7-10 "On The Road" With Luke Bogacki - Mid Season Break
As I write this column in early July, the 2010 racing season has essentially reached the midpoint. For me personally, I have to say the first half of the season has been subpar on the race track. There have been ups and downs and I feel like I’ve been competitive nearly every weekend, I just haven’t been able to seal the deal very often. And, as you know, in my line of work it just doesn’t pay to get close. It’s all or nothing.
When I left off with the last “On The Road” column, I had just returned from a tumultuous trip to Atco and my girlfriend, Jessica and I were about to begin moving into our new house here in Southern Illinois. That’s all finished now and life is good here in the Bogacki/Camden household. We are the proud owners of a beautiful home on over 3 acres of land and we couldn’t be happier. What’s more impressive? We’ve managed to live here together for nearly three months and we aren’t ready to kill each other yet! Yep, she’s a keeper! All in all, the move went fairly smoothly. Racing wise, the logistics of the last few months have been a mess: with the current driveway, I can’t even get my 50’ trailer onto our property, so it’s been staying about 20 minutes away. The seemingly simple act of maintaining cars, loading up, and getting on the road has become fairly complicated. As I type this column, the bulldozers are making tracks in the yard, so all of that will be a non-issue in the very near future.
" The proudest new homeowners in Williamson County! "
At any rate, we spent the weekend after Atco getting moved in and settled. A property line dispute kept us from closing on our house for nearly two months, but the sellers were gracious enough to let us go ahead and get moved in at the original closing date (thank goodness they had somewhere to go, because we… Well, we didn’t). After nearly two weeks of moving, unboxing, and dreaming, I was more than ready for a “getaway” trip to the race track! I debuted my new “bracket rig:” a 28’ trailer with the ’08 American TIBR Dragster and the old faithful TIBR Vega at I-57 Dragstrip (my new home track) for a Saturday night race that paid $2,000-to-win in both Super Pro and Footbrake. My debut was forgetful in the dragster, as I failed to turn on a win light.
Welcome to Illinois! I was joined by the Camden Family in the winner circle at I-57 back in April.
Between Jessica and myself (she ran Super Pro, I ran Pro and Footbrake), we had the crazy little Vega triple-entered in round five. Shortly thereafter the wheels came running off, as she got beat that round in Super Pro and I lost with five cars remaining in Footbrake. I did manage to pick up the victory in the Pro category (a No Box class), which made for a nice boost in confidence. We left I-57 and headed south to Bowling Green the next day for a Stock/Super Stock combo race. Bryan had made some changes to the Nova and I was looking forward to making some quarter-mile runs in my new ’10 American Dragster to do some 8.90 testing. Testing went fairly well and I managed to go a few rounds in the Stocker before losing at 7 cars.
The following weekend brought a trip to Bristol, TN for the inaugural K&N Spring Fling 20’s, a unique 1000’ bracket race presented by my friends and well known sportsman racers Peter Biondo and Kyle Siepel (with a hand from notorious World Footbrake Challenge promoter, Footbrake racer extraordinaire, and all-around good guy, Jared Pennington). I really can’t say enough about the Spring Fling. Bristol, as always, is one of the best and most beautiful facilities we race at. Pete, Kyle, Jed, and their whole crew did an excellent job promoting, running, and overseeing the race. Alan Reinhardt was on the mic keeping everyone entertained. The purse was huge and the payout was deep. The 1000’ racing was new to everyone; no one had an advantage and no one had any real past experience. I think the most successful racers of the weekend were those with either an extremely large amount of natural talent or those who were able and willing to adapt quickly. Obviously, the man who has plenty and did well was John Labbous, Jr. Little Caboose put together what I would have to consider the most dominating performance I’ve ever witnessed. In a field of over 200 of the best bracket racers in the nation, Labbous won the opening $12,500 event. He then made it two straight by winning the first $20,000 race on Friday night. That was impressive. But when he won the third $20,000 main event on Saturday it left people shaking their heads. None of the final rounds were splits (mainly due to the great payout of the race) and Jr. walked away with a smooth $52,500! To put on that type of performance, on that stage, against the caliber of competition that was onhand… Well, it’s incredible.
Racin'Jason and I shared the winner circle at the K&N Spring Fling 20's after we made it through the doorcar and dragster side of the King of the Mountain Shootout, respectively.
