3-07 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
What a Start!
Like I’ve said before--as an avid racing enthusiast and reader of various columns like this for years, I know these are more fun to read when the author is struggling. Roadside problems, stupid mistakes, and countless on-track beat-downs just seem to make for great reading. Stuff like that makes us laugh, because it happens to everyone, and we can all associate with minor catastrophes. In this column, I’m sorry to disappoint; but I have not been struggling. I’d say the first two months of the 2007 season may be the most successful two months of my racing career. I hope most of you can associate with the peaks (those of you who are faithful readers know I’ve had my valleys!), and enjoy reliving the last few weeks with me!
My 2007 season started off with a bang. Adam Davis and I set out for Mobile Dragway the first weekend of February for their annual $5,000-to-win Footbrake event. I loaded the Mickey Thompson Vega onto Adam’s “Alabama Stacker” (that’s a two car open trailer, for those of you who aren’t from around here), along with his ‘76 Nova (my old Texas Supercars ride) for the ride South. Let me preface this by saying that as of Tuesday of that week, I had no intentions of attending the event--to be honest, I’d forgotten all about it. On Tuesday, the Vega didn’t have a motor or transmission, and the entire front end was out from under it. Special thanks to Bubba Stevenson for his help with the thrash, and fellow racer Keith Quick at Quick Tire for making time to align it for me late Friday afternoon.
Once we made it to Mobile, things took an immediate turn for the better. I won Saturday’s $5,000 race--my first ‘W’ in my first event of the year. I drove pretty well, and the Vega was awesome as always! To cap the weekend, Adam won the $5,000 event on Sunday in impressive fashion (that kid is unreal on both ends of the track)--so our ride home was enjoyable to say the least!
"We're going to Hooters!" What a crew: that's Brett, myself, Adam, and Jason McClure after my Saturday win at Mobile.
Next up, I headed out to the Bracketnews.com Bracket Bash at Hub City Dragway in Hattiesburg, MS. I love Hub City--it’s one of my favorite tracks for a lot of reasons, the main one being that it’s always been real good to me. This event was no exception. We got rained out on Friday, I got my rear end kicked Saturday in the regular events, though I did manage to stage for the final with Adam in a gamblers race for an entry to the World Footbrake Challenge. There, he beat me not once, but twice. In our first match, cross-talk was on, adding a level of difficulty for me hitting the tree as the faster car. So, we got to do it again. Without cross-talk, my reaction improved a whopping .003 (from a dismal .046 all the way to a .043)! Neither lamp was any match for Adam as he cracked me on both counts.
Sunday, things got a little better. I bought a second entry for Footbrake, because I was so disappointed in my reaction times Saturday. At five cars remaining, it was me, “Stone Cold” Steve Stites, Jared Pennington, me, and “Stone Cold.” Yea, Steve and I each had two entries in. For those of you who have met Steve, Jared, and myself, it’s probably no surprise that we opted to split the money and head for the steak house--I don’t think any of us miss many meals. Stone Cold and I ran one round for the big check, and he was shaking in his sneakers at the thought of that flat black Vega breathing down his neck, and he went red. I’m counting the race as a win--that goofy one-eyed race promoter wasn’t beating me! Love ya Steve!
The following weekend brought the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series opener at South Georgia Motorsports Park. I sold my ‘06 American Race Cars dragster late in the winter, and didn’t have my new car yet, so I actually started the season behind the wheel of Richard Selph’s Race Tech machine in CSR Super Pro. Special thanks to Richard and the entire Alamo, GA crew for all their help on the weekend.
In Saturday’s opening event, Richard’s car carried me into the final round of competition, where I was -.001. Although no one comes to the track looking for a runner-up, I was very pleased to be able to make the final in my first appearance in the car, and to rack up some early points in the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series. As I found out last season, every single point counts--so that runner-up was a great start!
