2-04 "On the Road" with Luke Bogacki
Here we are in mid-February, and the 2004 racing season is already upon us. It seems like just yesterday I was on my way home from Hattiesburg reliving and evaluating the 2003 season. Like everyone I’m sure, I’ve spent the winter hard at work improving my racing program, planning for the coming season (and beyond), and enjoying some overdue time away from racing and race cars in general.
For the last three seasons, you loyal Dragraceresults.com viewers have kept up with my racing exploits through this column. For those of you who read and enjoy this little column frequently--thank you. A special thanks to the folks who approach me at the track from time to time to let me know about it. Those of you who are loyal readers (my mom, and maybe one or two others) know that we have evolved and reconstructed this column nearly every season, and this year will be no different. For the 2004 season, I will be taking a little different direction with “Technically Speaking,” making this monthly note a more instructional overview of bracket racing. For lack of a more catchy name, we’re going to call it “Bracket Racing 101.”
Before you stop reading, please keep in mind that I am 22 years old. I know that doesn’t make me any type of expert on much of anything. Most of our readers are racers themselves, and I’m not trying to tell anyone how it is. All I’m going to attempt to do is show you what has worked for me, and share some of the ideas that I feel have made me a fairly successful racer. Take it for what it’s worth- I don’t claim to be the professor!
So you want to go bracket racing? In my opinion, there’s not a better sport to be involved with. You’ve got great people, a family atmosphere, fast cars, technological challenges, and one of the greatest one-on-one individual contests on earth. But how do you get started? There are a lot of different classes and vehicles in which to compete. I realize everyone is on a budget and everyone needs to start somewhere, so I’m not even going to get into the perfect car or trailer or whatever--not this month.
Instead, I’d like to focus on getting involved with the right people. In my case, I was extremely fortunate to be raised around race cars and motorsports. My father started racing with wooden wheels I think, and I was at the track before my first birthday. I went racing with Dad every time I got the opportunity, and learned the basics of racing and the mechanics that went with it.
I was twelve years old when NHRA introduced the junior dragster program, and thanks to my father and Robert “Hutch” Hutchison who owned Texas Raceway at the time, I was able to compete in (and win) the first junior dragster event at the track back in 1993. Since then, people too numerous to mention have been there for me: lending support, giving advice, sharing knowledge, loaning cars and parts, and helping with every facet of racing.
What I’m getting at is this: the most important part of your racing program, and the most vital key to the success of it is who you associate yourself with. My father was obviously the most instrumental person in my racing career (and my life in general), and he was extremely supportive and motivational in every aspect of competition. In addition, I was very fortunate to be brought up in North Texas during a time when it was one of the country’s hotbeds for bracket racing. On any given weekend in the early ‘90’s, I would go to Texas Raceway and watch some guys who have become some of the greatest to ever take the wheel: Scotty and Edmond Richardson, Jeff and Jeromy Hefler, Tommy Phillips, Frank Kohutek, and local racers like Jeff and Robby Lopez, Darrell Goza, and more. In addition to watching these guys compete and drive, I got to befriend each of them, pick their brains, and learn. Heck, Scotty used to sit at the finish line and tell me how I drove a given round (and what I could’ve done better) in a junior dragster when I was 13 years old. Not many people can say that. Being associated with all those folks, and having a desire to learn and an open mind, taught me the basics of racing.
Once I got started racing “big cars” in competition (we won’t mention any ages or years), I had a number of other people who helped out along the way. At sixteen, not too many folks know a whole lot about race cars--and I was no exception. But once again, I got associated with all the right people. Wendell Dunaway did my transmissions, rear-end setups, and helped Dad with a lot of general mechanical work. He’s the best I’ve ever seen--and he still does a lot of my work today. I worked a couple odd jobs associated with racing and got help from some great folks like Tom Carrol at Crowley Service Center, George Watson and the staff at Texas Raceway, and Nathan Martin and the staff at Cameron Race Cars. There are so many people I could never mention them all--but I was like a sponge. Any information that I could gain and make use of--I would.
I was also fortunate enough to cross paths with Tommy Phillips when I worked at Cameron Race Cars part-time during High School. I looked up to Tommy as a professional racer who busted his tail week-in and week-out touring the country. He was always very honest and up front with me, and gave me an in depth look at serious racing long before I was ready or able to operate a competitive team myself.
As the years have moved on, and my racing operation has grown, I’ve developed so many more key contacts and friendships. Obviously Todd Ewing, Andy Anderson, Garry Reavis, and the rest of the guys here at Huntsville Engine & Performance have been instrumental in my development and success. They’ve seen enough potential in me to take a chance and put me to work. People like Bill Taylor and Barry Grant have done more for me than they will ever know--and I can only hope to repay their respective companies over the long haul. In short, the business and personal relationships that I’ve formed within this sport are what have made me successful within it, and where I would urge the aspiring competitor to start. No one has all the answers. But everyone has some of the answers. And if you’re willing to ask the right questions and soak in information from reliable sources, then eventually you’ll be ahead of the game.
That’s all we’ve got for this month. Next time we’ll get into what will probably be a multi-segment article on the single most important and often overlooked factor in bracket racing: mathematics. I’ll show you how to read your timeslip and realize why you won or lost. Thanks for reading, and remember you have a choice when purchasing products and services for your racing operation. I urge you to do business with some of the greatest companies and individuals in the industry: Huntsville Engine and Performance Center (1-888-534-4372), 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, Rockett Brand Race Fuel, Goza Racing Products, Valvoline, Pyroil, Zerex, Afco Drag Racing, Dixie Racing Products, Simpson Safety, Milodon, and Dragraceresults.com.