12-07 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
I’m going to kick this column off with the two words I’ve used to start every season-ending column for the past 7 years: It’s Over!!! I know, it’s mid-December, and it’s been over for awhile. But hey, I’ve been busy. Okay, maybe I’m just lazy. At any rate, here’s some material for your next trip to the commode from the months of October and November.
I left off last column after running my buddy Adam Davis in an epic 15-second final round at Middle Tennessee Dragway at their annual footbrake race. The following weekend I headed to Bowling Green, KY for the final Tenn-Tuck event of the 2007 season. That race was my debut with a Bullet Motorsports/Huntsville Engine 632 between the framerails of my CSR Performance Products American dragster. Basically, I wanted to step up the program for the winter series in Florida (I ran 7.60’s in Florida last year, and at Atco this summer--my only quarter mile event of the season, and frankly I got sick of looking over my shoulder all week), and as usual Mike Dzurilla and Jason Lynch at Bullet Motorsports came to the rescue.
The first day at Bowling Green brought my first 4.6 second timeslip (at least in my own car--I’m pretty sure I’ve been 4.50-something before in other whips), and basically an expensive test session. I had a lot of chassis setup issues that were never really brought to light until I got some power in the pipes, and it took me (with the assistance of Jason Lynch) a day or two to get things sorted out. Saturday was better, as I went a couple rounds in both the main event and the little bucks race, and really felt competitive. In fact, all this whole experiment is going to do is cost me a bunch of money. In seven laps in the daylight, I was on a 4.64 every run: with the 330’ times varying just .002! I never realized you could make something that fast run that consistent!
Sunday, things got interesting... In the second round of the big race, the driveshaft yolk broke at the finish line in a winning effort. In retrospect, this was all my fault: in all of the suspension changes the day before, I had extended the four link bars and pulled the driveshaft too far out of the transmission--of course, at the time I didn’t know that...
At any rate, I get a tow back to the trailer and survey the damage. All things considered, it’s not too bad: The driveshaft is obviously destroyed, and what was left of the yolk was somewhere in the shut down area. It ripped one engine limiter completely in two, and left a couple dents in the driveshaft loop. The tailhousing cover on the transmission was also completely destroyed. I yank that tail cover off, to find that I could freely turn the output shaft (I was actually convinced that something was broke in the transmission until that point). So, in the heat of the moment, I decide that if I can get another driveshaft in it, I can make third round (it doesn‘t really dawn on me that I‘ll have the same problem with a new driveshaft).
I take a moped ride to Don Strickland’s pit. As I pull up to his trailer, he’s walking into the motorhome to head back to Alabama.
Me: “Hey Don, I need a favor.”
Don: “Whatcha need?”
Me: “The driveshaft out of your American car”
There was more conversation, but it ended with me crawling up onto the upper deck of Don’s trailer and removing the driveshaft from his car that was strapped down and ready to head home. Thanks Don!
With the help of Jason, John Labbous, Jr., Gary Williams, and others, we got that driveshaft installed and I made the end of third round. That began a wild progression of amazing rounds that I never should have won. By days end, the yolk on the new driveshaft is so wore out I can wiggle it on the output shaft--probably not the safest thing in the world. I stopped doing burnouts in the quarterfinals, because I was scared to death I’d break it and not be able to stage.
All the while, Jason is my biggest coach: “Don’t worry, it’ll make three more runs. Just race.” And for some reason, that made me feel more comfortable. Of course, in retrospect, what else is he going to tell me?
The next thing I know, beyond all odds and most logic, I’ve managed to make the final alongside Aaron McCaulla. We did kick back a little extra to the runner-up, but not as much as normal, because Aaron was convinced that I was broke--which I was, sort of--but I felt like I could get from A to B.
I don’t suppose that you can speak to a machine and it can hear you, or comprehend just what you’re begging of it. But as we pulled under the bridge for the final, I sure was trying:
“C’mon baby, just get down thru here one time. He knows you’re hurt, and he’s gonna be junk--you just gotta get me down thru here. C’mon baby. C’mon baby.”
