9-05 "On the Road" with Luke Bogacki
I really had grand visions of using this forum to jump up and down, whine and moan, and let the whole world know how horrible a year I’m having on the race track. But, in the wake of a severe natural disaster that has left the nation in turmoil and devastated so many lives (including some of my close friends), it’s hard to view a bad weekend at the race track as a “problem” in the grand scheme of things. Like everyone, my heart goes out to the folks along the gulf coast. It’s a horrible situation that will take years to recover from. It is amazing, however, to see how everyone pulls together, and that’s so visible within the racing community. Over the last couple weeks I’ve seen funds created, groups traveling to the coast with supplies, Huntsville Dragway’s Run for the Money last week was donated to the Red Cross, the Dragraceresults/BTE/Citgo Series and Johnny West (who conducts the Sunday Morning Services at the Division 4 events) raised money at Noble. I know that there are good people everywhere--it just seems like we’ve got a whole lot of them within the racing world, and it makes me so proud to be a part of it.
It’s been awhile since my last column, so I’ve got two months worth of catching up to do. If nothing else, this column should provide a few minutes of relief--you don’t have to worry about the problems of the world for awhile...instead you can just laugh at me!
I kicked off the month of July with a trip to the other side of the world: Topeka, KS. And you probably didn’t even think you could get there from Alabama... My buddy Lucas Bendall came along for the ride: we double entered the Vega in Dynatech Sportsman, and I drove J.R. Lobner’s dragster in Afco Super Pro. Lucas made it to the quarterfinals Saturday, and between us (Lucas, J.R., and myself) we had four entries remaining (and helmets and fuel jugs strewn throughout the staging lanes) when the rains set in before 5th round Sunday. On this particular trip, however, racing was really not the memorable portion of the story. Names will not be disclosed to protect the innocent (except Lucas), but we really had a great time during our short stay in the Great Plains. The only statement that can sum up the experience: Bendall and I had a great time in Oklahoma, until he fell into the Grand Canyon and woke up on the sidewalk. You really had to be there!
The following weekend I took my licks a little closer to home: at my local Sand Mountain Dragway (Friday) and Brainerd Optimist Dragway, near Chattanooga (Saturday). I made it to six cars in Pro Friday night, before falling to my buddy Larry Wright, Jr. (who went on to win). Saturday, the Vega suddenly became a tree magnet, as I tried to topple the Christmas tree not once, but twice. I didn’t really understand what was going on, and the inconsistent problem would plague me for the following couple weeks. Despite a couple wild rides, I made it to 10 cars at Brainerd, only to take a minute of finish line and breakout opposite a 4-second dragster (if you’ll remember from my last column, that’s a recurring theme!).
The next three weeks took me on the BTE/Citgo tour: from Bluegrass Dragway in Kentucky, to Columbus, OH, to Valdosta, GA. Bluegrass wasn’t particularly productive: the starting line problems persisted and I honestly got really close to wrecking the little Vega on a couple occassions. Sunday rained out, which may have been a blessing in disguise because it eliminated my chances of hitting anything.
That week I spent two days drawing on the floor of the shop, trying to figure out what the heck the little Vega was doing, and re-arranged the entire 4-link, changing springs, heim joints, and anything else that looked suspect along the way. At Columbus it was driveable, but it still wasn’t right. That sounds like a good excuse for failing to make the pay window for three days, but it’s not: I couldn’t drive the darn thing off a cliff and I got my butt kicked. How’s that for honesty?
Then finally, I found the problem in the form of a worn out wishbone. I had Brian Forrester at Forrester Enterprises make a new one, and at Valdosta we were back in business. There, things started to come together as I made the final in Sportsman on Day 1, only to lose to my buddy Jeff Adkinson in a great race (I was .009, he was .007, we both killed a bunch of ET playing a finish line game that he won by .002!). That was the third time Jeff and I had run in a big final, and I fell back behind in the ongoing score (not that I was ever really even: he whacked me in a $15,000 final at Atlanta, and I only got him for a measely $1500 earlier this season in Montgomery).
Rain and poker pretty much consumed the rest of the weekend. We did get another race in Sunday, and one round may prove to be the pivotal point of the Dynatech Sportsman points chase. I lost a great run to defending champ Phil Combs late in the race Sunday morning. Although Phil has led the standings throughout the season, I really liked my chances all the way up to that run. While I’m not quite ready to concede just yet (and I’m sure the rest of the guys in the top ten of Dynatech Sportsman points won’t either!), I will say that Phil has done a great job this year and he’s earned what looks to be his second consecutive title.
