of-division race, a handful of guys would be there that had a chance to catch me, and I was going to go play blocker. But, the 700+ mile journey coupled with a strong chance of rain changed my mind late Thursday, and I set out instead for Holly Springs Dragway for two $2,500-to-win races.

Friday night, I made a return appearance at Pickwick Dragway, this time with the almighty Vega. Turns out, I had a little too much race car for the facility, as I had a hard time getting down the race track. So, following a 5.84 on my first time run (and a wide open 5.96 in the first round of Super Pro), I made the executive decision to put a little in my pocket in the Footbrake class. First round, I dialed 6.11 and got the win. Second round, my opponent was a little slower, so I dialed up to 6.50, and once again got a win. Third round, I get paired with a 9-second street car. So I dial 7.11. I’m .020 and take .008, for the win (he’s .060 and .08 over or something like that). When I come back up for the fourth round, the track owner stops me in the staging lanes. Here’s the conversation:

Track Operator: “Hey man, you can’t do that.”

Luke: “Do what?”

TO: “No Sandbagging.”

LB: “Okay...”

TO: “It’s our rule.”

LB: “I’m new. Obviously I don’t know the rules. Am I out?”

TO: “No, I’m not going to throw you out, but you have to dial within 2 tenths.”

LB: “Within 2 tenths of what?”

TO: “Your last dial in”

LB: “So I can dial 7.31?”

TO: “No.”

LB: “Okay. Dial me whatever you want, as long as it starts with a 6.”

TO: “No, no. You can dial your own.”

LB: “Obviously, I can’t...”

The track operator goes to the tower, produces a run sheet, and determines that I can’t dial slower than 6.24--which was fine by me. I won another round or two, and lost with a bad light in the quarterfinals. It wasn’t a big deal, and I’ve been informed that they actually do abide by this rule on a weekly basis--I wasn’t singled out. Honestly, the track operator was really nice about the whole deal, it was just funny how it all shook down.

The next day, at Holly Springs, I was informed by a fellow racer that I had been disqualified at Pickwick the night before for using a Transbrake in the Footbrake class--which was news to me. Obviously, that was a rumor from some racers at the event, and I don’t feel the need to set the record straight--it’s just funny how things get started.

Saturday at Holly Springs I failed to turn on a win light in two entries. One-a-two-a, I’m a through-a... in both the Vega and the dragster. What’s more? I fought a miss with Dave’s car, and tested it throughout the night to no avail. I even went to the extreme of taking the tunnel ram intake manifold off the engine to replace it with one carburetor... But then I realized (once the manifold was off, of course), that the only intake manifold I had was for a tall deck motor--and Dave’s 555 is... well, you guessed it.

Sunday things got a little better. I managed to get my first win in several months with the Vega in Footbrake--amid controversy once again (it’s too long and too goofy a story to even attempt to tell... In the quarterfinals I had a three second spot, and the tower left cross-talk on by mistake. After looking at my top bulb for 3 seconds, I somehow manage to go .010 on the tree and win... Then my opponent wants a re-run, because cross-talk "helped Luke, because he’s cheating and hitting the top bulb anyways.") I ended up running that same opponent (on another entry) in the Footbrake final, and it was nice to have a good excuse not to split with him.

I also managed to take my dragster into the semi-final round Sunday evening, where I had to run my buddy Bryan Robinson. Seeing as we were competing at Robinson Raceway, errrr, Holly Springs Motorsports, I didn’t have much of a chance. In eight $2500 events at the facility, Bryan has been in five or six finals--it’s sick. I actually had a good chance to knock him out, but (I know this is a shocker...) I screwed up the finish line by less than .001.

Oh, and by the way.... Not going to Noble? Bad move. Not that my presence may have made any difference, but on the one day that they got to race, one of a handful of guys who could make a run at me, Rustin Mayse, wins Super Pro. What looked like a sure thing now became a close fight.

This column has run really long--and I’ve got another month of racing to spill the beans about (Including the BTE Million, a 3400 mile round-trip to Tucson, AZ, and the final Southern Survival & Tenn-Tuck events of ‘06). For those of you who have hung in this long--thanks (you must be having a real busy day)--but you’ve got to be tired of reading! We’ll post the second half of the column tomorrow! As always, please feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments: LukeBogacki@aol.com.

Stay tuned to DragRaceResults.com for part 2 of Luke’s latest “On the road” column, which will be released tomorrow!

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