07-03 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
The date is June 14, a Saturday. It’s about 10:30 AM, though I’ve been here since about 8. I’m making my last trip to Huntsville, AL--moving the last of my junk so I can start my new job with Huntsville Engine and Performance Center Monday morning. I dropped off my rig and dragster last week, and was just driving back with my Suburban and footbrake wagon on an open trailer. Just prior to 8:00 AM this morning, the transmission on the ‘burb apparently let go, and here I’ve sat since. I’m currently at a truck stop at exit 45 off I-20, about 20 miles west of Tuscaloosa. Bones has commandeered Paul Russell's ramp truck and is on his way to get me, which leaves me with a few hours of nothingness. It’s kind of peaceful here in Union, AL as the locals go about their Saturday morning business. My misfortune has actually provided me with my first chance to take a breath in seemingly a month. Things in my life have been wild and full throttle. And as Ferris Bueller once said, “Life goes by pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you might miss it.”
As some of you may have heard by now, I’ve accepted a position at Huntsville Engine and Performance Center, and I’ll be handling the majority of their marketing and promotional schemes, in addition to providing technical assistance and helping Bones with phone sales. This is a huge move for me. I haven’t worked for anyone in four years. I’m sidelining my lifelong dream of being a successful entrepreneur, and Texas Supercars is basically shut down. That transformation is just a portion of the jump, however, as I obviously am in the process of physically moving (though I haven’t moved a mile in nearly three hours). The move to Alabama is twelve hours from the town where I grew up and twelve hours from most everything I know. Even that I didn’t struggle with at all. As a touring racer I’ve accepted the fact that “home is where the leveling jacks go down.” No, the only struggle that has made this one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made is leaving behind the two greatest women I’ve ever known; my Mom and my girlfriend Kari. They both mean the world to me, and they’ve both been so supportive it’s amazing. Although I know that we’ll be close I also know that I’ll miss each of them dearly. I don’t know how I’ll handle not being able to be there for them.
Those are the negatives. Obviously I’ve taken this position and made this move because the positives outweigh them. With HEPC I really feel like I’m going to be a part of something big. I can share success and frustration with a group of excellent people, all of whom are superbly talented and dedicated to our mutual success. I’ll be more centrally located for racing, and I’ll enjoy a flexible work schedule to continue racing and promoting the company. Finally, while it was not the deciding factor, the security of a weekly paycheck will certainly be a welcome sight.
This final trip culminates what has probably been the busiest and most exciting month of my life. In the past four weeks I have graduated from college, won my first national event, runner-upped the Moser Axle Mania sportsman shootout, moved my mother into her new home, and waved goodbye to a core of friends I thought I’d never leave.
Graduation is a huge accomplishment, and brought a feeling of achievement that exceeds that of any racing accolade I’ve attained. It’s official--I have a Bachelors degree in Automotive Aftermarket Business Management from Northwood University. I love Northwood, and I’ve forged what I trust will be lifelong friendships with several classmates, but I’m glad to say it’s over. The greatest accomplishment of my life may be maintaining a 3.1 GPA and finishing within the scheduled four-year term while running a business and keeping a full racing schedule. I’m very proud of that.
In Virginia last week, I finally got the monkey off my back for my first national event win. After a runner-up and a truckload of semi and quarterfinal finishes, I got over the hump to win Hot Rod in Andy Anderson’s Chevy II. I was also fortunate enough to runner-up the Moser Axle Mania sportsman shootout at the wheel of Mike Bloomfield’s Top Sportsman Dodge Dakota. It’s not the way I figured I’d get one--in a borrowed car with no seat time and little data, but I’m certainly glad it worked out. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments on putting two vehicles I’d never driven before in national event finals that weekend. Frankly, I’m astounded at the sound of that myself. But honestly, Mike and Andy were generous enough to provide two awesome hot rods, and both cars were so consistent and effortless that a trained monkey could’ve enjoyed the same success that I did.
As I sit here in this run down truck stop, I’m overwhelmed with pride for my accomplishments, and yet overcome by questions I cannot yet answer. Is Huntsville Engine the place where I belong? Am I making the biggest mistake of my life and leaving the people I love behind? Or am I taking advantage of the perfect opportunity at the perfect time? I guess time will only tell. But I’ve made my decision, and I’ll be committed to it 100%, because that’s the only way I’ll know.
Well, Bones should be here within the hour (by the way I’ve got to thank the skinny fella for going way out of his way to rescue me), and the Hardees across the street is calling me, so I’m going to call this an ending to the column--though it sure feels like the beginning of something more. Until next time be safe and consistent, and (shameless plug) call me at 888-534-4372 for all your high performance needs.