I doubt that had any effect on the outcome, but it’s true and I thought I’d throw it in for good measure. As it went, I drove around the water for the third consecutive round, staged it up, and absolutely missed the tree. Luckily for me, Aaron was worse; I roll up early (“C’mon baby”), and roll him thru .005 to kick on a winlight that was met with a combination of laughing, yelling, screaming, and maybe even a little cussing as my wounded whip shimee’d thru the shutdown area. That was, by far, the craziest event win of my life.
On a side note: how about my American Race Car and Mickey Thompson Tires? Running 4.6’s, with a 1.07 60’, it repeats within .004 to the 330’ on the last four runs that I went that far under power... And two of those were without the benefit of a burnout!
Next up, I loaded up the Vega and headed to Montgomery Motorsports Park for their annual Footbrake Showdown, which featured a 100% payback event on Saturday that promised to pay at least $30,000 to the winner. I guess I’ve been a little spoiled on the Footbrake and No Box front lately. Since the boys at Huntsville Engine remedied some engine trouble in the Vega over the summer, I got real hot in that car. I mean real hot. Starting at the World Footbrake Challenge at Bristol (in July), and coming into the event at Montgomery, I had not gone a single weekend of racing the Vega without staging it in the final. In fact, I had gone very few single days without doing so (it was really sick to be honest). Hello Reality!
At Montgomery, not only did I not appear in a final round, I failed to win the fifth round of competition on any day of the three-day race: and I had two entries in every event! Doyle Kay reminded everyone he’s still the baddest man around by completely dominating the weekend with back-to-back victories in Friday’s 10-grander and Saturday’s main event. His show doesn’t get on the road much anymore, but that guy is nasty!
Next up, I took a weekend off to gear up for what promised to be a grueling November tour: The plan was to enter 37 classes in 16 race days over an eighteen day span that included events in Kennedale, TX, Bradenton, FL, West Palm Beach, Fl, and Valdosta, GA. My buddy Jason decided to sell that 632 that I liked so much, so I got to jerk it out of the car, and install another mountain-motor from the Bullet camp: this one a 12 degree 622.
After nearly a full day of loading about 20 pounds of race cars and support equipment into a 10 pound box (that “box” being the Bullet Motorsports Gold Rush Stacker--as for the second consecutive season I teamed up with Jason for the November tour), Jason Lynch and I set out for the season ending DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series event at Texas Raceway--my old stomping grounds! Texas Raceway has a lot of sentimental value to me: I practically grew up there. My family lived about four miles from the track, and I literally spent every moment I could at the facility in my youth. I even mowed the grass and picked up trash a couple summers in Jr. High just so I could be there. In 1996, when I was fifteen, I got a hardship license and raced an old Nova at Kennedale every time they swung open the gates. I love that place.
My first return trip to Kennedale (well, I did make the tow in July, but we got rained out) was a big one. I came into the event leading the DragRaceResults.com points series in both Super Pro and Sportsman, and there was a lot on the line: a new turnkey Race Tech dragster to the Super Pro Champion, and a 540 cubic inch engine in Sportsman. In Super Pro, I was out of claims, but I’d set the bar pretty high. A handful of competitors were certainly within reach, however, which didn’t sit too well with me. In Sportsman, I had a more comfortable lead, and I had two races left to claim, but hometown boy Jeremy Hefler had me concerned because I know he’s capable of running the table, especially at Texas Raceway.
The weekend started off really well: I won the Sportsman event on Thursday, and got the semi-finals in Super Pro before screwing up the finish line .001 against my good buddy Dan Wheeler. The sportsman win locked up the championship in that class, which was awesome. And, Greg Brotherton was now the only competitor who could catch me in Super Pro, and he would have to dominate the remainder of the weekend to do so.
