06-03 "On the Road" with Luke Bogacki

Success out West--followed by a barrage of L’s

At the conclusion of my last column, I had just come off another frustrating outing at the Memphis Mega Tens event back in April, and was planning (for the first time in my racing career) a trip west. That Wednesday evening, I set out on my maiden voyage west of the Texas line toward Southwestern International Raceway in Tucson, AZ.

Thursday morning I met up with longtime friend, Daniel Gossett and we loaded his unique ‘48 Austin in the trailer along with my Miller Dragster and set out for the great west. I’ve never seen so much desolation in my life. With the exception of the town of El Paso, there is absolutely nothing between Arlington, Texas and Southwestern Int’l--fifteen hours of nothing. After what seemed like days of driving, we finally got out of Texas (I once read that if you’re in Texarkana, you’re closer to Chicago than El Paso) and I felt like I’d just won Indy.

Once we got to racing, I double-entered the dragster, and also entered Danny Son’s rental car (a plush Nissan Altima) in No Electronics. The Nissan was serving double duty, as I drove and also played the role of “instructor” for Danny’s wife, Angie, to try here hand at racing for the first time. As much as I’d like to take credit for Angie’s success, she was an absolute natural behind the wheel. I believe she had just one light outside of the .5’s all weekend--and she’d never so much as staged a car before! She went 3-4 rounds everyday and had an absolute blast. Watching her was almost as fun as racing myself!

The weekend didn’t start off well at all for me--I lost five of the first six rounds I ran. It’s not like I wasn’t driving well, but those left coast guys were strapping it on me. The kicker was No E. I’m .513 second round (keep in mind I’m in a 17 second Altima), and suck the stripe in to .002, opposite a 10-second car--and the beacon shines in the wrong lane. The ambulance man at the turnoff (who laughed at me every time I road by in the rental competition vehicle) asked what happened….I said, “I was better than .520, and took very little. Somebody needs to tell that guy he’s racing a (explitive) Nissan Altima!”

At about this point, I’m wondering just what I’ve gotten myself into. I’m fifteen hours from home, in the middle of nowhere, and have blinked one stinkin’ win light in six attempts. Then, on my last shot, things took a dramatic turn for the better. Friday I wasn’t very impressed with my car, and I was so much faster than the majority of the field that I was having a hard time driving the stripe, but things fell together. The twelve and eleven second cars went red, and I drove well enough to sneak by the other dragsters the last couple rounds. In the final, I coaxed the win light on opposite Chuck Hawk, and drug a $5,000 check back to the trailer. It’s so nice to get a big win like that, my first big bracket win of the season. It’s even better to knock out a good lick on the first day of a multi-day event--just kind of puts the rest of the weekend at ease.

As I mentioned, I wasn’t too impressed with my ride, so Saturday morning everything changed, and the Cool Hand Luke altitude setup was installed. People didn’t know quite what to think as last nights winner was torn to pieces. In all, the car that won the night before received a new looser converter, 4.10 gear (from 3.89), smaller (15” wheel) tires, and a little less jet on Saturday morning.

Saturday I went a few more rounds in footbrake, but couldn’t get down to the nitty gritty. The changes made the dragster a lot more competitive in the altitude, but Tracy Sons strapped it on me in the quarterfinals en route to his $5,000 victory.

Sunday again brought no success on the bottom, as I got beat in round 4 (don’t remember what I did--but do remember not feeling too bad about taking it on the chin to an 11-second car in the Budget Rental). Super Pro was shaping up well again, however, and this time I felt like I had the best car on the property (those changes helped after all). I rolled onto the ladder number one, and this time I snuck past my quarterfinal opponent and got the bye at three. Waiting in the final was Billy Kidd, one of the most respected racers in that part of the country. Fortunately for me, he didn’t have a real good run, and I was able to sneak under it despite a reaction time that I would’ve kicked myself over for fifteen hours on the way home had it not been good enough. All told, we racked up two five granders, won the weekend points championship (which got me a cool flying toilet trophy), and had a great time with some great people out West.

On the way home, as Daniel and I reached the Odessa area, a warning buzzer sounded to let me know that the engine was hot. As I looked down to see the gauge pegged, concern began to set in. My trusty Beaver (that’s my motor home for first-time readers) threw a belt, and it’s at this point that my buddy Daniel really came through. Daniel is a mechanic at his family-owned service shop, G&G Auto in San Angelo. Through his connections, he finds the local O’Reilly’s and has enough clout to actually get the manager to bring us a belt on the side of I-20! Pays to have friends in high places! After a minor delay, we were back on the road and eager to get home after a long weekend.

That week the beave’ went to Butch Young for some much needed TLC, and I got things ready to roll again for a weekend of local racing at my home track, Texas Raceway. I haven’t gotten to run at Kennedale much in the last few years, but it was good to be home nonetheless. The people here are great, and the competition is just as tough as when I was cutting my teeth years ago opposite the Richardsons, Heflers, Phillips, Lopez’s, etc.--all of whom called this their home track at some point.

