"On the Road" with Luke Bogacki, July 2011

In 10+ years of penning this “On the Road” column for DragRaceResults.com, I’ve learned some things based mainly on the feedback from you; my fellow racers, friends, and loyal DRR readers. In a nutshell, people will read about a winner, but it’s just not that interesting. People will read about a loser, and sympathize (unfortunately, in this sport everyone of us can relate). But what provides the most entertainment for the reader base is knuckleheaded moves, one-of-a-kind situations, and general bad luck. People really seem to get a kick out of it when I get to change wheel studs alongside the interstate, make 20+ mile rides on a moped, and defy most laws of logic and good sense.

 
With that said, I’ll preface this column by saying that I’m a little concerned about it. I certainly haven’t been winning; so don’t worry about getting turned off by one of those “I must be the greatest…” columns. There’s no threat of that. But I haven’t really had any “wheels-off” experiences lately (literally or figuratively). It’s not that I’m any less of a bonehead than the one you’ve come to know, I just haven’t had a lot of bad luck lately. The win lights aren’t coming on as much as I’d like, but we haven’t (knock on wood) had any roadside plights, very few broken parts, and to be honest I haven’t had a ton of excitement thus far in 2011. What we have had is rain. Plenty of it! Rain, and butt whippings. I’ve had plenty of those too. So, sit back and relax; print this out so you can read it on the can if you’d like. I’ll try to wrap things up before your rear end falls asleep.
 
My last column ended with a little trip down to Tennessee where I had some success in the Vega at Clarksville Speedway and Northwest Tennessee Dragway in early April. With the JEGS Spring Door Car Shootout looming, I continued my tour of the local tracks in an effort to drum up interest in our event. The following weekend took me to Sikeston Dragstrip in Missouri. I entered the Vega in Super Pro and Footbrake, and looked pretty strong for awhile. I advanced to the semi-finals in Super Pro before I lost a close race to Mitchell Carter. In Footbrake, I made it to the final round but got cracked by Teddy Robertson. That wasn’t exactly what the doctor ordered as semi and runner-up finishes just don’t pay like a win (or two), but it was fun and I left feeling very competitive. 
 
Sunday, I set out for Coles County Dragway, near Charleston, IL. Just as a reference: Sikeston is 80 miles south of home, and we finished up there at about 1:30 Sunday morning. Charleston is about 150 miles north of home, and they started time runs at 9:00 Sunday morning. Some quick math tells you that I got to stop at home, but didn’t get to stay long.
 
In all honesty, I probably stayed longer than you’d think. By the time I rolled into Coles County and got through tech, I’d missed time trials. I did get to pay to make my time runs in the “Dial for Dollars,” and go into round 1. Coles County offered first and second round buy backs, which was good, because I needed them. I think I missed one opportunity out of four to give the nice lady at the tech shack more money. I ended up getting bounced in round 3 of Super Pro, but prevailed to win the Footbrake category over Rob Fisher. We had a great final round: I don’t remember the numbers exactly but I think he was .009 and .01 above. I was .016 and took very little to be dead-on.
 
Funny note from CCD: In an early round, one of the mufflers fell off my Vega. The evac hose was still attached, so I drug it all the way down the track (nice, huh?). Well, when I got back to the pits they were calling the next class, so I cut the hose and tossed the muffler in the trailer to make the round with one muffler and one set of zoomies (that sounded good). After that, I jacked the car up and reattached the muffler using my handy “Hillbilly Fix It Kit,” (bailing wire). That lasted right up until the final. There, the muffler fell off again as I left the starting line. Yea, I could hear it. Yea, I knew I was dragging it. And yea, it paid all of $375 to win. But I thought I hit the tree, and it looked like I could get there. So I drug it for 1300 feet (again). 
 
Here I am surrounded by my central Illinois buddies after a victory at Coles County. That’s not the Coles County Dragway Trophy. That’s the muffler I drug down the track (twice).
 
Another not so funny note from the weekend: In two days, I attended two race tracks, ran four classes, and slept for a couple hours. In my four entries, I had one win, one runner-up, one semi-final, and one early loss. Between dropping the ball late at Sikeston, buying back 84 times at CCD, and the dramatically cut purse in Footbrake, I think I made $50 on the weekend. Maybe this local racing idea wasn’t so slick after all!
 
I can sum up the next month in one word: RAIN. Sikeston had a $5,000 Super Pro race scheduled the following weekend, but it rained. In retrospect, rain really isn’t the right word. It poured, seemingly non-stop, for over a week. Of course, that week led up to my first attempt at event promotion: the JEGS Spring Door Car Shootout at I-57 Dragstrip. By the time the weekend drew close, we not only had a pit area that was under water; we didn’t have any way to get to that pit area. The Wednesday prior to the event, it took me an hour and a half to get to the race track from my house (it’s a 20 minute drive). Just when I thought EVERY road that led to I-57 Dragstrip was closed due to flooding, I found one back road that would get me there. 
 