Friday, I found my way the final once again in the Vega, but I couldn’t get by Jeremy Hefler in a good race. I don’t remember what I did in Super Pro, but I’m quite certain it wasn’t impressive. More concerning than my poor performance was Brotherton’s stellar one: he laid down sub-.010 seemingly every round en route to a runner-up finish, which kept his championship hopes alive. Granted, he would have to make the final on Saturday and Sunday to catch me, but after losing the title on a tie-breaker on the last day of the 2006 season, I’ll admit I had a pit in my stomach... “Oh no, not again...”
Saturday morning brought the annual Pro Bracket Masters Shootout, a $1,000-to-enter, 100% payback “Hi-Rollers” race. These races are a lot of fun--I really enjoy the electric atmosphere, and the pressure that comes along with having one shot for that kind of money. My buddy Daniel Gossett got “trapped” on vacation in Hawaii because of a tropical storm, so he couldn’t make the event--but his car, my old ‘06 American Dragster, was on the premises. He and I worked out an arrangement for me to enter his car, as well as my CSR Performance Products dragster in the shootout. In that race, I felt like I drove really well. I had both cars in with 10 left, where I got whacked in my car by Mr. Brotherton on a pretty good run.
With Daniel’s whip, I managed to advance to the final for a rematch with Big Poppa. When I tell you what happened, you’re going to think I’m an idiot, but here’s the situation: Greg has been beyond sick. He’s been .00 like the last 48 times he’s let go of the button; his car has been unbelievable; and he’s savvy enough that I can’t be real confident about what he’s going to do at the finish line. I feel like I have to be great to beat him. At ten cars, I was .001 on the tree. I felt like I wrecked it, so I put .001 in to run my buddy Jeremy Smith at 5. There, I’m .002, as advertised, and get the win. My lamp gets me the bye to the final, which I don’t make (because Greg still had both of his cars in at three, so we both essentially had a single to the final). So, I feel like I have to be great in the final--and I leave the box alone, set up .002. When I turned it loose, I didn’t even look at the green. I stared at the red and dared it not to light--I knew I crushed it. Of course, that last bulb didn’t accommodate me, and I was -.002 for another big bucks runner-up.
In that evenings race, I advanced to the semi’s in Sportsman and the quarters in Super Pro before falling just short of the prize. The highlight, however, came earlier in the night, as Greg finally lost a round, in the fourth round, to clinch my national championship.
It was a long year, like chasing any points title usually turns out to be--and for me, it was like a 2-year quest with the way last season ended up, so to come out on top was extremely gratifying. More important than any of the money or the prizes was seeing so many friends genuinely happy for me: from all the folks back home at Kennedale, to all my friends who called with congratulations, to all the guys who stopped to shake my hand the following weeks in Florida--thank you. And a tip of the hat to Greg Brotherton, Brendan George, Robbie Mayse, Steven Adams, Jeremy Hefler, and all the guys who chased the series in 2007: coming out on top of a list of racers like that makes me realize just how much of a dream season it was for me!
Once I got ousted from competition, the championship party began. My West Texas brethren were out in full force, and I’d be lying if I said I remembered a whole lot about Saturday night. I’m told at one point that I left our table at Denny’s with as many glasses of Coke as I could hold, walked out the front door, spiked ‘em up in the parking lot, and brought them back to the table. Nice! Jason said I got back in the motorhome before sun up, which is good--someone was certainly looking out for me. I’m not one to make excuses, but Sunday I didn’t get out of the second round in either car. For whatever reason, I wasn’t feeling exceptionally well.
