12-03 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki

It’s all over but the shoutin’

That’s right racers and fans, for most of us the 2003 season is in the books. Like most of you, this is the time of the season that I generally look back and say “What if?” A thousandth here, a broken $1 part there, and it’s a whole different season. That’s the beauty and sometimes the irony of our sport--at any level. As I look back on my 2003 season (and my life in the past year), it’s absolutely amazing how much has happened, and how much has changed. My racing season went about as well as I could hope--although consistency was never really a part of my vocabulary. Racing usually provides a roller coaster between feast and famine, but for the first time in my career, the peaks and valleys were long and drawn out. It seemed I would either win or lose for months at a time, rather than rounds.

Early in the season, I really struggled. A couple strong weekends (Hattiesburg, Tucson, Virginia) got me through the first half of the year. With the exception of those outings, I plodded along and struggled to win much of anything. Looking back, the World Super Pro Challenge in Michigan was probably the turning point in my season. I was struggling with small gremlins in my car, but overcame them to win a $5,000 race by driving real well and catching the needed breaks at all the right times. That “W” brought back a little confidence, and once I did get the machine sorted back out, we went on a strong roll that with few exceptions lasted the remainder of the season. At one point I was in 11 finals over a nine week span--I can’t ever remember being that hot. On the other hand, I can’t remember a month as miserable as March or May, when I hardly saw a win light.

When I left off in the last article, I was just about to roll out to Bowling Green for the Tenn-Tuck season finale. There, I managed to put Danny Son’s new Joe Monden into the winner circle on Day 1. I snuck past Brian Newport in the final of the $10,000 race, and scored a good hit for both Danny and I. On Saturday, I thought I was on track to get another, this time in my car, but the train got derailed in the quarterfinals. Sunday I didn’t fair well at all, but I did get to see my buddy Troy Williams, Jr. achieve one of the few accomplishments in sportsman racing that had eluded him: the Tenn Tuck Triple Crown points championship. Congrats again Big Daddy!

Following Bowling Green, I was able to enjoy a couple weekends of relaxation before the big winter tour in Florida. I met up with Kari for a weekend in Hot Springs, Arkansas which was awesome. I guess that’s what people who don’t drive race cars do for fun. I could certainly handle more of it! The week after, I raced my little wagon locally, and got a win at Moulton Dragway on Friday night. Saturday I headed to the “Good Times” in Baileyton with Bones, Lucas Bendall, and Paul Russell. I didn’t fair well at all (although I did have a better outing than Bones!), but Lucas made the final of footbrake, and we had a lot of laughs.

November brought a pretty steady regiment of racing that kicked off with the Ultimate Super Pro Challenge at Montgomery Motorsports Park. There, I managed to sift through a field of nearly 400 cars and appeared in the final on day 1. Unfortunately, I came up one win light short in a no-split final. I tried for a repeat performance on Day 2 (except for that final win light anyways), but turned on the porch lamp opposite Jeff Strickland in round 8. Lil’ Strick went on to runner-up to another good buddy--A.J. Ashe who I was real happy to see get back to his winning ways in Bill Rivenbark’s Camaro.

The second weekend of November brought a decision--head to Florida for the three tens in Immokalee, or stay home and run the Ultimate Footbrake Challenge in Montgomery. My thoughts: footbrake is way more fun, and I’ve been pretty competitive in the little wagon. Besides, I’ll spend the next two weeks in Florida, and that’s plenty. So I borrow a two car open trailer and Andy’s Chevy II and head to MMP for a second consecutive weekend. Bad move on my part.

Although the race ran smoothly, and I had a great time, racing couldn’t have gone a whole lot worse. Lucas and I double drove my Wagon, and limped it through a front suspension problem until I got completely embarrassed by my opponent late in the Saturday race. I don’t know who the guy is, but he got a hearty congratulations from me after dropping 25 plus mph to go dead on. I was spraying to keep up, then tried to spin the wagon out catching his dump--only to ring it up .08 under. Ouch. I could have left in reverse and not looked more like a rookie! To add injury to insult, the 400 foot spray job (that preceded the 260 foot slide job) torched a head gasket and ended the wagon’s weekend. I did get to see my hero Jed Pennington drive right through a serious footbrake field to collect $5,000--and I enjoyed the hearty IHOP celebratory dinner that the big man supplied. Sunday, I drove Andy’s Chevy II and Hugh Meeks Camaro to third round losses. I could have staged up my dragster twice that round and been thoroughly beaten up by my opponents respective .006 and .009 packages--but the whippings looked better through the windshield of the two foot-feeders I was attempting to drive. Guess I should’ve gone to Florida!

