10-07 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
Normally, this would be one of those columns that’s not real easy to read. As I’ve said before, these types of things are a lot more fun when the author is struggling--I think everyone can associate with that, and it’s nice to occasionally laugh “at” the writer rather than with him. Over the last six weeks I’ve been really fortunate on the race track--I’ve been on a roll nearly equal to the one that I started the season with (truthfully, 2007 has been an unbelievable year, and it’s really been good from start to finish). But rest assured--regardless of my on-track success, I’m still a knucklehead, which greatly increases the potential entertainment value of any story involving myself!
This month’s column kicks off with the DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series event at Tulsa Raceway Park at the end of August. I’ve made no qualms about the fact that my goal for the season is to win the DragRaceResults.com tour championship--and at this point that goal led me to back-to-back-to-back weekends in Tulsa, Abilene, TX, and Noble, OK. On the way to Oklahoma I had a blowout on the trailer. Actually, I don’t think “blowout” really describes it, I would say more appropriately that the tire “exploded.” I’ve gotten a few complaints from readers about the absurd length of my last few columns, so I’m going to condense this story a little. Tire explodes. Side of trailer ripped up pretty good. Explosion jars Vega loose in trailer. Decklid mounts break. Wing struts arc CSR Smart Start Box and nearly start a fire. I change tires, reload, and get back on my merry way to Tulsa.
Once I got to Tulsa it was hot. I know that’s a shocker for Oklahoma in August, but I thought it was worth mentioning, because it was pretty much miserable. In Saturday’s event, I was rolling along in Super Pro before engine problems knocked me out in round four. I managed a final round appearance in the Vega before getting smacked down by Oklahoma juggernaut Jay Bunce. I don’t remember the numbers, but Jay’s package was about 1/5th of my light... It was ugly.
Sunday, a couple of friends offered me Super Pro cars to drive, which I quickly accepted in lieu of triple entering the Vega. I put my points number on Rodney Frazier’s Mullis 4-link dragster, and used my second entry in David Bridgewater’s machine. Both cars were really good, and I really appreciate the opportunity from both Rodney and David. Of course, since I put my points number on Rodney’s car, that’s the one I screw up with--J.R. Lobner dropped me like a bad habit in round three, and I came up .001 under. In David’s car, however, lady luck was riding along and I managed to win Super Pro over Jeff Brotherton. Jeff and I both made awesome runs all day, only to square off in a less-than-stellar final, but I’ll take a win any way I can get it.
In Sportsman on Sunday, I got the knucklehead of the weekend award. With six cars remaining, and the semi-final bye on the line, I proceed to kick it red against a street pickup (who went on to win). Granted, the guy made a real nice run for what he was in (I think he was .030 and a couple above)... But at what point do you turn it red against a street car (let me cover myself here--a street car that is not a Cavalier with a one-eyed hillbilly driving... you better be .00 for that guy) when you have the best car in the class, and stage up knowing you‘re about to go dead-on if you have to hold it to the floor? IDIOT!
So all in all the trip to Tulsa wasn’t a waste. I made a little money. I got one claim in Sportsman, which stretched out my lead there a little bit. But, I didn’t get a claim in Super Pro, and I tore up my dragster, which is never good. That meant that a trip back to Woodville was in order, making a long week for me.
I sent the Vega away from Tulsa with Benny Gossett, and he took it on to Abilene for me (thanks Benny!). I arrived in Woodville Monday night, and by the time I left out Thursday evening I had changed just about everything in my CSR Performance Products American Patriot dragster: Motor, Trans, Converter, Driveshaft, and Brakes... I loaded it, along with my ‘06 dragster (for delivery: I sold it to my good friend Daniel Gossett in San Angelo), and headed West for a second consecutive weekend.
While the Tulsa trip was far from a loss, the Abilene trip was a whole lot better! No tire explosions for one, and a lot more success on the drag strip... I came really close to running the table at Abilene on Saturday: I ran myself in the final of Super Pro (which was huge: it’s an awesome feat, a great payday, and it put me in command in the series points chase); I lost in the final of Sportsman with the Vega, and I picked up a third runner-up when I turned it red in the final of the Moser Shootout (a 16-car, $5,000-to-win race). Special thanks to Wendell and Ian Dunaway, as well as Jim Calloway for their help getting my cars to the lanes, and fueled and all that--it got pretty hectic toward the end, and I couldn’t have pulled it off without their help!
Sunday’s race was almost as good: I was rolling thru Super Pro until I completely fell out of the car in the semi’s. I took about a week’s worth of stripe (honestly, I would say I’m not sure my opponent ever crossed the finish line, but I saw him run the final so I guess he did get off the track eventually) to be a couple thousandths under. I did manage to win Sportsman, which was actually a big relief: I had been in about five straight finals (dating back to Bristol) in the Vega without a win, so it was good to know I could still kick that last beacon on.