Sunday evening, Jason and I set out on a little jaunt from Kennedale to Bradenton, Florida where we would kick off the Florida winter series two days later. Those of you who have been longtime readers of this column, or have followed my career much, probably know that the winter series has been my Achilles heal. Every elite racer has bowed up and got it done in Florida: and most of them do it repeatedly. And I’ve never won an event down there (this would be my fourth Winter Series Appearance). I could win every other race in the country, and I’ll still never feel like my career is validated unless I win at Bradenton or Moroso: it’s the absolute toughest race in the world--nearly every great racer from all over the country is there. It’s quarter mile, which generally means you have to drive to win. In short, the cream rises every November, and I’ve never proven myself on that stage. This season I still didn’t earn my stripes, but I can say that I probably had my best Florida trip to date, at least in terms of on track success, and general competitiveness. This column is already running long, so I’ll try to condense this 12-day marathon as best I can.
Bradenton Day 1
I’m all jacked up to be in Florida--I’m going 7.1’s @ 186 on the long track--I’m clear headed and on top of my game. I start the tour by knocking off the great Pete Biondo first round, an accomplishment in itself, then go red to John Labbous in the second frame.
Race Tech Dragster Race
Still driving great--manage to hook Pete again in round 2 and win an awesome run: He’s .004, .001 under, I’m .002 take .002 to be dead-on with 0. I roll on thru the event, driving really well, and face Edmond Richardson in the final. There, I’m .003 and lose track of the finish line, giving it up .002 to cost me the digger.
Bradenton Day 2
Give the stripe back .000 first round--but hey, I’m seeing it and I feel confident... This is my year!
Eighth Mile Event
I rolled thru this down to about 16 cars or so before I completely goof on both ends and have to quit for the day.
Bradenton Day 3
I entered one of Mike Bloomfield’s dragster in the main event, in addition to mine. I’m red 3rd round in my car, and advance to the semi’s with Mike’s. This is my time, I’m finally gonna win one! In the semi’s, Ed Bousman and I are both .00 up front... I decide there’s not enough room ahead of him and drop, he’s dead-on. A good day, but I thought I was finally going to get one, so I took the loss pretty hard. Tracy Sons puts down .004 in the final to top Bousman.
Eighth Mile Event
To heck with the short track, I’m going to dinner!
Bradenton Day 4
I get to run Pete for a third time--what have our cars got, magnets? He whacks me first round in my car, I lose second round in Mikes. Made two good runs and got cracked-- Welcome to Florida.
Eighth Mile Event
Here I get down to six cars in the 5-grander where I find yet another way to lose. I’m set up to bump down (.007 in the bump), and I’ve got to run my buddy and two-time Million Dollar Race Winner Gary Williams. I turn it loose, grab a bump--but when I hit the bump I kind of caught the very edge of the button, and I wasn’t sure it registered... So I grabbed it again. Yea, it caught twice. I bumped .012 right thru .005 to -.002. The worst part? GW was .018, so my .012 was probably good. He rolls on to beat Steve Sisko in the final.
Bradenton Day 5
Bradenton comes to a less than spectacular ending: I lose first round in Nick Folk’s dragster, and Donny Urban makes me look like an idiot second round in my car. Did I say welcome to Florida? My traveling partner and good buddy Jason Lynch advances deep in eliminations for the fifth straight day to claim the Bradenton 5-day points title, despite not making a final. The party (for the second time in the last week), is on!
Moroso Day 1
I make a real good run first round and get a close win, then it rains. We’ll finish tomorrow: I’m still driving good, I’m going to win a day before I go home!
Moroso Day 1 (Continued)
Rained again most of the day, Day 1 event shortened to 1/8th mile. Second round Chris Reynolds shows me a .006 package with a 12 mph drop. I’m .00, but not ready for all that and look like a retard lighting it up .02 under on the board. I think I’ve been welcomed to Florida.
Moroso Day 2/3
Driving well in this race that’s now a 20-grander (day 2 and 3 purse combined), until third round. I run Randy Folk, who’s chasing me by very little (2 tenths). I’m .000 and take .060. I didn’t stutter.