On my end, I managed back-to-back quarterfinal finishes in the $20,000 races. I made it down to six cars on Friday night in the Vega before falling to Tommy Plott. Then, I advanced to the quarters again on Saturday in the rocket ship before getting whacked by Mr. Universe (John Labbous, Jr.) I closed the weekend with a 6th round appearance in the Vega on Sunday and won the King of the Mountain Door Car Gamblers Race. In that race, door cars and dragsters ran off separately for a 100% payback purse ($500 entry), with the winners squaring off for a Las Vegas vacation package courtesy of Bug McCarty at McCarty Auto Sales. I managed to win the door car side and my buddy, Jason Lynch won the dragster shootout. So, rather than race for the vacation, we decided we’d round up his wife, Tina and my girlfriend, Jessica and head to Vegas together. As it stands, we’ve got some gift certificates for flights and a stay at the MGM Grand. I’m not real sure when we’ll use them, but there is a trip to Sin City in our future!
After a long ride home from Bristol, I set out for my new hometown national event, the NHRA Midwest Nationals, at Gateway International Raceway near St. Louis (about 2 hours from our new place). After a long Thursday of maintenance and preparations, I was able to advance to the third round of the race in both categories (Super Comp and Stock). Unfortunately, I lost a heads up A/SA bout in that round of Stock and was horribly indecisive at the finish line in Super Comp to walk away with a pair of third round defeats.
The following weekend, I drove up to the northern portion of our great state to join Nick and Brian Folk at Byron Dragway for our second annual Folk Race Cars Driving School. I was delighted that the Folk’s invited me to their school for a second year as a guest instructor and despite miserable weather we had an excellent class and a great time. Thanks again to all of the attending students, to the Byron Dragway staff, and to the Folk’s for a great experience.
Peter Biondo has a theory about having trouble on the road on the way to a race. He’s told me on several occasions (probably because I tend to break down a lot) that a rough trip to the track is almost a sure fire recipe for success. His thought is that if you tough it out and get through a rough patch, you’ll eventually be rewarded with success. My trip to the NHRA Southern Nationals in Atlanta proved him wrong.
I had high hopes going into Atlanta. Heck, I was the defending champ in Super Comp. I was near the lead in national points in both Super Comp and Stock. I have had incredible success at Atlanta throughout my career, including a runner-up and semi-final finish at the divisional event months earlier. Plus, I felt really good about the two cars I brought to the fight.
Well, between a blown radiator hose, a broken cooling fitting, three over-heating episodes, a nearly catastrophic trip over Monteagle, and a blowout on the trailer, my 8 hour drive to Atlanta took just under 22. But, with Pete’s words of wisdom in my head, I still felt confident about the outing once I made it to the track. Two days later, I was -.003 first round of Super Comp. In Stock, I got past Kevin Helms first round in a great race, only to have Brian Rowe lay down a .009 package in round two. The only good news was that I did make it home in under 10 hours without any monumental catastrophies.
Jared Pennington, Jeff Kile, and myself hosted our second annual Jr. Dragster-Only ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live” school at Holiday Raceway the following weekend and once again had an absolute blast with the kids. We had a number of students back out at the last second, so our class was smaller than in 2009, but we had a really great group and we had a lot of fun. I love the schools: helping people to improve at something they’re really passionate about is one of the greatest feelings I’ve ever had. And the kids are so fun. They’re absolutely sponges for information. They don’t have any bad habits that we have to overcome before we move forward. We can watch them visually improve with seemingly every run down the race track. It makes it fun and it makes it so rewarding. To all the kids, all the parents, Jared & Jeff, and the staff at Holiday: Thank you again!
Jared Pennington and I "instructing" at our Junior Dragster only school at Holiday.
We finished up the school Saturday afternoon, as the gates began opening for Holiday’s $5,000-to-win bracket race (good planning on my part, huh?). Unfortunately, I didn’t fair too well in the race. I had both cars in fifth round of the 5 grander, only to light back-to-back red lights. I made it down to the quarterfinals in Footbrake (a familiar theme) only to get cracked by my ex-girlfriend, Whitney Wesson. It’s not like I choked; she kicked my butt. I was .013 and took .004; she was .006 and under. So much for that! And with that, Jessica and I were on our way
Once again, we had a fantastic group of students and parents at Holiday. I know I speak for Jared, Jeff, and myself when I say we had a great time and can't wait to do it again!