It wasn’t an easy decision, and it certainly wasn’t a decision we wanted to make, but we were forced to postpone the entire event. The JEGS Spring Door Car Shootout is now the JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout, and it will take place at I-57 this month: July 30-31. The event is unchanged: we’ve still got great guaranteed payouts and nearly $30,000 in prizes from a host of great sponsors. We’ll still host a pair of bonus races Saturday night that feature 100% + payouts. And it’s all for door cars! We’ve got a lot of ideas that we’re going to implement in an effort to make the event fun, enjoyable, and highly competitive. I really believe we’ve got a racer-friendly program that will grow into the premier door car race in the Central United States. If you can make the trip to Southern Illinois at the end of the month, we’d love to see you here. I think you’ll enjoy the experience.
 
Yes, this is just another chapter in my book of shameless self promotion. But it’s for good reason: you don’t want to miss this race!
 
With the Spring Door Car Shootout postponed, I set out for Music City Raceway in Nashville, TN for some dry ground and Saturday night action. In Super Pro, I was .011 on the tree in round 2 and not involved: my opponent was .009 package. In Footbrake, I was .019 on the tree in round 3 and not involved: my opponent was .017 package. So much for that; I pointed my rig North and drove home through a barrage of nasty thunderstorms.
 
I spent Friday and Saturday of Mother’s Day Weekend in Byron, IL for the annual Folk Race Cars driving school at the Playground of Power, Byron Dragway. Ron, Brian, and Nick Folk had me back for a third year as their guest instructor in the class, and I think the 2011 edition was our best school yet. We had a wide variety of racers attend, driving a vast array of competition vehicles (from Super Comp to hot street cars), and I really felt like everyone left the facility with a better combination, some enhanced tools behind the wheel, and most importantly an increase in confidence about their entire racing program. On my end, there’s no greater feeling than seeing those racers “connect the dots” and improve their program. I’d do it every weekend if I could.
 
I made it back to I-57 Dragstrip Saturday night just in time to watch Jess and her father, Jack load up their cars, as they’d lost the round before I pulled in the gate. Sunday, we worked around the house and took Jess’s mother, Tracie to dinner for Mom’s day. Nice, relaxing days with family are underrated!
 
Next up was a big buck Footbrake Race at Clarksville Speedway, just Northwest of Nashville. I made it to Clarksville Friday afternoon and rolled the Vega out just in time to be greeted by a monsoon. No worries, the big race was Saturday anyhow. I had my living quarters trailer in tow for the first time all season, and had the Vega along with my “Rocketship” (the fast dragster, which also hadn’t left the shop this season). The plan was to run the Vega at Clarksville, then ride over to Bowling Green Sunday to put a couple laps on the rocket prior to the K&N Spring Fling in Bristol.
 
When the rains set in Friday night, I took a ride to Jason Lynch’s shop. He’d just picked up a new dragster earlier in the week, so I figured I’d lend a hand with wiring and assembly. We put in some late hours Friday night, and awoke Saturday to more rain. Clarksville cancelled their race due to the weather, so I set out for Jackson, TN. Thankfully, I didn’t make it far from the gate at Clarksville before I called the track in Jackson to realize that they were also rained out. That prompted a U-turn (tricky with a 50’ trailer, but I got this), and a short drive to Music City Raceway in Nashville.
 
There, I once again rolled the Vega out and got to the staging lanes. This time, I made it almost to the ready line when the skies opened and we were rained out once again. Fantastic.
 
That prompted a trip back to the Lynch garage for another long night as we just about got the new whip running.
 
Sunday, I was back behind the wheel of my trusty duallie headed for Bowling Green. I got there, got both cars unloaded, and as the call was made for the first time trial (take a guess what happens next)… The skies opened and the race was cancelled. So there you have it. I tried to attend four race tracks. I actually made it to three of them. I unloaded and warmed up the car(s) at each of those three. I never got to make a run down the track. AWESOME!
 
I left Beech Bend to return home for a couple days to celebrate our anniversary before making the trek to Bristol for the “Fling.” Speaking of anniversaries, did you realize that you can have an anniversary prior to getting married? I didn’t. But apparently it’s important, because I missed it last year and have been trying to live it down ever since. So this year, not only did I need to be in town on May 17th, I had to show my sweetie how important she is to me. I think I pulled that off. And in all honesty, our two years as a couple have been the greatest two years of my life. But, also in all honesty, we’ll be getting married in January.  At that point (I’ve checked into this), May 17th is effectively wiped from the calendar as a date that has great meaning in my life. January 21st will be important. May 17th will no longer be relevant. Got it!
 
