06-05 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
Change: Nothing Stays the Same
They say that one thing is constant in life, and that’s change. I’ve certainly had my share since the last column. If you’ll remember, I spent most of the May column pissing and moaning about how terribly my racing season was going--I couldn’t get a break, and was tearing up everything I took to the race track. On the racing front, things really haven’t gotten a lot better, but the whole flow of things has certainly been shaken up.
Following my adventurous trip to Farmington, NC (you may recall the nitrous explosion, the broken flywheel, bent up butterflies on the carburetor--and the screwing off of a pretty easy round with a bunch of money on the line...), I was pretty much burnt out--and out of money. I put an advertisement together for both dragsters, with the basic intention of selling one and calming my schedule down a bit. Within a week and a half, I had two buyers that I couldn’t turn down, and I was officially out of the dragster business. Chris Dollar of Texas purchased my ‘02 car, complete with the 588, and Richard Yeager from just down the road in Cullman bought the new car, rolling. Suddenly, the kid that always had too many racecars just has a Vega. And believe it or not, I’m pretty content with that!
To add to the drama for the month, June 9 was my last day of employment at Huntsville Engine. Let me go ahead and put an end to any rumors that may crop up right here publicly: I left HEPC on very good terms. Todd Ewing and Andy Anderson are two of the greatest guys I’ve ever known, and they were great to work for--same for the previous owners, Garry Reavis and John Cline. I have an immense respect for all four (as for each of the other employees), and I would not have left without knowing that we were all on good terms, both personally and professionally. I’m still very closely involved with Huntsville Engine: they’ll continue to do all of my engine work (as they have for over five years), and I’ll be doing a lot of work for HEPC, I’m just not going to be there everyday. For me, it was just time to take my life down a new road. I’ve started a marketing firm out of my house and race shop: Bogacki Marketing Solutions.’
What the heck is Bogacki Marketing Solutions? That’s a pretty common question. I handle some marketing and promotional needs for race teams: press releases, sponsorship proposals, hero cards, press kits, etc. Additionally, I’m gaining some clients in the form of small businesses within the performance aftermarket, for which I’m designing handouts and brochures, and have got the capability of producing bulk quantities of just about any printed material. Plus, we’re offering T-shirts, banners, and just about any other marketing related items. I’ve got a lot of vision and ideas for the future, but for the time being the above is keeping me more than busy.
As for the racing end of things... Since my last column I’ve been on the road a little bit. I made my last event in the ‘04 Miller Dragster at the Memphis Mega 10’s, and I’m sorry to say that it went out in less than spectacular fashion (not that I’d really accomplished much in the car to begin with), as I failed to stage for fourth round all weekend. I took the following weekend off to complete the ‘02 car for Chris, and then set out for the BTE/Citgo Series event in Shreveport, LA to deliver that machine, and compete in the Vega.
The delivery of the car went fine. Considering that whole transaction had the potential to be the mother of all awkward situations (Chris is my ex-fiance’s brother), things could not have been smoother. I made a couple laps in the whip, and Chris made one blast, loaded up, and headed for Wichita Falls a happy camper. I wheeled the trusty ‘ole Vega to a Sportsman victory in Saturday’s event, which marked my second win along the BTE Series trail. Sunday I lost early in Sportsman, but made it down to 16 cars in Super Pro before taking a little bit of stripe against a 4 second dragster. How much stripe? You’d have to have a sundial or possibly a calendar to determine exactly. Let’s just say I’m a little out of practice from out front!
The good news from Shreveport was that I actually felt like the Vega was a very competitive top bulb car. I had won a couple top bulb events earlier in the season with it, and I knew it was decent, but I made some changes to the setup and it really responded. That being said, I decided to go ahead and wager the $500 entry fee on her the next weekend at “The Best Damn Bracket Race... Period!” at Montgomery Motorsports Park. Although a tropical storm hit the coast essentially washing out the weekend, we did get Friday’s $10,000 event in before we were washed away. And, the Vega lived up to expectations. In the first six rounds, she moved .005: from 6.314 to 6.319. At fourteen cars, I was sitting on the bye (so with a win I bye to the semi’s), and squared off with Andy Beal. We were both .010 on the tree, and the Vega picked up a tick, as I rang up a 6.308 on my 6.31. Andy dropped to a couple above (essentially feeding me another calendar) for the round win, and he went on to runner-up to Melvin Wilson. In all, I couldn’t help but be happy with the performance, I just wish I could’ve put one or two more W’s together to make it pay off financially.
Next up, I carried the Vega North to Clay City Dragway in Kentucky for a BTE/Citgo Series event. There, she was still glued on the 6.31, and I managed to get to six cars in the $5,000 Super Pro event. At that time, I made the executive decision that my .001 react was not good enough, so I bumped it down to a -.014 (good call!). Of course, my opponent puts down a .040+ package, and the Vega rings up yet another dead-on 6.31. And, just in case I was wondering, I was informed that the .001 react (had I left the left-hand button alone) would have won me the bye to the final...awesome!