Speaking of the sunshine state, that was my destination as I set out for Bradenton the following Tuesday. In my years of racing, I had never previously made the trip to the 5-day events in Bradenton and West Palm; so I was pretty jacked up to have the opportunity. In Bradenton, I couldn’t ever get to the right place at the right time. I hit the tree well, and executed the stripe solidly--I just made all the wrong decisions. When I needed to be ahead, I got behind, and when I needed to drop I took the stripe. I was still in contention for the duck race until Sunday where (whooohooo!) I won a round on the long track. Two beacons would be the end, however, as lil’ Strick once again ended my weekend with a cute little .002 package on the quarter. Thanks Jeff.

The 1/8th mile races at Bradenton were a little more kind, but not much. I drove Danny’s car to a quarterfinal finish one day, and managed to put mine in the semi’s another. A round or two away once again.

Moroso was a whole different story. I can’t say that I drove well and got beat. I can certainly say that I got beat, but...well, you know. I left the tree pink a few times, and then got .0001 behind a .070-something package the one time it did turn green. I entered day 4 staring the duck race dead in the face (sound familiar), and proceeded to break a transmission in round 1. My opponent however, returned a favor that I had been handing out all weekend and lit the porch lamp, handing me my first win ticket of the week as I idled helplessly down the track. I screwed the stripe up third round, but felt a huge weight off my shoulders avoiding the dreaded “duck race” Saturday afternoon.

On the fifth day, things finally started clicking. I drove well, and the car was great. I got down to the sixth round, where I missed the tree a bit and the car slowed a bit. It didn’t look like I had room to stay ahead, so I dropped--my bad call sent Jeffrey Maggart to the next round.

So Florida didn’t pan out quite the way I’d planned. My Dad used to say “experience is what you get when you don’t get what you want.” I guess I’ll return to Florida in 2004 with a little more “experience.”

For the fourth consecutive year, I capped off my season at the same facility I usually start at: Hub City Dragway in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. The track has probably been better to me than any facility in the country; and Ralph Abraham, Todd Nace, and the entire staff is real fun to race with. The only downfall to Mississippi (or anywhere other than Florida) in November? It’s friggin’ cold. I struggled on day one, but managed to wheel my car into the semi’s on Saturday’s race before getting busted by A.J. Ashe. A.J. went on to earn his second $10,000 win in under a month (this time in his Corvette).

Sunday it really looked like I might be able to end the season in style, as I had both cars in at 14. In a freak occurrence, the transbrake button (yep, the $16 dollar stinkin’ button) went out in Danny’s car that round. I tried to footbrake, but it was a miserable attempt and that car was done. I went one more round in my Miller car, but bumped it red opposite a .050-something package in the quarters. There’s one to sleep on for the next two months.

In retrospect, it’s been a wild year--both on and off the track. I’m living 12 hours east of where I started the season! I’m looking into buying a house! I’ve got a “real” job--or at least somewhere to be every morning! I’ve even managed to trick one great girl into putting up with me for an entire year now! News flash: I popped the big question, and we’re engaged! All of which are things I wouldn’t have given a second thought to a year ago. My, how things change.

The 2004 season is looking bright. I plan to chase all of the local bracket series: B&M series, Dragraceresults.com/Citgo Series, Tenn-Tuck, Mega 10’s, George Howard’s new series, Super Tens, and the IHRA Summit Super Series. Plans are in the works to attend a handful of IHRA national events as well, although we haven’t determined the classes just yet. Stay tuned for details--and I hope everyone has a great holiday season.

And when you’re shopping for the holiday gift for that special racer in your family, please contact some of these fine folks: Huntsville Engine & Performance Center, Bill Taylor Engineering, Barry Grant Fuel Systems, Demon Carburetion, Nitrous Works, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, Moser Engineering, Autometer, K&R Performance Engineering, Optima Batteries, Brodix Cylinder Heads, M2 Race Systems, Mickey Thompson Tires, Q-Stitch, MSD Ignition, 76 Racing Gasoline, Goza Racing Products, Valvoline, Pyroil, Zerex, Afco Drag Racing, Crane Cams, Dixie Racing Products, Simpson Safety, and Dragraceresults.com.

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