The Sunday portion of the event was one of those dream days where everything just seemed to click. For once in my life, I could seemingly do no wrong, and I actually won both classes: CSR Super Pro in Richard’s car, and Sportsman in the Mickey Thompson Vega. I absolutely wrecked the tree all day in both cars, and like anytime that you come out on top, I got the breaks when I need them. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to the DRR season: the weekend gave my confidence a huge shot in the arm, put some early points on the board, and helped the checking account significantly!
On the way home from South Georgia, I made a detour to Damascus, GA to pick up a motor from my friend Jeff Adkinson. As I said, I sold my ‘06 dragster turn-key so late in the offseason that I didn’t have time to get all my ducks in a row. The guys at Huntsville Engine are hard at work on my new 555, but with the sea of work they’ve got this time of year, I’m a little ways down the line. Jeff was gracious enough to loan me a 548 for a few weeks until the new bullet was ready.
From Damascus, I made a brief pit-stop at home, then set out for the frigid North (at least it was frigid to this Texas/Alabama hillbilly!) of Toledo, OH and the American Race Cars shop. I arrived at American Thursday morning, and got a first glimpse of my new ride: powdercoated pipe. I left the following Thursday evening with a complete, turn-key race car. For those of you who have never done it... that’s a lot of work! I promised Mark and Travis and the entire American crew that I’d try to stay out of their way (like the guys at Huntsville Engine, they’re swamped with orders this time of year), and I think I managed to not be a real burden until my last day at the shop. By Thursday, everyone knew I was close, and everyone knew that I wanted to race that weekend, and all the guys pitched in to help. Huge thanks to Mark, Travis, Brett, Todd, Josh, Jeff, and Diane for all their help and hospitality!
My new American Race Cars swing-arm dragster is the nicest car I’ve ever had. It’s one bad ride, and I’m so proud of the way it turned out I don’t really know where to start. Next time you see me at the track, come by and check it out--the fit and finish, the attention to detail, everything the guys at American are doing... it makes for an unbelievable finished product.
I want to take a minute to highlight CSR Performance Products. They’ve come onboard as the major sponsor of my new American Race Cars Dragster, and I couldn’t pick a better group of people, or a higher quality company to be involved with. I’m extremely excited to have the opportunity to work with CSR in an effort to promote their business. My new CSR Performance Products Dragster features a myriad of CSR components, highlighted by their new 24-volt “Smart Start” starting system. For those of you who haven’t seen this setup in action, you’ll be amazed. It’s a user friendly system that literally eliminates starter and flexplate breakage in sportsman racing. Check out the piece we did on DragRaceResultsTV.com explaining the CSR “Smart Start” system in the “Tech Talk” page. It’s the latest technology in sportsman racing, and I think it’s something every competitor with a high compression, big cubic inch engine should have.
Back to the story... Like I said, following a week-long thrash at American Race Cars, I finished everything up and got out of Toledo at about 8:30 Thursday evening. I arrived at Montgomery Motorsports Park at about 2:00 p.m. the following day, as they were calling first round of the first $10,000-to-win event. For those of you geographically challenged, I drove nearly all night (I gave up around Bowling Green and took a nap for a couple hours). Now, at what point I thought that a brand new car that I had run just long enough to back into the trailer would be competitive without so much as a time run, I don’t know--but I was dead-set on doing it!
I arrived at the track, poured water in the dragster, checked the trans fluid, set the timing, and gave first round a try. I didn’t get much past the water box. As is about normal, I had some new car bugs to work out--all of which were strictly due to my incompetence in putting the car together, of course. I decided it would be a good idea to bolt an internally balanced flexplate onto an externally balanced motor (BRILLIANT!), and I didn’t lock out the distributor... The list goes on. The bottom line was that I spent most of the evening (still riding on my 2 hour nap) once again working on the new car. Oh, and to top things off, I roll around for second round in the trusty Vega and break a shifter cable as I pull to the ready-line. Awesome!
The rest of the weekend got better: I did manage to get the dragster down the track repeatedly and I was real happy with it’s initial consistency and driveability--but the weekend didn’t yield any success. The only real good news was that my buddies won every day of the event: Todd “Bones” Ewing won Friday, Stephen “Shu” Hughes won Saturday, and “Playboy” Troy Williams, Jr. won Sunday. So, I got treated to steak every night--which is a pretty good deal in my book!
