06-07 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
Time flies when you’re having… fun. That’s what it’s all about, right? Having fun. As I pen my first (monthly) column in over three months, I’ve got some trials and tribulations to share with you faithful readers (both of you). I haven’t exactly been able to keep up the pace I set in February and March, but I’ve had some ups to go with the downs over the last few months.
If you’ll remember way back to March when I last updated “On the Road,” you can recall that I was pretty much on top of the world: in the first month a half of the 2007 season, I’d raked in nine victories and seemingly made the final in every event I attended. Oh, how quickly things can change! In the months since, I’ve ran my event win record all the way to eleven, with the tenth being a local Friday night conquest. But that’s how it runs. It’s a real streaky sport: one week you can’t lose, the next you can’t eat. It’s all or nothing sometimes, and here lately I’ve been on the short end of the stick more often than not.
This column starts off with a No Box event at Lake Cumberland Dragway, and a humbling dose of reality after my hot start to the season. I struggled mightily on the starting line. I could blame it on the track being real loose. I could blame it on the “Tricky Tree.” I could blame it on the fact that I was trying to hit the bottom with the transbrake for the first time in my life. I could blame it on a lot of things, but the fact is that everyone at the track dealt with the same issues, and as a “professional” I should be able to handle adverse situations better than most, and I didn’t. I pretty well stunk up the place all weekend.
Next up was the DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series event at Bama Dragway. It’s the closest DRR event to home, but it’s not exactly what I’d call a premier facility. In fact, it’s a facility at which I refuse to race my dragster, if that tells you anything. Apparently a number of racers had the same outlook I did, and the turnout was dismal. I managed to advance the Vega into the semi’s in both CSR Super Pro and Sportsman, and had a shot at a real nice payday, but it wasn’t to be. Jared Pennington spanked me like a 2-year old in Sportsman, and I lost a good race to Steve Mikus in Super Pro. Either final makes me a little change, both finals would’ve meant at least a couple grand… So two semi’s and $200 was pretty disappointing. Sunday was a complete washout, so my buddy Lucas Bendall and I spent the day on the links back home, consuming enough fermented beverages to make my Monday pretty worthless as well.
With the Ultimate Footbrake Challenge being postponed until July because of all the track surface issues at Bristol (that would later postpone their national event as well), I had an open spot on the calendar the second week of April. For whatever reason, I decided it would be a good idea to head to Valdosta for an NHRA LODRS event. I’m not real sure my reasoning: I hadn’t been to one of those races in nearly 7 years, and for some unknown reason I thought it might be fun. I figured I’d take the Vega and try to be a giant killer in Super Gas (I still think it would have been cool to slay a couple ex-pro-stockers on the way to a 9.90 victory in my Footbrake car), and I still didn’t have a motor together for the dragster, so I set out looking for a second car to drive.
My old buddy and defending IHRA Super Stock world champion Scotty Stillings came to the rescue. He was heading to Vegas for the national event that weekend (truth be known, Scotty was going to Vegas to go to Vegas, and the national event was as good an excuse as any), and said I could run his Super Stock Grand Am. Jeff “Little Pecker” Keen hauled it up for me, and the next thing you know, I’m a Super Stock racer! The Super Gas experience didn’t go as planned, as the Vega didn’t make it thru tech. So at that point, I was just a Super Stock racer. Super Stock, by the way, is really cool. If I had any money at all, I could see it being very addicting. But, seeing as the motor in the car I was driving is probably worth as much as my trailer (and at least one of the cars inside it), I don’t guess I’ll ever see much action. In fact, I’m going to go ahead and call it a career in Super Stock. Why not? I ran one round before the race was cancelled, I was .003 and took .007 and won. The way I see it, Super Stock isn’t too tough. I mean, Bertozzi, Stillings, Fletcher, Biondo? None of them have that good a record! I’ve never been whipped, and I’ll never be whipped. I couldn’t make it back for the make-up event, so I’m done: and I’ve got an unblemished record in Super Stock competition!
The whole event in general made me really appreciate bracket racing, and stuff like the DRR Series, the U.S. Open, the Florida Winter Series, and even my local races at Sand Mountain. I sat in the pits in Valdosta for two and a half days. I made four runs in Super Stock (which were really fun by the way… wheelies and 8,000+ RPM burnouts are cool!). If I had won the race, I may have won $3,000. And I spent over $500 to do it. I got treated like dirt, and I watched a race that could’ve easily been completed get cancelled due to…wind. Now granted, it was windy. I wouldn’t have wanted to navigate the course in a Top Sportsman machine, or a Comp eliminator car. But I didn’t have to! I’m pretty sure the 3000 lb. Grand Am could have made it through a 20 mph cross wind safely. Why not run the classes that wouldn’t have a problem? Why not run the race 1/8th mile? Why not keep us until Monday which was supposed to be beautiful? Heck, diesel is only 3 bucks a gallon, let’s just send everyone home and tell ‘em to come back next month. That makes sense! I don’t get it. I’ll take a bracket race any day of the week.
