10-03 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
I told ya things would get better
My last column concluded with an unsuccessful outing at the “Hottest Deal in Drag Racing” at Montgomery Motorsports Park and my first trip to the “Good Times” locally. As I mentioned at the end of the column, the coming weeks would be a good time to get on a roll as some big events were coming up. Well, without trying to boast anymore than absolutely necessary, I did catch that wave of good fortune at just about the most opportune time. The last six weeks or so have been very good, now hopefully I can carry it through the final Tenn-Tuck Series event this weekend, and into the winter series in Florida.
The hot streak got started at my favorite racing facility on earth--Norwalk Raceway Park. Kari flew into town, and we made the trek north with a full (and I mean absolutely full) trailer. In addition to my dragster and Andy Anderson’s Chevy II and my normal array of spare parts, I had four complete engines to deliver in Norwalk, and a truckload of parts for our customers here at Huntsville Engine. I’m not sure I’d have passed a load rating, and I sure didn’t want to cross any scales, but we made the trip uneventfully, and got all of our guys their parts and pieces in time to race.
The World Nationals is in my opinion the coolest race on earth, and I’ve had an absolute blast in my two years of attendance. Kari and I had a great time, and I had a good outing, making the final of Quick Rod, only to get tossed under the bus by my good friend Troy Williams, Jr. We were close on the tree in the final (I think my .411 to his .415), and I couldn’t catch all of his 15mph drop--he stopped to a perfect 8.90 and left me under at 8.88. A good outing and a good payday nonetheless, although I feel like my favorite little facility owes me a W. That marks my third trip to Norwalk--my worst finish is a semi-final, but I’ve yet to get a win. Maybe next year!
After a long trip home in the wee hours, and an eventful week at work, I headed off to Atlanta for the annual B&M Labor Day event in the company of good buddies: Bones, Lucas Bendall, and Paul Russell. The weekend brought some severe highs and lows. Saturday night was certainly the low point--our good friend Jared Pennington was driving Bones new plush ‘67 Camaro and got literally run over by some guy in an Austin or Anglia or some such. The Camaro was beat up pretty bad, but Jed was fine--and that’s all that really matters. The car is at Ricky Jones’ shop now, getting fixed back up for next season.
Sunday, on the other hand, brought a major high for me. Things just clicked in both cars, and before I knew it I was in the footbrake final with my new wagon, and the Pro final in my dragster. Add to that the fact that this was a bonus race (thanks to a rainout earlier in the season), and the winners purse was $1500 and $15,000 respectively, and all of the sudden I was having a career day. My final round opponent in footbrake red-lit, so I was one “W” away from one of the most extraordinary feats a guy could imagine-a double win at a B&M race. Unfortunately, I got a little too greedy in the Pro final, and gave the stripe up by .001 to Jeff Adkinson. At any rate, it was still one of my most successful and more importantly, most lucrative days at the race track.
The next morning, I packed up Andy’s Chevy II and my wagon and headed to Sand Mountain Dragway for the Phillip Owens Memorial event. Mr. Owens was the track operator, and also raced a rear engine dragster. The week prior, he was killed in a racing accident at the track. I didn’t fair well that night, but racing wasn’t really what it was all about. The donations, friendship, and fellowship among the racing community was astounding and admirable. I hope the event helped the Owens family and close friends deal with the healing process, and I’m proud to say that I was there to be a small part of it.
The next weekend, I chased the rain. Quickly, since it’s not even remotely exciting, I drove to Montgomery for a Super Eliminator race Saturday morning, to watch it rain. When the race was cancelled, A.J. Ashe and I drove to Chilton County, where I broke a mini-spool in the wagon, and a man crashed and took out over 10 sections of concrete guardrail. We waited around for a couple hours before punting and heading back to Montgomery. There, (Newsflash) it was still raining. The next morning the weekend was cancelled, and I continued my Alabama tour, making a beeline to Alabama International Dragway in Steele. There, I was in fifth round late Sunday night when (surprise) it began to rain. My weekend take? $135 worth of split at Steele....sweet.