I spent the following week working on.... the new dragster! Just going thru and fixing all the little nuances that weren’t perfect. Finally, the following weekend at the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series event at Atlanta Dragway, all that hard work paid off. Saturday night, I managed to take the Vega to a win in the Sportsman class. I’d like to say that I just crushed everything standing in my way. The truth is, I won by default. I think the best package any of my opponents had was .050 and .05 above, or something in that range. Granted, I was decent, but I didn’t really have to do anything impressive. One thing I’ve learned in my 13 years of racing: the bank doesn’t ask how you did it. They just deposit the check!
Sunday was another one of those dream days. I got whacked early in the Moser Shootout 16-car event, but I won Sportsman for the second straight day (and the third consecutive DRR race), and I drove the CSR Performance Products Dragster to it’s first win by winning the Super Pro class as well. I can’t remember the last time I doubled up prior to South Georgia--so to do it twice within a month is absolutely beyond me. Both cars were awesome, and again; I got the breaks when I needed them.
Here's a picture that's already on the wall in the gameroom: A rare double win, with all of my Georgia buddies. We've got Tracy Hardie and his family, Mark Padgitt (who I ran in the final) with his wife Nina, Series promoter Danny Sons, Carey "Crow" Locke and his wife, and Booger (I wish I knew Booger's name, but everyone just calls him Booger). What a day! Photo courtesy of Chris Simmons Photography.
Of course, nothing can go my way without a fair amount of drama. Following the Sunday final in Sportsman, I was pulled over at the E.T. shack for teardown by Atlanta Dragway officials. At the time, there were four cars remaining in Super Pro, so I was in a bit of a hurry to get back to the staging lanes. Upon teardown, the officials wanted to disqualify me for using a two-step in the Sportsman class. I assume that Atlanta’s regular bracket program has a Footbrake only class, but of course, two-steps and transbrakes are legal on the “No Box” format of the DRR Sportsman class. Apparently, they didn’t get the memo. The funny part is that all this was a non-issue until I won my 13th consecutive round of the weekend... but that’s another story for another time. Bottom line: I’m legal, I’m playing by the rules, and I won the race. That may sound cocky, that may sound arrogant, but that’s the deal.
Perhaps the coolest part of the 2007 DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series is the new DragRaceResultsTV.com. For those of you who haven’t seen it, check it out. They’ve got late round results from each series event, plus interviews with the winners and lots of neat footage and information. For those of us who chase the series, it gives us a great new venue to promote our marketing partners, which expands the horizons for everyone! That’s what it’s all about for me: the bottom line is turning people on to the companies and individuals who make my racing possible, and in the end selling product for those partners. As I mentioned, I’m tickled to have CSR Performance Products and Mickey Thompson Tires as my major marketing partners on the dragster and the Vega. Additionally, I’d like to urge each of you to give Rockett Brand Race Fuels a shot. They’re a great company that manufactures quality race fuel at a fair price. Visit www.RockettBrand.com today to find the distributor near you. And of course, I urge each of you to support my longtime partner Bill Taylor Engineering. Give Bryan Robinson at BTE a call for all of your transmission and torque converter needs: 800-626-1828.
The next event on my 2007 schedule was the DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series Texas Stampede at the Texas Motorplex. For me, this was a real exciting event. Not only was it the third event along the 2007 DRR tour, and another chance to earn valuable points toward the series championship, it was also my first opportunity since moving to Alabama nearly four years ago to compete in Texas, the state where I grew up. It was awesome getting to see a bunch of old friends and catch up with everyone back home--I hope to make a few more trips back this season!