First round I’m .008 to my opponents .080 (I didn’t stutter), and I kick the rods out at 200 feet. Jason left a day ago to go to the IHRA banquet (Top Sportsman World Champ), leaving me without a spare car, motor, etc. So, the plan for day four is to hop back into the Bloomfield machine that I drove in Bradenton for the last two days--then I’m riding with Jon Jon Ciccarone in Scotty Richardsons rig (Scotty also left Florida after winning the first day at Bradenton) to Valdosta, where I‘ll double with him before we head home.
Moroso Day 4
Donny Urban continues to dominate me, whipping me first frame. I’m over it--ready to go home.
Make it down pretty deep in this race before the human wrecking ball strikes again: the motor in Bloomfield’s car breaks a lifter. For a guy who’d gone five years without hurting a motor in my dragster, 2007 has made up for it: 6 engine failures of some type...
Moroso Day 5
I jump into Bloomfield’s “Top Fueler,“ that GW won the million in--Pete drives a circle around me with 16 cars left, which evens our score at 2-2. Luke Bogacki...
Valdosta Day 1:
Valdosta Day 2:
That should’ve stuck a fork in me, but as you know I’m a complete glutton for punishment. So, after a couple days and turkey dinner at home, I set out to Piedmont Dragway for the Footbrake Nationals with the Vega. There, the superlative driving performance that I displayed for the final week in Florida was back in full force. I had a real nice window on the tree: -.026 to .050, which didn’t get me anywhere. I’m really terrible.
My man Jared Pennington told me in Piedmont he had two goals: win the the 20 grander and get a mention in “On the Road.” I’m pretty sure he was messing with me, but here’s my chance to mess right back. I love me some short for his weight, Coalburg, AL living, deep staging, race promoting, .00 footbraking Jed--Love him! Seriously, Jed did win the 20--Jed is a real bad dude in a race car. If I’m not mistaken, he was worse than .018 once thru 12 rounds (double entered) in the main event--I can’t do that with a delay box! Then, my man proved that performance was no fluke--he made the final again on Sunday (I was 4 hours down the road by then on the heels of a stellar 0-4 performance), losing to another close friend of mine, Adam Davis, in a $10,000 final.
2007 was by far the best season of my racing career. It was also the first time that I kept really detailed notes all season. Some of you may find this mind numbing, but I though it was interesting. Wins: 22. Runner-Ups: 14. Semi-finals: 14. Quarterfinals: 20. Tracks Attended: 31. Miles Traveled: Alot, and that’s only an estimate. All told, I took 1156 rides down the race track. 319 of those were time trials or testing. Of the 837 competition runs I made, I won 582 of them, for a round win percentage of almost seventy percent. I will once again say that my 255 round losses almost certainly make me the losingest racer in the country for 2007!
Another little breakdown that I did for personal improvement (if you’re already yawning just skip to the next paragraph, it doesn’t get any better) is this. Of my 255 losses, I lost 25% of those on red-lights (I think that’s a pretty high number--but there‘s no way to count how many races I would have lost if I didn‘t set up so tight up front). I lost 16% on “late” lights (which I categorized as worse than .015 on the top, or worse than .030 on the bottom). I took too much stripe (over .010) 12% of the time, and gave it back (meaning I had room in front and got less than .005 behind) a whopping 19% of the time (there‘s an area that could use improvement!). Parts breakage cost me 13 rounds, which attributed for 5% of my whippings. And the other 23% of my losses came on what I called “good runs,” meaning that I didn’t really make a mistake, I just got throttled by a better run in the other lane.
Despite an absolutely great season, I headed home from Piedmont chewing on a healthy portion of “humble pie.” But that’s the way it goes--if it was easy, everyone would do it! Thanks for reading, I hope you all have a great holiday season! And, as always, please take an opportunity to support some of the great companies that help make my racing possible (most of them make products that would be awesome Christmas gifts!): CSR Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, Bill Taylor Engineering, Rockett Brand Racing Fuel, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Bullet Motorsports, 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.