What was originally supposed to be a relaxing Sunday at my Mom’s house in Alabama turned into an all night ride to Clarksville, TN. The track had originally scheduled a $10,000 No Box race for Friday night, which I couldn’t attend because of the Junior school at Holiday. When that race rained out, the track postponed it until Sunday. Sunday, of course, meant a $10,000 race on my home from Holiday. Sorry Mom, going racing!
They say Karma is an interesting beast (actually “they” have a harsher word). When you skip out on dinner with your mother to go racing, it costs you. On my first run at Clarksville, the Vega broke a roller completely off a lifter, wrecked the cam, and sent it down through the rest of the motor. The little 350 that could only had about 2500 runs on it. They just don’t build things like they used to! My buddies, Jason Lynch and Jeremy Jensen came to the rescue, each offering me a car to double with them (I had purchased two entries). I didn’t do any good in Jeremy’s car and lost a good race to Lucas Bendall in round four with Jason’s, so it wasn’t a good day all around. Tyler Lynch took the Vega back to Jason’s, where he pulled the motor out and got it back to Huntsville for me and Jess and I went on home to Illinois. I guess we should have spent the day with Mom!
Without the Vega in the fold, I loaded up both dragsters and made a return trip to Bristol for the Thunder Valley Bracket Nationals. Much like Peter Biondo and Kyle Siepel, event promoters Dave Connolly and Jeff Strickland did an excellent job with this event. Unfortunately, they didn’t have near the turnout, as the pits in Bristol looked pretty scarce. On my end, the weekend was essentially a disaster. I lost early in both cars Thursday and Friday and broke a lifter in the fast car Saturday morning. I pulled the motor out of it between rounds and managed to advance to 10 cars in Saturday’s main event with the old dragster before it grenaded the front pump in the water. So, in the midst of pulling the motor in the fast car, I swapped transmissions in the slow one.
Wait it gets better… Sunday morning, my 29th birthday, I make one time trial and realize that something has gone awry in the new transmission. While I changed the trans and converter after the Saturday mishap, I didn’t think to drain the trans coolers. After a run, some of the metal from the cooler apparently found its way into the pressure relief valve in the valve body, hanging it up. So, between my two entries in first round, I swapped trans and converter again. A huge thank you to none other than John Labbous, Jr., who refused to run his second entry (he was the final car in the lanes for round one) until I got the trans back in and done. After holding up the show for about ten minutes, Junior kicked my butt, but that gave me an idea of what I could run for round two. With that information, I managed to advance to the fifth round, only to have Labbous smack me around once again. Daren Long of Long Transmission was on hand and got the majority of my transmission carnage fixed up before I left the track Sunday night.
So, one motor, three transmissions, and very few win lights later, the Thunder Valley Bracket Challenge was essentially an unmitigated disaster for team Bogacki. Had I had enough? Heck no. Rather than quit and go home, I made a stop at Middle Tennessee Dragway on Monday (Memorial Day) for a $5,000 race. There, I managed to make an appearance in the semi-final round only to make a pathetic lap and fall to eventual winner Windle Webster, Jr. That race was pretty much the story of my season thus far: I made great runs all day until late in the race. In the semi’s, I was stellar .025 and still could have won; but I gave it back .001.
I returned home and was completely over it. My fun meter was pegged and I was considering selling out. I do have a college education and I do not have to do this for a living! It’s just when you get to that point that the occasional stroke of good fortune can change your entire outlook. The next weekend brought the Ultimate 64 Shootout. Since just one car of the four in my normal stable was in running order, that’s the car I took to the event. I had an open slot in the trailer, so we threw Jessica’s Vega in as well and made the trip to Cincinnati. There, everything fell into place. It’s funny, really, because at the Ultimate 64 I probably drove worse than I have all year. And yet, I had the most successful weekend of my season.
In the $50,000-to-win main event, I made it to the final round before turning on the red light by .003 and falling to Brian Newport. Hours later, I returned to the final round of the daily race, where I was able to knock off Steve Taylor to win the $10,000 top prize. Within a matter of hours, my season went from pathetic to above average. What a sport!