My unbelievable run on the race track continued at the Motorplex. Friday I had one of my best days ever in Sportsman. Time runs included, I was never worse than .012 on the tree going to the final with my old buddy Jeremy Hefler. Growing up in Texas, if you wanted to win a race you generally had to get by Jeremy, or his brother Jeff, or his father Jerry (sometimes all three)--they’ve been the cream of the crop for years and years. This time around, I got lucky--I met the bottom bulb on and was -.010, but Jeremy was -.003 in front of me, so it worked out. Amazingly, for the third time in as many events, I managed to make the final of CSR Super Pro as well, in my CSR Dragster, but I bumped it red to another good friend, John Lobner in the final round.
I almost got both cars in the winner circle at Dallas, but came up one round short. This one's a fun shot too, with a bunch of great friends: That's Amber Rose modeling my trophy on the roof, with her father Rusty behind her. Then we've got Danny Sons and the Dollars: Chris, Shawn, Jake, and Jesslyn.
Saturday I wound up in the winners circle in Sportsman again--for the firth straight DRR Series event. That’s just amazing. I don’t care who you are, or how good you’re driving, or how good your stuff is... That just shouldn’t happen! I’ve been so fortunate during this string that it’s inconceivable.
My luck wasn’t all good, however. Late in the race in Super Pro, I kicked a rod out of the dragster (yep, that’s still Jeff’s motor). So that certainly put a damper on the weekend. Sunday’s final event came and went quietly for me, as my Sportsman win streak came to end at the hands of a great run by Brian Hughes in the third round, and I got bounced early in Super Pro as well. Thanks to Stephen and Lindsey Hughes for graciously letting me wheel their dragster in Super Pro on Sunday and in the Saturday night Moser Shootout--sorry I didn’t do any better!
Whenever a racer (or an entrant in any form of competition for that matter) is fortunate enough to get on a roll like I’ve enjoyed to this point in 2007, whether it be truly justified or not (and I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve been in the right place at the right time--and extremely fortunate); you find out who your friends are. Sure, there are lots of people who are your “buddy,” who will be the first to mumble under their breathe or point fingers of accusation when things start falling your way. But there are also your true friends--the ones who come by to congratulate you because they understand that your third win of the weekend is just as hard to come by as your first win of the season. To all my friends, you know who you are, thank you--this stuff wouldn’t be any fun without you!
Last week I had scheduled a week off, but I figured I’d better ride the wave. It’s hard to sit at home when you’ve won 9 races in six weeks! So, Adam and I headed up to Lake Cumberland Dragway for their big no-box race, which as 2006 DRR Sportsman Champ and my good friend Benny Gossett would say, gave me a dose of “humble pie!” I struggled all weekend at Cumberland. My reactions moved a ton, I didn’t drive well, and just about everyone I ran put down an awesome run beside me. My weekend highlight was advancing to the 1/8th finals in the main event, a $5,000-to-win race, before turning on the red with a .499.
That’s it for now. If the rest of the season continues anything like these first seven weekends, I’ll be riding high--but in reality I understand the odds of that lie somewhere between slim and none, so I’m enjoying this streak while it’s here! Again, I’d like to urge each of you readers to support the following companies any time you’re in need of quality racing products along with excellent customer service: CSR Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, Bill Taylor Engineering, Rockett Brand Racing Fuel, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, K&R Performance Engineering, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, Auto Meter, Figspeed.com, B&M Performance Products, Jeg’s Mail Order, ISC Racer’s Tape, AFCO Drag Racing, Advanced Product Design, Goza Racing Products, Dixie Performance Products, Milodon, Brodix Cylinder Heads, and DragRaceResults.com.
Next on the agenda for me is the DRR Bama Nationals at Bama Dragway near Birmingham this weekend. The first week of April I’ll be home for opening night at Sand Mountain Dragway, before attending the “World’s Greatest Footbrake Race,” the World Footbrake Challenge at Bristol Dragway. That event has probably got me more excited than any race all season: we’re footbraking for $50-Grand! After that, I’ll get my fill of the windshield, driving to Prescott, AR for the DragRaceResults.com Series event, then all the way back to Farmington, NC for their $50,000-to-win event. It should be a fun month: hope to see you at the track!