3-08 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
We refer to the months of December and January as the “off-season” in racing, although this season it sure didn’t seem like much of break. It seems every year that the season lasts longer, and starts earlier, and in those few precious weeks in between it seems like I stack more and more projects onto my workload every season. In short, I feel like I haven’t taken a breath from 2007, and here we are knee-deep in 2008! But it’s always fun, and in my case at least it always seems to be fairly entertaining. Here are some highlights from the last three months!
I ended the 2007 season with a complete beat-down at the Footbrake race at Piedmont Dragway. It was fairly obvious that my venerable Vega needed some serious TLC (the poor girl was rode hard and put up wet in 2007 to be sure). So after Piedmont it got stripped (and I mean stripped). At one point, it was a frame and a short block: no heads, no oil pan, no trans & converter, no rear-end, no suspension… nothing but frame and short block. It got completely revamped in December, as I’ll get into details a little later in the column.
When I went to Piedmont, I swung by Race Tech’s shop and picked up the new dragster that I was fortunate enough to win as the 2007 DragRaceResults.com Bracket Series CSR Super Pro Champion. That’s a pretty awesome deal: I picked up a $50,000 dragster, complete with an all-aluminum 565 cubic inch engine from Nesbitt Performance. It would’ve been nice to race the car some this season; but conflicting marketing agreements and the need for some cash flow (more the ladder) forced the machines sale--it found a good home last month.
The DRR Champ Car--what an awesome prize for claiming the national points title!
Early December brought the annual Performance Racing Industry show in Orlando, FL. PRI is a big deal for me: I get real busy putting together sponsorship proposals for racers going to the event (PRI has become the mecca for putting together marketing agreements it seems--basically because it creates an opportunity for racers (as well as track operators, small business owners, etc.) to have one-on-one conversations with industry leaders). Plus, PRI is a lot of fun for me, as I get to catch up with most of my own marketing partners, some of whom I only get to see once a year. Most importantly, however, it’s a good excuse to go to Florida in December!
Once we got our business done, my buddy Troy Williams, Jr. and I headed out of Orlando to his home town of Bradenton. I decided to take a couple days off and spend some time in B-town; I’ve got a lot of friends down there, and it was Jason Folk’s 25th birthday (as if I really needed a good reason to hang out in Florida for a few more days). Jason’s party was great: we rented a party bus that took our group (of 20 or so) to Channel side (a group of bars and clubs in Tampa), and eventually brought us back to Bradenton (although that part is a little foggy). As always, I had a great time down South, and after a day or two in de-tox, I made my way back North for a dose of reality.
Some of the crew on the party bus. Good times, good times...
Back at home, the Vega project was in full swing. The struts were sent off for rebuilding, shocks went back to AFCO. Brian Folk and the crew at Folk Race Cars re-did the bottom 4-link bars, making me an “X-link” that allowed me to do away with the wishbone (and really stabilized the car on the starting line--the ‘X-link’ is probably the best thing I’ve ever done on the Vega-matic). I pulled the heads to seal a pesky water leak, and installed a new Milodon oil pan (the old one was wrecked in the last wheelie episode). I ordered all new heim joints and rod ends from Jeg’s, and did some chassis updates all over the car. The guys at BTE went thru the trans and converter, and I made a bunch of small changes to try to get the Vega ready for IHRA Hot Rod competition, as IHRA racing will be my main focus in 2008.
Also, the off season kicked off a first for me: a health kick! Toward the end of the season it dawned on me that I was friggin’ fat. I mean, I’ve always been a big guy, but I let it get a little out-of-hand. So, I started a pretty strong regimen of working out and eating right while I was home for winter. The results have been fantastic: I’m down 32 pounds since November (which, as my buddy Jed was quick to point out--is like losing a battery!), and I feel great! I still want to knock off a little more weight, but I know it will be a lot harder during the race season.
Meanwhile, I was busy in the office finalizing marketing commitments for 2008. I am extremely proud to bring CSR Performance Products and Mickey Thompson Tires back onboard as my major marketing partners once again in 2008. It’s very rewarding to know that our alliance has been as beneficial to them as it has to me--and I couldn’t race at this level without their support. Plus, I can’t think of two companies I’d rather be involved with. Both CSR and MT manufacture quality products that I depend on, and they’re both run by quality people that I trust--I’m so fortunate to be associated with both companies.