The month of August took me to Michigan--yea, for pretty much the entire month! Of course, I’m not smart enough to stay in Michigan during their beautiful summer months, I’d much rather make several trips to Michigan to make sure I’m acquainted to the view of my windshield. Looking back, the first trip (to the no box nationals) was by far the most.....ummm....humbling (as if I needed more of that this season). The trip up was pretty uneventful, although I had a blow out on the trailer just prior to reaching the track. In Friday’s 2-grander, I was -.002 red first round, then gave the stripe back .000 second round. Okay, no big deal--the $15,000 on Saturday was what I came for anyhow. Saturday, I’m .020, take .009 first round--no good (yea, this was a quarter mile no box race...). I roll into the second round thinking surely this can’t continue (this is where it gets good). There, I’m .002, to my opponents .080. But in true style, I ring up a nice, conservative .08 over (down 18 mph), and get .001 behind my opponents dead-on. I bet this sport would be a whole lot more fun if I was just a little better at it.
So, whether it be from embarrasment, abuse, homesickness, whatever: I decide not to stick around for Sunday’s 2-grander. I begin toward home before I find out that Bluegrass Raceway in Kentucky (which is “KIND-OF” on the way) has a $5,000-to-win event Sunday. As a glutton for punishment, I can’t pass this up. At about 1:00AM Sunday night, I’m riding into Cincinnati, about 100 miles from the track when the ‘ole beave starts acting up. It’s running, but that’s about all she’s doing--we don’t have any power. It seems like a fuel problem, but without so much as a spare filter, and given the hour, I don’t have much choice but to trod onward. Three hours later (yes, at about 35 mph the whole way) I made it, but not before blowing out another trailer tire....at 3:30 in the morning....while going about 30 mph....
At Bluegrass things actually got a little more bearable: I turned on a win light (not many mind you, but I did win a couple rounds!). I made it to the quarterfinals of the 5-grander before I got slammed by a .004 package. More importantly, thanks to the help of some awesome people, we got the ‘beave back in order (it was just a clogged fuel filter). I do want to give a huge thank you to Kellee Maloney, the Atkinson family, the Baker family, and Tom Henry for their help. A bunch of folks I really didn’t know prior to that day, and they all went out of their way to make sure that I made it home safe. Once again, racers are an amazing group of people!
On my way home Monday morning, I made a stop near Nashville to pick up one of Jason Lynch’s dragsters to race for the next couple weeks. With Jason and Mike Dzurilla’s reformation of Bullet Motorsports, they had an extra whip for me to beat up for awhile. So, I carried the dragster and the Vega back to South Georgia Motorsports Park for the B&M/Hedman Hedders Series event (for those of you keeping track, that was georgia....to Michigan....and back to Georgia...wait--it gets dumber...). There, I couldn’t shake my case of the givebacks. Friday night, I stared at four timeslips that started with .00 in my lane (between pro and footbrake), and ended with .00 mov to the other side. My goal for the rest of the weekend: Get in front of somebody!
The only highlight of the trip was a quarterfinal finish in Jason’s car Sunday. And it’s not like I made a bad lap: .005, dead-on with an 8. But my .013 wasn’t as good as his .012 (keep that statement in your head too, we’ll use it again). Man this is fun!
Following that miserable performance, I was back on the road to...Michigan!!! (For those of you keeping score at home...well, you know the deal). Actually, this trip wasn’t so bad, I really just had to drive to Nashville with the dragster, where we loaded everything into the Bullet rig, and Jason & I set out for the $50,000 race in Stanton. After a two-day detour to Bullet headquarters in Mansfield, OH to swap motorhomes, we rolled into the World Super Pro Challenge with grand visions of a windfall. See, Jason had been having about as crummy a season as I have, so we figured we were both way overdue (I mean, the only people we had to convince were ourselves!).
The good news from the weekend: my Thursday record is still intact (I had been to the final of the Thursday $5,000 race three years in a row, winning the last two). The bad news...that record remained unscathed only because it rained on Thursday so no one got to beat me. Friday, I lost a good run early in the $10,000 event and made it to the third round of the 32-car $25,000 gamblers race (same round I lost last season). This time I turned it red, beside my opponents (let’s call it conservative) .060 light and .03 under his dial. AWESOME!!!