Enough of my rant... The next Friday I picked up my new 565 from Huntsville Engine. This thing is a beast: Brodix -3Xtra Oval port heads, shaft rockers, belt drive, Milodon Oiling system, .903” lifters, 7/16” pushrods, roller cam bearings, all the latest greatest stuff. I was really excited to get everything rolling, and actually have my own stuff in my own car again, finally! Well, the motor came off the stand at Huntsville Engine at 2:00 Friday afternoon, and at about 1:00 Saturday morning I was in Prescott, AR for the DRR Series event. As you might expect, I had some struggles with the combination, and I tinkered and tuned most of the weekend. I did manage to get a 4.77 @ 146 out of the new machine (My best to date is 4.73 @ 148), which I was really impressed with: especially in bad air with my larger than average rear end in the seat.
Racing-wise, the weekend was a disaster. I lost fourth round in the dragster Saturday, and fifth round Sunday, and never got out of the third round in the Vega. Worse yet, my closest challenger in CSR Super Pro points (and a guy who has been a friend of mine since I met him at the same track in about 1997), Greg Brotherton earned yet another win in Super Pro to close the gap early in the year. Here I was, thinking that averaging a seventh round win after four events was pretty impressive. Big Poppa is making that score look pretty paltry at this point.
I only had a couple days at home after Prescott before heading the opposite direction to the $50,000 race in Farmington, NC. Why do I even go to this race? For the third straight year, I do just well enough in the fifty to get really aggravated when it doesn’t go my way with a bunch of money on the line. For the second time in three years, my loss is due to a stupid mechanical problem that can’t bite me in a $2500 race, or even a 5-grander… Nope they only come along when it really matters. This time, at twenty cars left in the 50, I do my burnout then get shut off on the starting line for leaking water. What’s leaking? The friggin bolts that hold the water manifold to block have backed off, and it’s loose and dripping. It took two seconds to fix. What’s worse? My opponent, who is dialed a half second slower than I am, goes red on his single… So all I had to do was stage to get the beacon and advance to ten. Oh, and ten… That’s where they split it up, and the losers got $2,500. I of course, got $400, and a 3/8” wrench to tighten the damn bolts.
Sunday wasn’t much better. I hopped in Scotty Richardson’s new American car and got whacked I think 6th round in it on a good run, and lost 3rd round in my car. A little more round money, and another little taste of what could have been. Defending DRR champ (and another guy that I call “Daddy“) Rustin Mayse won the 50--the first real big win in what will undoubtedly be many for him. Outside of Rustin’s performance, Steve Witherow, Jr. (we all call him Alan) had one of the most dominating weekends I’ve witnessed by someone not named Peter or Scotty. He won the 10 the first day, got to five cars in the 50, then ran himself in the final in the 10 on Sunday. Absolutely amazing given the level of competition at that event…
The only highlight of the entire weekend for me was heading to the stands and letting my buddies win me a couple bucks betting with Eric and the boys from Maryland. Those guys come to all the big races: Atco, Farmington, Moroso, Tri-State… And they’re a blast. I watched Lynch win an undisclosed amount (that’s WAY out of my range) on the semi’s… And lose over half of it on the final. Little Witherow made me and Caboose some change in Friday nights race: he was our horse in the “Calcutta” at ten in the stands, and he came through for a nice payday! In the end, I certainly haven’t “tamed the Farm” but I had a great time, and I’ll be back to try again next year!
The first weekend of May brought basically an off-weekend for me, as the only thing on my agenda was the first Shogun “Super Sunday” $5,000-to-win Footbrake race at Sand Mountain on Sunday. It’s only twenty miles from home, so that’s as close to a weekend off as I get! Adam Davis (who owns my old Nova, and basically owns the Footbrake category South of the Mason-Dixon line) and I doubled each others cars to have a couple shots each at the big money. C.J. Jones single handedly dismantled our team: He beat Adam in the Nova in round three, beat me in the Vega in round 4, and didn’t just beat me (he made me look really stupid) in the Nova in round 5. Adam got to three cars in the Vega before he got cracked by eventual winner Jared Pennington. Jed obviously has no respect whatsoever for the Vega, because he routinely beats it like a red-headed step-child. Frankly, I’m getting tired of it, but I don’t really know how to stop it!