After the race, I followed Daniel back to San Angelo to kill a few days before heading on to Noble the following weekend. The San Angelo crew is fun, fun, fun. By the time I sobered up, it was Thursday--and I figured I’d better start making my way to Oklahoma. As usual, names will be withheld to protect the innocent... but that was good times. I met some really cool people, and I’ll definitely have to return to San Angelo at some point in the near future! Mo Def...
After a brief stay in the old stomping grounds of Fort Worth, I was off to Noble for the third and final leg of the DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series “Western Swing”. Friday, I got some quarter mile testing in with the Vega, and got it set up for it’s Super Gas debut. The following weekend, my buddy Troy Williams, Jr. had it entered at the Memphis national event. There really wasn’t much to dialing the Mickey Thompson Vega in for Super Gas: My first run I was .001 and went 9.91 wide open--I guess she’s all set!
I awoke Saturday morning to the sound of raindrops, and a nasty weekend forecast forced race promoters to cancel the entire weekend. While getting rained out 11 hours from home sucks, I can’t say I was heartbroken: as the series points leader, that made two less days of racing for any of my opponents to make up ground.
I strapped the Vega down and headed for home--moving East on I-40 Saturday morning. Then my proverbial wheels got to turning, looking for a dry patch of land on which to race on my way back to Alabama. Somehow, some way, I reached the conclusion that the place for me to be was the NHRA LODRS event at Red River Raceway in Shreveport. Now, those of you who read my take on my last LODRS earlier this season at South Georgia know that I’m not real fond of the series. But, I’ve got an opportunity to drive a Stock Eliminator car a little next season, so I need to get some grade points, and there were seriously NO other races on my way home.
Tech closed at Shreveport at 4:00 Saturday afternoon. I arrived at 3:30. Unlike my last appearance, I had my cars high and tight, and I did manage to pass technical inspection: my first victory of the weekend. I actually got a time run in both cars--which was much more than I expected! What’s more? They were actually fairly close: I went 9.79 with the still throttle stop free Vega, and the tuning expertise of my buddy Troy Williams, Jr. got me real close in Super Comp with a 8.93.
On Sunday I advanced to second round in Super Gas with a nifty new throttle stop configuration (I ran wide open to the 1,000 foot cone and lifted--then tried to drive the stripe at a little under 120 mph, to most opponents 150-170... TRIED being the operative word). In Super Comp, I had a little better luck. In fact, I had an opportunity to win the event. With three cars remaining, I missed the tree a little (.016 to my opponents .003), and took a little too much stripe to be 8.89. If I could’ve won the round, my would-be opponent broke in the final, so I could’ve gotten my first “Wally” since the Junior Dragster days--which would’ve been pretty cool I guess.
That evening, Troy and I went to the casino and had a big time. We got back to the track the following morning and set out on our journey East (Troy to Memphis for the nationals, and myself back home to Woodville). Our journey didn’t last long. My truck had problems not far from the track--It was way down on power, and I was hoping that the fuel filter was stopped up. If you’ve ever been to Shreveport, you know that there is nothing between the track and Texarkana (about a 50 mile jaunt to the North), so we just limped onward toward the city of two states. Both of us were dangerously low on diesel, so once we hit the interstate, I told Troy to go ahead (I was capable of running about 40 mph at that point). I could see the Flying J sign from the shoulder where I came to a rest, void of fuel.
I called Troy, and he came back to get me with a five gallon jug of the good stuff. Well, once we got the truck re-fired, I didn’t even have enough power to pull my trailer from the shoulder--so I unhooked to get fuel and find a parts store (still hoping a fuel filter would solve my problems). At this point, Troy, who had pulled half off the shoulder directly behind me (fully anticipating that I would pull the entire rig away, not having to leave the trailer), had to back up a few feet to swing back onto the interstate... You guessed it; he sunk the right side of his motorhome in the soft shoulder--so now we have not one, but two rigs stranded alongside Interstate 30!
Well, as you might imagine, a fuel filter did not fix the truck--turns out the turbo had seized up. I did manage to get my trailer to the Flying J and drop it, then found a shop in town to perform the necessary repairs. We ended up having to seek professional assistance in getting Troy’s rig extracted from the shoulder.
When it was all said and done, Troy and I got to spend an extra 48 hours in lovely Texarkana. Thank goodness for good friends. Had Troy not been following (and have essentially nothing better to do for two days), I’d have spent two days in my trailer in the Flying J parking lot. As it ended up, we made the best of a pretty poor situation and had a little fun bumming around town.