With some money in the bank and a daunting schedule ahead, Jess and I enjoyed a much needed weekend off after the Ultimate 64. I was supposed to go to Chicago for an NHRA event, but to be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel like going. We tried to race Saturday night at I-57, but it was rained out. So we sat around home, caught up on some work around here, and spent the weekend relaxing. It was great!
The reprieve was short-lived of course, as we set out the following Wednesday for Huntsville, AL. The guys at Huntsville Engine had my big motor repaired and ready to go, so we rolled in and I installed the motor within a few hours. We left there and headed to Bristol for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. We made it onto I-81 and were under an hour from the race track when the water pump on my truck locked up, broke the pulley, and threw the serpentine belt. A quick diagnosis told me that I didn’t have the parts or the time to make the necessary repairs on the side of the road.
I called in a favor to my good friend, Don O’Neal, left Jessica and Matty to man the trailer, and limped the truck up to the next exit. Don, who was already at the track, came and hooked up to my trailer. We used his handy satellite navigator to locate an auto repair facility. Since it was about 10:00 pm, I figured it’d be a good plan to drop the truck somewhere that it could be fixed the next day, then we’d drive back down to pick it up. That plan looked really good on paper…
So, we again unhook the trailer, leaving it in a truck stop parking lot; as I limp my truck, following Don, to this repair center. The GPS takes us down several one-lane roads, through fields of corn (or maybe weeds, it was dark) that are taller than my truck. At one point we passed an old house with several goats in the FRONT yard. Just when I thought “There’s no way there’s a shop down here,” we turned into a gravel driveway that led to some dude’s house with a sign that read “Iron Bridge Auto Repair.” Sweet.
So, being the trusting sole that I am, I left my truck in the driveway. I’m sure no one would ever find the keys in the floorboard (especially not if they read the note in the front seat with my phone number that said “The keys are in the floorboard”). We left the wounded soldier in the drive, went back to pick up the trailer, and headed on to beautiful Bristol Dragway to test Pete’s theory one more time.
Once again, I proved him wrong. Somehow, I did manage to win class eliminations in AA/SA despite having the slowest car in the field and failing to run the class index on any of my four runs. First round of class, my opponent, who had me covered by more than .7, red-lighted. That’s funny and I get another time run; cool. So, in the final I ran Dan Fletcher. He doesn’t have me covered by as much, probably .15 or so; but he doesn’t make many mistakes. He red-lighted as well. Unlike most Stock Eliminator racers, winning class means absolutely nothing to me. I think I checked off six decals, so I might have $300 coming if they ever decide to pay. That’s cool, but winning class is not a life-changing experience for me personally. As a side note, the guys whose house we left my truck at called on Friday morning. He’s on vacation. Awesome!
Once eliminations got started Saturday, things went downhill in a hurry. The fuel pump on the stocker, which worked flawlessly through time trials and two exhilarating rounds of class eliminations, decided that first round, under the tower, was the appropriate time to quit. I watched my opponent single as I pushed the Nova back to the trailer. I managed to squeeze out a couple rounds in Super Comp before losing to Chad Hedgecock in round 3. I was late, he wasn’t. I took .008 to run 8.899. The almighty thousandth did not go my way.
Jess and I at the coolest amusement park in the world.
I did eventually find someone that was willing and capable to fix the truck (thank you Jared Pennington for pulling some strings) and we drove to pick it up Saturday afternoon. By Sunday morning, Jess and I were on our way to Norwalk, Ohio. That proved to be a pleasantly uneventful Sunday drive, as we set the jacks down in Linders Lot that evening. We spent the next couple of days on a mini-vacation, as we visited Cedar Point and the adjoining water park. We ate, we drank, we rode roller coasters. I’m not much of a vacationer, but even I’ll admit to having a good time!
How can you see that sign driving in and not think you're going to have a great time?
Once the racing got underway at Norwalk, it was pretty much a continuation of the frustration. I lost essentially the exact same race that I lost a week prior in second round of Super Comp. I was late again, but actually had a .005 advantage on the tree. I took .006 at the stripe to lose a double-breakout by… You guessed it, .001. Isn’t this fun?
