08-03 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
The last time DRR readers heard from me, I was broke down on my way to Huntsville, recollecting a month or so of life’s little adventures. All of the sudden, two months have passed here in Alabama--it doesn’t seem like long at all. The good news: I’m still here in Huntsville--I’ve still got a job. I’ve been keeping a pretty hectic schedule of work and racing, and in the meantime messing with various projects. Plus, I’m also in the early stages of shopping for a house. I guess we can start this off right where I left off, at that faithful truck stop in Union, Alabama.
Bones picked me up in Paul Russell’s ramp truck, and we made a beeline for Huntsville Dragway for their regular Saturday night program. This provided my first opportunity to run my footbrake wagon, as we’d finished it up the day I left home. Results were pleasing enough; a 7.51 ET, and a couple pretty consistent runs before the rains came. Following my first week of work, I loaded up the wagon once again and set out for a drag strip I’d never heard of prior to that morning: Sand Mountain Dragway in Section, AL. Sand Mountain was a real good time, although I didn’t end up with the desired result--3rd round in Pro and 4th in Footbrake.
A trip back to Huntsville in the wee hours was followed by the $20,000 footbrake race that Saturday. I have always thought of myself as a decent footbrake racer. Not great, but certainly competitive.....Then I came to Alabama. These guys are for real. I double entered the wagon in the $20,000 and the $10,000 the next day, but to no avail. The only damage I did (which was minimal in itself) was in my dragster, as I got down to about 10 cars each day.
Next up was an IHRA points meet in Clay City, Kentucky that brought nothing substantial to report. I broke my undefeated streak in Andy Anderson’s Chevy II that I’ve renamed “The baddest door car in the country” when I took a little too much stripe second round and broke out by .001. I don’t remember what I did in Top Dragster, but I do remember heading for Huntsville following the second frame.
Clay City was followed up by what may been the least successful weekend I’ve ever endured at the race track. July 4th weekend always bring a slew of big dollar bracket races, including the B&M Series staple event at Huntsville Dragway. Heck, I’ve even won a day of the event before. This year’s race brought four $10,000 to win events, plus $1,000 to win footbrake each day. To make a long story short, I won one round in seven attempts in my dragster. That’s a round win percentage of 14% for those of you keeping score at home. I don’t ever remember taking that type of whipping for that many consecutive days. I went a few rounds in the wagon, but not enough to dampen the blows laid on me in the dragster. The only good news of the weekend: Kari was in town. I know I’ve said it before, but life is a little easier to take with a tall blonde around.
Following the Huntsville debacle, I set out for Bowling Green and the Tenn-Tuck series, only to find my performance level not increasing. In the big race at Bowling Green, I lost first round, first round, and third round. The weekends only highlight was a quarterfinal finish in the Saturday duck race. This was about the most miserable feeling I’ve had racing. I’ve got a great car. I haven’t hurt anything in months, and the thing runs the number every lap. I’m not driving terribly--I’m just making mistakes at the wrong times, and drawing the wrong opponents when I’m on. I’ve gone almost a month without earning so much as a check in the dragster. I don’t mean to sound cocky or above a poor performance, but I’m not sure that’s ever happened before.
The following weekend Bones and I packed up together, and set out for the fifty grander in Michigan. The fifty is awesome--great facility, good people, and some of the toughest competition in the country. In Thursday’s $5,000 race, my luck finally turned and I started to warm up. Although I can’t say that I did a spectacular job of driving, I can say that it worked out, as I beat out a red lighting Gary Williams in the final for the big check. It almost worked out perfectly, as my traveling partner and newfound teammate Bones Ewing made it to the semi’s, only to lose to Gary. Nearly an all Huntsville Engine final.
The rest of the weekend didn’t go quite as well, as I was knocked off in the fourth round each day. In the fifty, I’m .499 to my opponent’s .548--beautiful. Bones went a bunch of rounds but was unable to capitalize with a big check. This weekend was one of my first tastes of working for a living, as we tandem drove all the way back, to roll into the shop parking lot at 6:30. An hour later, we were in the office taking calls.
Following the Michigan trip, I was able to enjoy a weekend away from the track, and took advantage of it by meeting Kari and Mom in Shreveport and spending the weekend. Don’t get me wrong-I love racing. And I like my new job a lot, as it centers around the sport that I love. But it sure is nice to not think about it for a few days and relax. The only competition of the weekend was a go-kart race at the local fun center, which whether Kari likes to admit it or not--I won.
Next on the Huntsville Engine racing team docket was the “Hottest Deal in Drag Racing”, which may as well have been called the hottest damn weekend on earth. Chris and Anthony threw three $10,000 to win races, plus $1K in footbrake, and it sounded like a good time. Probably would have been a good time too, were it not for really hot and sticky whether and an untimely generator failure in the ole’ beave’. Yep, leave it to the Beave’ to pick the hottest weekend of the summer to let me down. Special thanks to Bones and Hugh Meeks for giving me a cool place to sleep throughout the weekend. Racing didn’t go particularly well, save for a runner-up in footbrake in the Friday race. The wagon is really coming along, and I feel competitive in it in any class--stay tuned for good things to come. On the other side of the coin my dragster was very, very good, and I drove it very, very poorly.
Onward and upward to the Memphis Mega 10’s event, and three more days of $10,000 to win. This week, however, brought the twist of the new LED bulbs in the tree--my second experience with them. In my humble opinion, Stephen Hughes said it best... “STUPID LIGHT BULBS!” I hate ‘em--but probably not for the reason you think. I was good on the tree all weekend. I double clutched and was .528 Sunday, but other than that I think my worst bulb was .514. Obviously I hit the LED tree consistently. But so does everyone else! You can’t miss the darn thing unless you’ve got your eyes closed. There is no reason for everyone not to be .50 on that tree. Add that to the fact that we’re 1/8th mile bracket racing and everyone’s got good cars, and now we’re flipping coins between my .012 package and my opponent’s .010. I guess you could say that the LED tightens up competition. Heck, it may be good for the sport--kind of like the advent of electronics; it helps to level the playing field. For me, however, it stinks because I feel like I’m better than most on the standard tree, but that window closes in on me with the LED. I’ll commence my whining by stating what I’m sure you could have concluded: I didn’t see fifth round all weekend.
After all that big money racing, I felt like it was time to get back to basics. Last weekend, I carried my little wagon to Sand Mountain again for their Friday program. I got whacked third round in footbrake with a tardy .550 reaction, and managed to get down to seven cars in Pro. There, I was .510, but took a minute of stripe and broke out opposite a 5.0 dragster. The next day, I made my way to “Good Times” Dragway, in Baileyton, AL. I was told for weeks that I’d never seen anything like Baileyton, and I’ll admit now that I haven’t--they certainly do things a little differently. But I will say that I had a good time at the “Good Times!” In action, I repeated my feat from the night before in Pro, with a .508 followed by a minute and a half of stripe for the L in the fourth round. In footbrake, I staged up for the fifth round before turning on the porch light with a .498.
I like my little wagon...a lot. In fact, I’d almost venture to say that you won’t see me at the track without it very often the rest of the season. My dragster is a super throw-down piece, but I haven’t had much luck in it lately. Hopefully things will make a turn for the better. Coming up I’ve got the World Nationals at Norwalk on my schedule, followed by the Atlanta B&M, a Super Eliminator race at Montgomery, and a couple weeks of local racing before the Million Dollar Race in Memphis. If you don’t see me somewhere on that stretch, you’ll hear from me next month, right here on Dragraceresults.com. And if you’re searching for the right high performance parts at a fair price, please call me at Huntsville Engine-888-534-4372!