In fact, I’m proud to say that each and every one of my marketing partners from 2007 is back onboard for 2008--nobody fired me! In a questionable economy with an uncertain future, I think that is a huge accomplishment! As such, I’m proud to welcome back Bill Taylor Engineering, Rockett Brand Racing Fuel, and American Race Cars as associate marketing partners, and I’m ecstatic to add Jeg’s Mail Order to that group. I’ve been affiliated with Jeg’s for a couple years, and we’ve really stepped up our alliance for 2008--it’s all about the yellow and black! I’ve used BTE products exclusively for nearly a decade now, and those of you who have dealt with the crew at BTE know that their customer service is unmatched; what a great group of guys to work with. I’ve been fortunate to grow with Rockett and American over the years, as I got involved with both companies essentially at their inception, and I think both relationships have been mutually beneficial.
In addition to those companies, I also want to welcome back Milodon, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, Brodix Cylinder Heads, AFCO, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Advanced Product Design, Nitroplate, K&R Performance Engineering, Auto Meter, B&M Performance, Figspeed.com, ISC Racer’s Tape, Goza Racing Products, and Dixie Performance Products, and thank them for all their help and support.
New to the Bogacki Motorsports fold for 2008 are a handful of great companies I really look forward to working with. I’m happy to welcome Moser Engineering back aboard. I’ve run Moser products for years, and I’m excited to help market their fine company once again. These guys pour $50,000 into IHRA sportsman racers hands every season with the Moser Axle Mania Shootout, how awesome is that? Back in 2004 I was fortunate enough to compete in that event (I was runner-up to Slate Cummings), and believe me, it’s a big deal! In addition to the huge cash up for grabs, the guys at Moser and IHRA treat you like royalty for the weekend--it’s a really neat deal to be a part of.
In addition to Moser Engineering, I’m happy to work with K&N Engineering and Nitrous Express in 2008. The K&N name has been synonymous with high performance for years, and the crew at Nitrous Express is going to help me with a Top Dragster combination this season to make sure I can be competitive with the 32-car qualified fields.
Speaking of 32-car qualified fields, my boys at Huntsville Engine are working at a fever pitch finishing up my new Brodix 12 degree 582 for the dragster. I’m supposed to pick it up tomorrow morning, and I’m jacked up about having some steam behind me! I think I mentioned it at the end of last season, but all my “big motor” experiment with Jason Lynch and Bullet Motorsports at the winter series accomplished was forcing me to get off my wallet and spend some money: I like going fast! And this new bullet should allow me to do that every week.
Anyhow, back to the winter projects… In addition to the Vega teardown, my buddy Bryan Robinson and I decided to partner up on a Stock eliminator machine for 2008. Bryan has had a ‘69 Nova for a few years that he and his wife Cassie have played around with in Footbrake and Pro around home. With the help of chassis guru Matt Tinnin and engine builder Brian Rogers, we have converted it into a Stock eliminator machine. The car has an aluminum headed 396, which puts it into A and B/SA in both sanctioning bodies. Bryan and I have thrashed on this thing all winter, but it’s real close to hitting the track. In fact, we hope to test this weekend, and if all goes well I’ll make my ‘08 Stock debut (not really my overall debut--I dabbled in Stock when I was 16 and 17 years old) at San Antonio next weekend.
Of course, I had the normal updates to perform on my American Race Cars Swing Arm dragster, and I had some finish work to do on the DRR Championship Race Tech dragster as well. As if that weren’t enough, I decided to buy a new trailer too. New to me, at least. I purchased a 50’ Performax living quarters trailer from Bryan. It’s by far the nicest trailer I’ve ever owned. I think I spent WAY too much money for a trailer, but it’s what I wanted and you only live once, right?
I got the Vega ready for the Footbrake Shootout at Mobile in early January. Last season, my buddy Adam Davis and I kicked off what turned out to be banner seasons for each of us with back-to-back wins at Mobile. This year our outing wasn’t nearly as impressive. On Saturday I lost to a dragster that I joked ‘looked like it came out of Garlits’ Museum.’ Come to find out, the car is actually one of Connie Kalitta’s old fuel cars. He went on to win the five grander, and then won another five grander at Gulfport a month later--the Bounty Hunter himself would have to be proud!