Next up, I headed to Nashville for a golf outing… err… the Southern Survival Shootout. Between John Labbous, Jr., Bryan Robinson, and myself, there was a whole lot more smack talking about Friday mornings round of golf than the weekend of racing. Bryan and I certainly didn’t help our chances in the golf match on Thursday night, as we spent the night in downtown Nashville with a group of friends that would probably rather not be mentioned. Bottom line: we got back to the track well after midnight, and Caboose was ringing my phone before seven to tell me we had a tee time. Great! I could make a short story long, but I’ve been told many a time NEVER to bet with a Labbous… Jr. said he’d never shot in the 80’s at the course we were playing. Bryan and I (who are not the most serious of golfers) played together, scrambling against John Jr. on his own… After six holes, at five bucks a hole, Jr. was one over par… and Bryan and I were down 30 bucks. Little John did come back to life, and we made a small rally, but it wasn’t a good day on the course!
Racing didn’t make things any better. I pretty much lost every which way a guy could lose. My only highlight was advancing the Vega to the quarters in the ten grander, only to completely goof up both ends and drop the ball on a golden opportunity to get paid. For the first time in a long time, I went to a race at Music City that didn’t see a Richardson, Labbous, or Davis in the winners circle--so none of the usual suspects made much noise (unless you count Labbous’ Friday morning triumph).
The DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series brought it’s traveling road show to Alabama the following weekend for the State Capital Nationals at Montgomery Motorsports Park. I kicked off the weekend right by winning Super Pro at Sand Mountain Friday night in the Vega, my first win (and first final) in nearly two months. I had things rolling my way, as I put the dragster in the final on Saturday at Montgomery. I royally goofed on the finish line in the final, but I still had a nice payday, and earned some valuable DRR Series points. Sunday, it looked like things were rolling good again, as I had the dragster double-entered with 12 cars remaining. There, despite winning on one entry at 12, I was unable to make the call for the quarterfinals due to spun rod bearing in the new bullet. Chalk one up to bad luck: In this sport, you can buy all the best equipment, and have the most talented and experienced people in the world put it all together, but sometimes ***** happens. This time it happened to me.
I came home, yanked the motor out, got it back to the guys at Huntsville to survey the damage and get her fixed up. Against my better judgement (after my weekend at Montgomery, I was a little down and out), I elected to haul to Vega and Rustin & Robbie Mayse’s Race Tech car (yep, the same Race Tech car that Rustin beat me out of last season) to Holly Springs Motorsports for a big buck race the following weekend. My sour mood went from bad to worse when I couldn’t get the Vega to fire for the quarterfinals of Footbrake Friday night.
A first round loss in the dragster Saturday and a two-and-out in the Vega made my state of mind so much better that I loaded up and went home. Leaving a track with races yet to be run (that I had already entered) might be a first for me--but that’s the story. I was over it.
After a day of recovery and sulking, I got to work the following week. I yanked the motor out of the Vega, and since the boys at HEPC hadn’t had a chance to get my spare small block together, Bones let me borrow one of his personal motors: a little pump gas 383. I got it all together Tuesday morning and set out to Sand Mountain Dragway to make one quick check out run. A huge thank you goes to Jeff Rucks for allowing me to “borrow” his race track for a few minutes before setting out on a 600 mile journey with new stuff. Everything was good: 6.49 @ 104, and no leaks or problems. So Tuesday was a success.
That Wednesday was my twenty-sixth birthday (I know, I never thought I’d make it that long either). I celebrated by getting everything loaded up, heading to Huntsville Engine, dropping my fresh 565 (which the guys bent over backwards to get back in working order quickly) into the dragster, then driving all night to Cincinnati for the Jeg’s U.S. Open Bracket Championships. Happy Birthday to me!
I arrived at Tri-State at 4:00 AM Thursday morning, and was delighted to get both cars down the track without trouble on the first time run and take a nap prior to first round. That was pretty much the highlight of the weekend: making it there in one piece and getting both cars down the track… it was all downhill from there! Day one, I lose second round in the Dragster, and fourth round in the Vega. Same result on Day 2. Saturday I manage to completely embarrass myself in the No Box tournament (the event I was really jacked up about) by taking a train length of finish line on a .1 spot to break out .004. I’m usually the king of giving it back--but this time I hogged up enough stripe to feed a small army, and I wasn’t pleased. Honestly, I beat myself up about ringing it up .04 over to be .001 behind, but at least that meant I was trying to make it close. What’s a good excuse for taking .050???
I lost a good run against Tom Dauber in the dragster race later that night, which led up the only event I can count on going rounds in at Tri-State: the golf cart race! Kudos to Mike Fuqua and Dave Szerlag for making this years event a golf-cart only race… As a guy who has gone rear end over tea-kettle in a scooter race, I can attest to the safety of four wheels (especially during happy hour). Brian Folk and I teamed up for the Golf Cart showdown, double entering his golf cart and taking turns behind the wheel (with the other riding of course). I managed to make it down to the final seven carts, same round as last year. In a repeat performance the golf cart absolutely hosed me, as she slowed up two seconds in the quarterfinal round and I got beat by eventual winners Jeff and Laura Palmer. My boy Bfolk was still in at the round of seven as well (yea, our cart was huffing and puffing!), and immediately following my defeat, Brian lost what has to be the most hilarious race I’ve ever been involved in.