Once we got back up and running, I dropped the Vega off at Memphis for Troy to run in Super Gas, and headed home for a much needed weekend off. Of course, I can’t take a weekend off completely away from the race track: I debuted my Cavalier at Huntsville Saturday night with limited success. That’s right: I’m a Stone Cold wannabe (that’d be the one-eyed redneck I mentioned earlier who makes a living footbrake racing a ‘94 Z24 Cavalier); I purchased a ‘91 Cavi to bomb around town in and race occasionally. The consistency of the chariot really impressed me: it moved .05 in ten runs... But the factory tach doesn’t work, so I was trying to stall it up until the oil psi gauge hit the third mark--which I think worked pretty good until I got it hot and the oil thinned. That’s the part where my reacts started to move a little more than I wanted. The end result was a fourth round loss in the Cavi, and real good time at the track!
Ah yes, and the Memphis national--with the Vega’s national event Super Gas outing... My boy Troy did a wheelie. They say the picture doesn’t do it justice, although I really can’t imagine it getting much higher than this (if you’ll pay attention to the photo, the tree and the 60’ cones are not in sight, this is a ways down the track). Like any wheelstand of this variety, this one didn’t end well. The following week brought some significant work on the Vega: new Milodon Oil Pan, new BTE transmission pan, alignment, new midplate, welding one header, new B&M trans cooler, and fixing a busted radiator... But hey, the picture is pretty cool!
With the Vega patched back up, I made my way to Montgomery Motorsports Park for yet another DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series event. Due to the IHRA bracket finals a couple hours up the road, and a nasty weather forecast the turnout at Montgomery was pretty dismal. I managed to claim the Super Pro win on Saturday when Stacy Carpenter went red. Of course, I won on the wrong number again, but I got to the quarterfinals with my points entry, so I went ahead and made my last claim of the season with that. 51 points is a real strong total in that series, but it’s real subject to get beat. There are 4 extremely talented racers who have a chance to beat that score in the coming weeks, and I’ll be at the remaining events in an effort to prevent them from doing just that--so we’ll see how it plays out.
Saturday’s Sportsman class was epic: There are 4 (1, 2, 3, 4) entries in the Sportsman class. So obviously, it pays next to nothing to win. One of the great things about the DRR Series, however, is the at-track contingency program. I claim 8 decals on the Vega, so regardless of car count, I earn $800 in contingency alone to win an event--pretty good deal, huh? Well, being the genius that I am, I decide that I’m going to purchase a second entry in the Vega (which makes 5--1,2, you get the idea... entries in the class). My thought process is this: Maybe I can run myself in the final (and take home over $1200), I certainly should be able to secure one entry in the final (and make money on the weekend). Plus, by adding a round to the race, if I DO win, I can claim the race for points. So, as eliminations commence, I have two of the five entries in the class... and fail to make the semi-finals!
On my first entry, I’m .016 and dead-on with a 9. Bob George is .003 and one above to win by .005--pretty nice lap in No Box. I come back around to square off with a stick-shift Plymouth who has yet to pull third gear for the day. He’s been dialed 7.46 all day, and proceeds to dial down to 7.36 for our run (based on what I have no idea--he hadn’t been 9.-anything all day). I turn the launch chip down, not getting ultra conservative, but certainly not wanting to go red: I’m .028, and take .01... and look like a complete idiot on the scoreboards: my man is .006, 7.360! What can you do but laugh? The following round, he missed third gear again.
Sunday I bowed out in the quarterfinals of Super Pro, but did manage to avenge my Saturday Sportsman showing somewhat by winning in the Vega. I knocked off my two foes from Saturday, including the Plymouth in the final (he made another good run in the final, but I was .004 take .005--not leaving anything to chance), so with two wins it ended up being another excellent weekend.
That brought on the big show: The Million Dollar Race at Memphis Motorsports Park. I think I attend this race every year just to get a dose of humility. I’ve been to every million since 1999. I’ve never made the split. This year was no different. Friday I made a complete idiot of myself: my buddy Dave Connolly fed me .065 first round of the Race Tech Race, and I was under. Yea, my car sped way up... Yea, he killed 20 mph... But it doesn’t matter--.065 is ridiculous. In the first 30-grander I lost second round in my car, and second round in one of Jason Lynch’s cars. In the big show I was red first and second rd. in Jason’s, and got to the fifth round in mine before going red once again. Sunday was no better: third round in my car--no dice. My buddy Adam Davis won the first 30-grander in my old Nova, and Gary Williams (aka Doughboy, G-Dub, whatever) was the first 2-time winner of the Million--and it’s always cool to see your friends have success.
Last weekend Adam and I set out to Middle Tennessee Dragway for a $5,000-to-win Footbrake race. As luck would have it, we ended up in the final--so we got to have a little fun. We dialed heads-up at 15.00 (his Nova goes 6.5’s, the Vega goes 6.2’s). I’m .500 (pretty brilliant seeing as the trees DON’T MATTER.....IDIOT!), and he’s .535. I go thru with a 16.34 @ 7 mph for the win. Most hilarious final round ticket ever printed below... Now that’s good stuff!
Thanks as always for reading--and thanks to each of you who comment on this column at the track, all the feedback is really cool! And, as always, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank my great marketing partners who make my travel and recent success possible: 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.