Sunday things got a lot better, as I advanced to the final round. A second season-opening win was not in the cards, however, as Mark Taylor made the better of two less-than-impressive runs in the final round. I’m not real proud to say that .050 and dead-on beat me in the final, but those were the numbers. I was .030 and got myself all confused on the other end: one of those moments where my head was saying ‘take it’, and my feet were saying ‘dump’. I’m not real sure which one won the argument, and I think they cancelled each other out. I ended up .012 behind I think: not close enough to say I gave it back, and not far enough behind to say I dumped. Best explanation on that one: I fell out of the car. Kudos to Mr. Taylor though--he’s a super nice guy who has won a number of big Footbrake races and he earned the victory over a tough field at Mobile.
Once I got back home from a decent kickoff weekend down South, it was back to work on the Stocker, the trailer, the dragsters, you know the deal. In fact, despite the final round appearance I wasn’t real impressed with the Vega; so I made some fuel system and suspension adjustments on it as well.
Late in the month, we got a day of nice weather, and I had an opportunity to test at my home track, Sand Mountain Dragway. As always, a huge thank you to Jeff Rucks for opening his doors and allowing me to rent the track on a moment’s notice. The test session was going well--it seemed as though the Vega responded to my changes, but before I could put the throttle stop on and make some 7.00 runs in preparation for the IHRA season opener at Immokalee, I snapped an axle.
Seeing as the axles that were in the car were nearly as old as I am (they were stamped 1984), and I did make nearly 600 runs in the Vega last season alone, I don’t guess they owed me anything. Of all catastrophic parts failures to encounter, that was actually a really good one: I had my new set of Moser Axles sitting on the shelf (I had planned to install them later in the week), so I was up and ready to go again the next day.
In early February, I loaded up that new super throw down, double bad*%$ trailer, and headed South. I made a stop at Jeff Adkinson’s farm in Damascus (for those of you who are geographically challenged, that’s out there near BFE), GA to borrow and install a Huntsville Engine & Performance 555 in the dragster. We made the decision to build the 582 late in the winter, and sold the 565 I ran last season; so Bones and Andy didn’t have a motor for me to kick off 2008 with. Jeff came to the rescue, as we installed his spare piece for the opening Florida tour.
The next day, Jason Lynch and I tested at beautiful South Georgia Motorsports Park. Although rain cut our test session short, we both got valuable data that morning, and I had confidence that I had two competitive cars for the IHRA race at Immokalee that weekend.
I broke up the trip to IRR with a stop at Randy Folk’s place in Bradenton--which was a popular hangout that night, and for the next two weeks. I think Randy had over a dozen rigs parked on his property at times, and it seemed like it was a non-stop party. Gotta love that! Once we got to Immokalee on Thursday, I got teched in Top Dragster and Hot Rod, and made a few runs in each car. Bryan flew in to be the BTE rep, and stayed with me in the trailer--that was great because it was really my first trip with it, and I had him there to show me how everything worked. Plus, he was around for “warranty work” on the few things that didn’t work.
The race at Immokalee was awesome: 2 Pro-Am events and a sportsman national event in one weekend. Talk about a racer friendly program in a day of $3.60-a-gallon diesel fuel--three points earning events in one trip! The weekend started out good: Friday, I advanced to the semi-finals in Top Dragster Friday before falling to Edmond Richardson. And, I made it to the final in Hot Rod before turning it red beside Tim Butler.
The Mickey Thompson Vega after a final round red light at Immokalee: Right to Left that's BFolk, yours truly, our IHRA division director Frank Kohutek, my buddies Todd Thompson (who won Super Rod) and Mike Ferarro with his kids. Photo courtesy of BME Photography.
The Top Dragster field was absolutely sick: about 50 cars, and probably 45 of them were all-stars. On Friday, my road to the semi’s had to go thru Thomas Hester, Brian Folk, Jason Folk, and Scotty Richardson… Only to square off with some no name they called Edmond in the semi’s. Hot Rod wasn’t any easier: I didn’t know my opponents by name (except Butler--a guy, like Edmond, who is a legend in the sport), but they made some nasty runs beside me.