Saturday things were actually looking good--I wasn’t driving great, but I was in a good car, and I was actually catching a few breaks. I made it to 17 cars in the $50,000 race where I squared off with Danny Nelson. Again, I make a solid lap (the second best run of the entire round--yea, I looked at the run sheets): .005, dead-on 8. That’s .013 total. Danny’s .012 total. Sound familiar? What’s more? .005 would’ve held up for the bye at 9 had I kept the nose in front. 1/4 finalist (after the split): $7,000. 1/16 finalist: $300. Having a good time in Michigan...priceless.
Jason and I made the long ride home so that Lucas and I could turn around and head back to...Michigan! The last trip to the great North of this season took us to Milan for the BTE/Citgo Series race. I talked Lucas into coming with me and doubling the Vega in Dynatech Sportsman. His exact quote: “You sure we won’t blow that thing up on the quarter mile?” Nah, we’ll be fine. Third round Sunday, I hung the rods out of it in the water.
I drove one of Ken Bear’s Bear Motorsports cars in S/Pro, and made it down to the late rounds (I think there was 10 or 12 cars left) Saturday, where I squared off with Doug Hienisch. There, I was .008, dead-on 5 (that’s .013--you know what’s coming). I don’t even remember what his run was, but it was better than .013 and I was done. My goal for the rest of the year; not to lay down .013 anymore!
Lucas and I left out of Milan and headed to Mark Horton’s American Race Cars shop in nearby Milbury, OH. I’ve got a new dragster on order from Mark (you knew I couldn’t stay out of the long skinny car business for long). Since it won’t be done until the winter series in Florida, Mark offered me his last Worthy 4-link car to drive until then. So, we spent Monday at the Advanced Product Design dyno, as John Kyle got my Huntsville Engine 555 equipped with an alcohol carburetor setup, and then we dropped that powerplant into the Worthy car and headed back for Alabama. A big thanks to John Kyle, Jerry Dooley, and the staff at APD for their help, as well as to Mark Horton and Travis Colangelo at American Race Cars.
Labor Day weekend, I planned to take the machine to Huntsville Dragway for the U.S. Nationals of Bracket Racing. Of course, nothing I do can go off without a hitch. When changing the oil late Thursday night, I find a tooth from the timing gear on the drain plug. With the way my luck has been going lately, I decide not to take a chance. I spend most of the day Friday at Huntsville Engine & Performance, as the guys in the shop helped me replace the timing set with a Jesel belt drive. Being the diehard racer (yea, that sounds a lot better than...”idiot”) that I am, I pulled into the gate Friday afternoon with about 20 cars left in the lanes for first round, and went ahead and entered--heck, who needs a time run? on a car I’ve never sat in before?
I rolled into the water for round one with stickers on the tires...and actually won when my opponent went red. My good fortune prevailed until fourth round, where I lit the red eye. Scotty Richardson let me drive his beautiful Camaro in Pro Saturday and Sunday, although I didn’t do it much justice, getting crushed in both cars early. Saturday evening I did manage to appear in the final round of a gamblers race, only to fall to my good friend Stephen “Shu” Hughes, thanks to a less than stellar reaction time on my part.
Last weekend I went back to Brainerd Optimist for their monthly $5,000-to-win race, but lost in the third round when the transbrake didn’t hold for some mysterious reason (no, I can’t make it do it again...). And the last few days have been spent gearing up for the next big swing. I’ll head to the IHRA Pro-Am event in Jackson, SC this weekend to test and prepare for the Million Dollar Race in Memphis, which will be followed by “The best damn bracket race...period” in Montgomery, and the final Tenn-tuck event of the season at Bowling Green.
As always, thanks for reading, I hope you had a good laugh! And, I’d like to give a big thanks to the marketing partners who have stood by me through thick and thin (and here lately it’s been really thick...or is it thin...I don’t know, it hasn’t been real good!): Bill Taylor Engineering, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Advanced Product Design, American Race Cars, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, K&R Performance Engineering, Moser Engineering, Brodix Cylinder Heads, Milodon, Valvoline, Goza Racing Products, Afco Drag Racing, Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, Rockett Brand Race Fuel, Q-Stitch, Autometer, Dixie Race Products, and Dragraceresults.com.