In Stock, I struggled with traction issues throughout time trials. I made wholesale changes for round one and dialed the index. I managed to turn on the win light despite holding nearly .2. As the weekend progressed, I never made back-to-back runs without making some serious changes. First, to insure traction. Then later, as conditions changed, in an attempt to run the index. I managed to find my way into the semi-finals, where once again I made by far my worst run of eliminations and was completely in David Rampy’s way. I couldn’t run the index, which certainly hurt my chances. Plus, I was .040 on the tree. I couldn’t have gotten away with either of those mistakes, much less both. So, once again, I left Norwalk with the old “Close, but no cigar.” This was my fifth trip to Norwalk. I’ve never failed to advance to at least the semi-final. I’ve never won. Frustration incorporated.
After my two week tour of NHRA racing, I was more than ready for a weekend on the bracket scene and the local scene. Fourth of July weekend provided both, as I-57 Dragstrip had a $5,000-to-win race on Friday night and Sikeston Dragstrip had a $2,000-to-win race Saturday. At Benton, I double-entered my dragster in Super Pro and ran my buddy Scott Skinner’s Nova in Footbrake. I got cracked early on a good run in Footbrake, but advanced to the quarterfinals in the dragster, with both entries left. With five cars remaining, I was two of them. And it was no longer night; as the sun comes up around 5:15 AM in these parts. I drove really well all night, but when the sun came up, I guess I ran out of talent.
In what is getting to be way too common a theme, I made a pair of bad runs in the quarterfinals, and after winning 12 consecutive rounds I lost 2 straight. I got my $400 and went home.
I figured I should keep my quarterfinal streak alive, so after a couple hours sleep (we got home from Benton at 7:00), we made the trek to Sikeston, MO for Saturday night’s race. There, I predictably drove well in the early rounds, got to eight cars, and laid an egg. If getting to the quarters was cool, I’d be James Dean.
Last weekend, Jess and I set off for Bowling Green and the Tenn-Tuck Triple Crown Series. With bulldozers riding around the lawn, and my racing operation spread out over a couple counties, it was much easier to take the little trailer and one dragster to Bowling Green than anything else. Driving just my ’08 dragster, I put together a less than stellar performance for the weekend, netting nothing more than a (drum roll please) quarterfinal appearance in the fourth race of the event. I’d like to say that I’m getting to the late rounds and having bad luck, but that’s just not the case. I’m getting to the late rounds and making bad runs. In fact, my weekend at Bowling Green went about like it’s supposed to. Every time that I let go .00, I won. And with one exception every time I didn’t, I lost. The moral of this story is… When you make good runs, you’re generally rewarded with good results. And I’m not making good runs at critical times. I’m in a funk and I’m sure I’ll break out of it, but frustration is the theme for this column!
I will get a brief reprieve from the NHRA grind, as I have the opportunity to bracket race for the next several weeks. I’ll either end up in Cordova, IL or back at Bowling Green this weekend. Then, it’s off to Belle Rose, LA for a ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live” Driving school with Britt and Slate Cummings preceding the annual Moser Engineering Great American Bracket Race. I’m up in the air about a trip to Atco for their big event the following weekend, and then it’s back to the chase for precious points… I’ll likely attend the NHRA Divisional event in Cordova on my way to the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN. After that, we’ve got another ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live” school with Shawn Langdon at Mid-State Dragway in Illinois, and the divisional event in Bowling Green. Nothing like a full summer schedule of fun in the sun…
Thanks again for reading, sorry if that got a little long-winded. Next time I’ll try to do better, I promise. Hopefully the next three months will bring a little more success to share with you here on DragRaceResults.com! Regardless, I want to give a huge thank you to the following supporters. These companies make it possible for me to get down the road and compete, making a living doing what I absolutely love to do. I depend on products and service from Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, Huntsville Engine & Performance, American Race Cars, Bill Taylor Enterprises, JEGS, K&N Filters, Goza Racing Products, Moser Engineering, Advanced Product Design, K&R Performance Engineering, Rockett Brand Race Fuels, Auto Meter, Ohlins Shocks, Dixie Performance Products, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, B&M, Figspeed.com, BRODIX Cylinder Heads, PimpMyCrew.com, ISC Racers Tape, Nitrous Express, Frankestein Racing Heads, Todd’s Extreme Paint, Sparco, J&J Engine Diapers, Milodon, and DragRaceResults.com.
Thanks again for reading, see you all “On the road.”