Brian had to run his brother Nick, along with Kurt Damron, Jr. and Alfred “Pit ****“ Lundee. I don’t remember the numbers, but we had the advantage on the tree. We had dialed up four seconds or so (because the golf cart had just slowed down so much with me), and we still weren’t ahead coming up on the finish line. I’m in Brian’s ear telling him he was good on the tree, and we want the stripe, but Nick’s gonna drop… Nick slides to a complete stop about a foot before the finish line… Brian catches all of it, and slides to stop before the stripe as well… So here we are, five of us idiots on golf carts, dead stopped on the race track, staring at each other in a half-drunk game of chicken. We sit stalled for seemingly a minute, and I tell BF “Go ahead and cross, we’re friggin stopped!” He gases it, and we take the finish line, only to look to the scoreboard and see that we’re under: 33.87 on a 34.00. The opposing team dies laughing, hops off their golf cart, and runs circles around it before crossing the finish line eleven seconds later for the victory.
Sunday I got cracked early in the Vega, and got a front row seat to see Peter Biondo earn a new transmission for having the best package of the day: that was in the third round in the lane beside me.
After Tri-State I snuck up to American Race Cars to have a couple bars updated in the Vega (note the tech failure in Valdosta) and hang out with Mark and the guys for a couple days before heading to Clay City, KY for the Ultimate 64 Shootout. The crew at American got me hooked up and back down the road in no time. Once I got to Clay City, the fun really started. I don’t have any one particular reason, but I really enjoy that event each year. Maybe it’s the several opportunities to cash in racing in one weekend, or the fact that I have a number of friends in the area I don’t get to see very often, but I have had a ball at the Ultimate 64 each of the last two years. Add that to the fact that this years event followed the U.S. Open at Tri-State, and you’ve got back-to-back weekends of awesome races that are a really good time.
The weekend got started with a golf tournament on Thursday. My team of hitters (Jason Folk, Troy Williams, Jr., and Alfred) was actually fairly formidable. While we had a good time, we kept things a lot more civil than last seasons tournament (you may recall a story about an overturned golf cart and teeing off at houses), and we were actually competitive for awhile. I think we were five under par walking on to the thirteenth tee, when the contents of our cooler began to take their toll. We didn’t even finish the round, I think we punted on 15 or 16, but we did have a real good time.
Back at the track that evening, I got down to six in the Texas Hold ‘Em tournament before I got busted. Basically, I sat around for a few hours for nothing--the guys that lost in the first ten hands got the same payout I did: zilch! But it was fun too, and that’s all that really matters.
Once we got on the race track, I actually managed a respectable weekend, considering I didn’t win a single race. I got a runner-up in No Box on day 3 to Phil Combs, and I made three other semi-final appearances on the weekend, highlighted by a profitable semi in the $50,000-to-win main event. Finally, it looks like all the hard work to get my junk back running and get out of town a week earlier paid off!
Despite a strong showing at Clay City, I was actually really unhappy with my dragster. That led to a long test session the following weekend at Sand Mountain. Three sets of tires, two converters, four carburetors, and twenty runs later I felt like I had a pretty decent combination!
That feeling was validated at the Southern Survival Shootout the next weekend at Music City, where I won the $10,000 main event. I got to run my boy Jeremy Jensen in the final. We split the money even, and dialed heads-up at 7.00 (we were both in dragsters). I ended up with the win: 8.84 to 8.86 (we got real close!). We had a lot of fun in the final as well as the post-race activities!
The weekend wasn’t all fun and games: a day prior I destroyed the rear end in the Vega. As in “third member laying on the race track” destroyed... I’ve never seen anything like it--I’m pretty rough on stuff! So, I’ve got some work to do this week.
That pretty well brings things up to date. In the coming weeks, I plan on heading home to Kennedale, TX (where I grew up--go KHS!) for a DragRaceResults.com/Goodyear Bracket Series event. Then we’ve got Tenn-Tuck at Bowling Green, and the DRR race at Memphis before my big summer trip. Right now the plan is to go to the World Footbrake Challenge at Bristol, then head to Atco, NJ for the 25-granders, then over to Michigan for the World Super Pro Challenge. I know what you’re thinking: doesn’t this kid have anything better to do? Of course, a stupid question warrants a stupid answer. And that answer is no!
Thanks for reading, as always, and please try to support the marketing partners who help make my racing possible: CSR Performance Products, Mickey Thompson Tires, Bill Taylor Engineering, Rockett Brand Racing Fuel, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, 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.