The level of competition definitely came to my attention the rest of the weekend; as I didn’t get past the third round in either category. In Hot Rod, Lee Neal single-handedly wrecked my weekend. On Saturday, we ran first round, where I’m .012 take .007... And in the way. On Sunday, in the national event, we square of in round three, where I’m .006 and drop to 7.011. He’s .001 and 7.008--great! I will say that the Vega really impressed me on the stop, and I felt like I drove very, very well all weekend. I’d like to think if those two factors keep up I’ll be competitive in the Hot Rod category this season, but it sure didn’t prove to be a recipe for success in Immokalee!
Top Dragster was more of the same, I drove pretty decent and got smacked around. Scotty Richardson put on a show (remember him--yea, he don’t suck) with Top Dragster wins on Saturday and Sunday plus a Super Stock win on Sunday. All in all, I couldn’t be too disappointed with my opening IHRA performance, but I drove away feeling like I deserved better. It’s a long season, and we’ll see what the next event brings!
I got to hang out in Bradenton the following week, as I stayed over for the opening NHRA race the following weekend. There, I ran Super Comp and Super Gas. I had a great setup in the Vega: I ran it wide open until almost 1000 ft, then shut it off on the throttle stop. The result: 9.90 @ 118 mph--judge that boys! Of course, first round I mangled that up, despite having an unbelievably consistent wheelie truck. I had to run Al Kinney first round (number 7 on the scoop--good draw, huh?), in his 170 mph roadster. We’re close off the line (I think he was .012 and I was .018), and I’m set up to go 9.89. As we cruise on down thru there, and I go on the stop, I’m thinking he’s gonna get by me by plenty. So, I jump on the over-ride. About the time I let it go he drops. In a panic move, I stand on the brakes and slide thru: .020 ahead to be 9.893 (he‘s 9.92, which looks real impressive on the scoreboard: .89 to .92). I was going 9.898 (as advertised) if I never grab the over-ride. Brilliant!
This little girl is the coolest chick I've met in awhile. Her name is Sami Jo--she belongs to Gary William's girlfriend Tami Jo. Here we are on our way to Sunshine Friday night during the Bradenton points meet. Thanks Shorty for the picture!
In Super Comp I got thru a couple rounds, only to get cracked by a .013 package in round three. That was pretty much the story of the trip: make good runs, get my butt kicked anyways. We even snuck up to Sunshine Dragway in St. Petersburg for a bracket race Friday night: there, I’m .009 third round and not involved (opponent has a .008 package). I think it was ‘Kick Luke while he’s down’ week in Florida!
After the 12 hour ride back to Woodville, it was back to work on the Stocker. I took one weekend off to try to get it ready, then went to Montgomery Motorsports Park for the opening “Super 7 Series” event last weekend. There, I got crushed repeatedly in the dragster (in the last beating I laid down a .000, take .009 lap for the ‘L’), but had a good weekend in the Vega in Footbrake. I’ve really got it working well--I’m so happy with all the changes over the winter. On Saturday night, my last five runs were 3.909 or 3.910 to 330’, which would be phenomenal from my dragster (it’s just downright dirty in the Vega). I made it to the finals to face off with Doyle Kay. There, I’m .024, take .008 and Doyle just looks at me as if to say “Is that all you got?” He’s .024 and dead-on with a 5, handing me my third runner-up of the young 2008 season.
My final round misery was short-lived however, as the next day I avenged myself with a Footbrake win in the Mickey Thompson Vega. I had to run some of the toughest Footbrake racers at the track (probably in the country) throughout the weekend, so back-to-back finals felt really good. I wrecked the tree (although I wasn’t particularly impressive at the finish line), and the Vega was unreal--so it worked out well.
My boy Bones, track operator Jim Howard, and my friends Dude Moore and Jim Griffith joined me in my first Winner Circle of '08 in Montgomery. Photo courtesy of Lifetime Photography.
Now I’m back home tying up some loose ends. Like I said earlier, the plan is to test the Stocker and the dragster with the 582 this weekend (and maybe Monday). Assuming all goes well, I’ll be headed to Texas for about a month. I’ll kick off the trip with the IHRA Pro-Am in San Antonio, followed by the NHRA National event at Houston, and concluding with the IHRA “Double” National at San Antonio before returning home. Thanks again to all of you for reading--and thanks to all my friends and marketing partners for all their help and support!