For whatever reason, I’m probably more motivated to drive well at Kennedale than anywhere else--even though it’s only a couple miles from home. Without trying to toot my own horn, this evening was one of my finest--and probably my best ever on the front end of the track. I lost at 10 cars remaining in Super Pro, but won the Quick 32. In the final of Quick, I was .504 opposite Ray Dunaway’s red-light. That reaction was my worst of the five elimination rounds in the class. I was .502, .506 (okay, I lied--I rolled .003 in when my opponent tried to stage with the rear tires), .500, .501, and then .504. Why was I set up so tight? Well, there’s something about being three miles from home that makes me a little less nervous about going home early!

The following weekend I went back out to Kennedale, but didn’t enjoy the same result. I got whacked in the third round of Super Pro, and went red in Quick. Kari came down for the weekend, and got to see me take a good butt kicking--she’s starting to think she’s bad luck. Great. The next weekend provided another short drive, as Red Line Raceway threw a $2000 to win event on Saturday afternoon. I entered Super Pro and Quick 16, took three prompt smacks to the chin, loaded up and came home. End of weekend.

At this point, I concluded that racing at home wasn’t working out, and decided to forego another weekend of getting beat up locally to attend a B&M series event in Montgomery, Alabama. The twelve hour ride was good to let me get some thoughts in order, as life has been pretty crazy lately with graduation looming and my mother closing on our house (which we need to be out of June 1).

My buddy Bones brought his sweet street-driven Camaro to Montgomery for me to drive in No-E, and I thanked him by ripping the posi-unit apart on my second time run. Beautiful. Nothing like breaking stuff that doesn’t belong to you. Thankfully, Jeff Strickland stepped in with another plush street-driven Camaro and I was back on the foot. Considering how little I’ve been able to race No-E in the last year or so, I was thoroughly impressed with my driving on bottom. Although I didn’t win anything, my worst light in three days was .548, and the majority were sub-30.

In my car, I bowed out in the sixth round Friday, managed a Runner-Up Saturday, and lost first and second round Sunday. Bones runnered-up Friday, so while we weren’t winners, our pit area wasn’t a bad place to be all weekend. The rains came Sunday (while I was still in No-E), and I headed back toward home with a good showing that helped both my confidence and checkbook.

The forecast for May 16-18 in Memphis was horrible. But with the Mega 10’s series (that’s always been good to me) and this years points battle still in it’s early stages, I set out for the land of Beale and barbeque nonetheless. As advertised, the event rained out completely, and we only got to run a round and a half on Friday. On a brighter note, I was able to wax my trailer, re-organize the motor home, and perform a good bit of maintenance on my dragster between and during showers.

Once the race was cancelled Saturday morning, I made a bee-line for Prescott Dragway in Arkansas for a $4,000 to-win Saturday, and $2,000 to win Sunday. Once there, my weekend went from bad to worse. I should’ve taken it as a sign when I let down the door to the trailer only to see my car limping with a flat left front (that held air perfectly four hours earlier when I loaded up in Memphis). After rummaging through the pits, I found a friendly neighbor willing to part with his spare, and with Jeff Brotherton’s help, proceeded to dismount my tire and mount the spare by hand. After the obligatory grunting and cursing, we finished the job, only to uncover a similar hole in the new tire! It’s back off with the front runner, and a quick bicycle patch, and then back on (again by hand--it’s fun). Our makeshift fix wasn’t perfect, but it held air long enough to race.

By the time I completed this episode, it was already time for run for the money. I roll into the water, only to discover that the transmission I installed the day prior in Memphis is blowing fluid out the vent for some unknown reason, . Back to the trailer for another quick thrash as we slide in a spare tranny. Thank you’s to Artie Green, Steve Hamilton, and again Jeff Brotherton for their help with this one. We get the new unit in, and there’s still a few cars remaining first round. In my haste to get to the staging lanes, I knock a hole in my nosepiece exiting the pits--and the hits just keep coming!

Believe it or not, I actually thought I might have things rolling after winning the first four rounds without the benefit of a time run. Steve Fuller had something to say about that, however, as he made my .512, take .000 run look elementary next to his .008 package. That night I sat atop the Beave’ (apparently the only spot in Prescott, Arkansas that my phone gets reception) and watched Charlie Porter take the $4000 win.

Sunday things were coming along real well. I was good on the tree and had a nasty car beneath me. I got the bye run at nine cars, so I’m down to five and things are looking up. On the bye run, however, I manage to break the stator tube off the front pump in the transmission on the burnout. Obviously the racing gods are not smiling on me. I promise to help a blind old lady across the street soon, and drive back up to the lanes with an obviously wounded weapon. I draw Eddie Kirk, dialed 6.28, and proceed to change my dial in board from 4.99 to 6.28--heads up! I don’t have enough pump pressure for the transbrake to hold, so I foot it in high gear, and manage a .520 (he’s .515). As the broken components struggle to lock up, I spray at about 20 feet out, but it’s to no avail. I guess it’s pretty hard to lock up a converter when you can’t hold the stator still. At about 80 feet out I punt, and coast to the turn, then into the trailer, then back to Texas. When it rains, it pours.

Maybe the coming month will be better--it’d be a good time to get hot! With a super tens race at the Texas Motorplex, the IHRA event in Virginia (where I’m entered twice in the Moser Shootout), and the $20,000 footbrake race in Huntsville, there will be plenty of opportunities to cash in. Weekends like last can’t happen very often! Until next time, may everyone be safe, consistent, and .50 take .00.

 

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