At the conclusion of the five grander, Danny and Chris put on a little gamblers race, which I made the final of before falling to Chuck Mink. The runner-up was a little confidence builder, and paid for the weekend.
In addition to serving up the red eye in the five, and hogging the stripe in the final of the gamblers race, the Saturday event also brought it’s share of humility in the Sportsman class. In the BTE/Citgo Series, bottom bulb racers are allowed to use a transbrake (rather than just swap feet). This is something I had never tried in several years of racing competitively because nearly all the tracks and series I had run (in the South) were “footbrake” only. But, seeing as the Vega had been so nasty off the top, I figured I might as well give it a shot. In time runs, I looked like I knew what was going on. I made a couple runs, adjusted the button and the launch chip, and then rung up an .012 and .013 react (oh yeah--they’re in trouble now). That was all well and good until the tree started coming down unevenly (you know, with dial-ins...). At that point, I had to determine when to block the other side of the tree, when to duck under the blinder, when to chip the car, etc. To make a long story short, all that was a more than my little bean can compute: I was .080 in run for the money. I was .050 first round. I was .070 second round. At that point, I punted: I yanked all the junk back out and tried to footbrake third round opposite defending series champion Phil Combs (and although I had a much more respectable .020 bulb, that didn’t work out for me either).
Sunday I went back to footbrake only, and made seven laps between .018 and .007. In the quarterfinals I was .010 to my opponents .023. He was dead-on with a one, and I made another positive executive decision: to get .002 behind on the stripe (sweet!). I Super Pro, second round I’m .017 and drop to dead-on with a 1. My opponent is .002, dead-on with a 2. So, sixty bucks later.... Third round I’m .008, take .008. My opponent is .004, dead on with a 1. Fourth round...I sat on the scooter and watched someone else have fun.
Clay City marked the first BTE/Citgo even that I claimed points for the Super Pro class. I notched a 4, which I was pretty pleased with in the Vega (of course, at the rate that they’re going Scotty and Edmond will probably mathematically eliminate me from contention before I get another claim!). I didn’t claim my quarterfinal in Sportsman, because it was only fifth round, and there are a lot of races left. Phil Combs sits in the drivers seat of Sportsman right now, on the heels of another ’W’ at Clay City, but there is a bunch of racing left to do, and a handful of guys have a chance to make it interesting.
A few short days after my return from Kentucky, I set out even further North, for the Wolverine Bracket Nationals at Mid-Michigan Motorplex. The event featured a $10,000 winners purse in both Box and No-Box Saturday, and $2,500 to win each class Sunday. I made the twelve-hour journey, and entered the “Las” Vega in both classes. Since the No-Box class was quarter-mile, I changed the converter in the beast in an attempt to knock down trap rpm a little bit. Good move: I effectively slowed her down .2 and 5 mph, and knocked off a thrilling 100 rpm in the lights! I spent Friday night under the Vega changing that back to the way it was.
In Super Pro (Box) Saturday, I was .008 and going dead-on third round. Which placed me smack in the middle of Kelly Spear’s way and his .010 package. In No-Box, I should have gotten the memo first round; I was .018 and dropped to dead-on with a 1 (keep in mind that this was in No-Box, on the long track). My opponent gave me about .015 change. In fact, in seven rounds my worst lamp on the bottom was .018...and I left on two of those opponents. Luckily, things went my way for most of the day, and I made it down to three cars. There, I was .003. My opponent was .005. I had been holding about 4 all day, but the Vega lost a couple hundredths in the middle. My opponent was low 1 above, and I didn’t think there was enough room in front; I dropped to .015 or so behind, two high and several thousand dollars down (as a $600 semi-finalist, versus the $12,000 available to the finalists). I love this sport!
I entered a high-rollers race Saturday evening, which was just as exhilarating as putting a couple hundred-dollar bills in a paper shredder. That night, had a great time seeing the finer points of Stanton, Michigan with some wonderful hosts who will remain nameless (Seriously; thanks guys, that was a lot of fun)!
Sunday things didn’t get any better. The Vega spun the tires (I didn’t know it could do that either...) fourth round of Super Pro, and my No-Box opponent joined the “Kick Luke to the curb” club fourth round with another .020 package that I couldn’t get under. Twelve hours of quiet reflection later, I’m back in Woodville.
Honestly, I can’t help but be happy with my equipment and my driving over the last month: I’ve been close everywhere I’ve been. I just keeping running into a buzz saw (or screwing one off) when I get close to getting paid. At any rate, that’s an improvement from my early season woes: The scoop has stayed on, I am making regular trips to the pay window (although we’re trading checks for the most part), and I really am having fun running the wheels off my little Vega! For the next month, I’m going to make a run at the BTE/Citgo Series. This weekend I’m off to Topeka, KS for the division 4 event. Following a weekend off, I’ll be on tour with Danny and Chris: running the Bluegrass (KY) event before three-dayers at Columbus (OH) and Adel (GA). I’m performing maintenance on the ‘ole Beave’ right now, because she’s going to accumulate some miles this month!
As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to e-mail me at any time (email@example.com), and please support the marketing partners who make this column and my racing endeavors possible!