All the while, I’ve been working on a new Joe Monden built slip joint dragster for Danny Sons of Dragraceresults.com. The week following the rain, I stepped up the program on it to try and get it done in time to test a little bit before the Million Dollar Race. I got the car fired following an “all-nighter” at about 1 o’clock Saturday afternoon. I immediately threw both cars into the trailer and set out for U.S. 43 Dragway in Lawrenceburg, TN. There, they had a “Double-Dip” race as they call it--basically two races in one day ($1000 to win the first, and $2500 to win the nightcap).
I rolled in the gate in time to make one time run before the first race, and elected to just run Danny’s car to see if I could get it halfway worked out. I didn’t win a round, but I was fairly impressed with the car, and only made some minor adjustments. In the night race, things got a lot better. The new car proved it’s worth, and the ‘ole reliable Miller was as nasty as ever. Seven rounds later, I was driving the only two cars left standing, and (track operator) Wally Kornegay brought me the winner and runner-up purse. I’ve run myself in the final once before, but to pull it off on the first night out with a new car was a lot more than I ever expected. I’ll let Danny plug all the folks who helped make that happen, but I will say that it’s a very nice racecar, and obviously works extremely well.
The following weekend was the big go. The biggest race we run. The one event all season that will change someone’s life: The Million Dollar Drag Race. I had two dragsters in the arsenal, as Danny summoned me to continue in the Monden car, and I felt like I was on as good a roll as a guy could be entering the event. The first two days didn’t bring anything great. I did drive Paul Russell’s roadster to a semi-final finish in the Jeg’s Clash footbrake race, and then nearly spun out the same car in the fourth round of the twenty grander that night. Lots of folks saw it, and lots of people came by concerned. My best explanation?? I wrecked my &%*$ off, I just didn’t hit anything. I got it out of the groove early in the run and went for a ride. My fault completely. I’m just fortunate to come out of it, and not tear up my buddies car.
Saturday brought the biggest payday in drag racing. Unfortunately, that check didn’t have my name on it. Third round in Danny’s car, I was -.001 red opposite Jason Lynch. Jason had a very “Un-Jason Lynch” run beside me, but his bulb was green, and since I like him I won’t mention the particulars. Either way, my day was done in that ride. In my car I really felt good on the tree, and things seemed to be falling into place. I got down to twenty cars, deep enough to start thinking about some serious change, only to turn on the porch lamp yet again with a -.003. My cut of the pie was $3000--not bad, paid for the weekend in that car. The next round losers got $14,000. See what I mean?
Sunday, I went a few rounds in both cars. I lost a real good race to Rusty Ashmore in my car fifth round, and drove Danny’s car into the semi-finals. There, I laid down a run that I’d take just about anytime, opposite anyone. I was .510, and took .005 stripe. My opponent laughed at that sub-par package with a .502 induced .010 over lap. My check after splits and all was $3600. The runner-up got $12,000. A good weekend to be sure, but as the story goes: two rounds away....
This brings us nearly up to date. Last weekend I made my way to Gateway Int’l Dragway in St. Louis for the Dragraceresults.com/Citgo Racing Series World Finals. A friendly game of “Tiger Woods” on play station with Fuq, ‘lil Strick, and Bendall was my only win of the weekend, as the competition on the race track kicked my tail. I wandered into the quarterfinals of no-box one day in the wagon, and had a nice .011 package light up in the other lane. That was about it. I lost more rounds than I won. I drove so poorly that I was genuinely concerned about children playing near the street on my way home.
That’s the latest. I’m on the horn with Bones, getting updated on the annual cluster that is the Dallas National event, and getting ready to head to Bowling Green for the final Tenn-Tuck event of the season. After Tenn-Tuck, I’ve got a couple weeks off before the Super Pro and Footbrake Challenges at Montgomery, and the Florida Winter Series. With any luck, maybe this current run of fortune will hold out--it could be a real good winter with a couple more $10,000 checks in the account! As always, thanks for reading and be sure to check in next month.
And of course, I’ve got to give some credit to the fine folks that make my racing possible: Huntsville Engine & Performance, Bill Taylor Engineering, Barry Grant Inc. which includes Demon Carburetion, Nitrous Works, and Barry Grant Fuel Systems, Miller Race Cars, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, MSD Ignition, Autometer Precision Instruments, K&R Performance Products, Brodix Cylinder Heads, M2 Race Systems, Goza Racing Products, Optima Batteries, 76 Racing Fuel, Q-Stitch, Moser Engineering, Afco, Valvoline, Pyroil, and Dragraceresults.com.