Off to the ‘fling with the Rocket and the trusty little Vega… For those of you who weren’t at Bristol (which isn’t many of you: with 300+ cars on the grounds I don’t know of many folks who were anywhere else), you missed out. Peter Biondo and Kyle Seipel put together the best event I’ve been to in years. The race offered huge winners’ purses, great payback, a ton of prizes and giveaways, and an all around well-organized, well-run show. It was great to be a part of it, and I can’t wait to go back!
 
Here I am preparing to do a poor job in the Door Car Shootout at Bristol. Thanks to my left coast buddy, Andy Morris for the photo.
 
On the track, my weekend wasn’t great. I continued a trend that you’ll read a lot more of over the next few pages: I drove really well. I had two great race cars. I got close just about everyday. I didn’t make a final (or in this case, I never made it to the quarters). On Thursday, I had both cars in at 20, and the Vega down to 10. I was red in both.
 
On Friday, I think I got smacked early in the dragster, but had the Vega down to 12. On Saturday, I made it to 18 cars in the dragster. On Sunday I was spent and drove like I hadn’t done it before. Total weekend recap: I don’t completely suck, but I’m not very good at this!
 
This is just a cool picture. That’s Bobby Taylor dropping me (he actually dipped the front end through the beams to make it look like I did a great job) in an early round at the Spring Fling. Thanks to Chris Simmons for the photo.
 
Next up was a big weekend at the home track, I-57 Dragstrip. Saturday paid $5,000-to-win in Super Pro and $2,000 in Footbrake. Sunday was $3,000 and $1,000. Sunday night was the classroom portion of ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live,” which Jason Lynch and I held in my new ‘shop mahal’ (read about it in my last column) behind our house. Then Monday we had free reign of the I-57 facility for the on-track portion of the school. If that sounds like a full weekend, it was! Who schedules this stuff?
 
My weekend started out pretty well, as I drove “Bruiser” (my slower, bracket dragster) to the final round of the $5,000 race. There, my buddy Shawn Langdon was waiting and he collected the big check when I turned it red. Sunday, I didn’t have much success, but watched as my buddy, Joe Davis defeated my future father-in-law, Jack Camden, Jr. in the final for $3k. Jason and I rounded up our group of students and chauffeured them back to metropolitan Carterville and the shop mahal. We ordered pizza and wings, and we talked racing until about midnight in the shop. Once again, we had a great group of racers who really shared a desire to open their minds and improve their game. While Jason and I were the “instructors,” I think we learned as much as anyone from some great discussion!
 
Monday brought my 30th birthday, and day 2 of TIBR “Live” as we took it to the race track for a successful conclusion to the course (who schedules this stuff?). The response we got was incredible, and we’re already planning on bringing the class back to I-57 next season. Nearly every member of the Memorial Day Class signed up for the 2012 version, so if you’d like a spot in next year’s class, let us know quickly!
 
As a side note… 30? Really? I promise I just turned 18. I catch myself occasionally trying to write ‘19’ next to ‘age’ on my tech card. I was always the kid within the group I ran with at the races. 30? Can I get a recount?
 
With the school wrapping up on Monday evening, I had roughly 36 hours to get my junk in order and get to Bowling Green for the JEGS U.S. Open Bracket Championships. Who is in charge of my scheduling? This event is another of the “can’t miss” variety for big dollar bracket racers. Promoters Dave Szerlag and Mike Fuqua have done a great job over the years to make this event one of the most prestigious (and richest) bracket races in the country. Unfortunately for me, this particular event has never brought me any success.
 
With this year’s race coming to Beech Bend (one of my favorite facilities, and probably the track where I’ve experienced more success than any other), I had high hopes. Once again, those hopes were dashed. I was eliminated prior to the money on Thursday and Friday (and the money starts when you win third round, so that’s not good). Saturday I got things rolling, and had both cars in the money rounds. In the dragster, I bumped it red to my opponent’s conservative .086 reaction time in round 4. Great! In the Vega, I got down to ten cars and once again turned it red (notice a trend here?) opposite eventual runner-up Zach Schlumpf.
 
Sunday I won all the rounds that I could before the rains came in the middle of round two and the purse was split. Another JEGS U.S. Open, another negative tab at the end of the weekend for team Bogack. Heck, why buck tradition?
 
The final leg of the May-June big bucks marathon took me to Cleves, OH for the annual Ultimate 64 Shootout. Unlike the Open, this event has always been really good to me. In the five previous races, I’d been in 4 finals and won as a car owner. In the $50,000 main event, I’ve been runner-up, semi’d, and lost in the quarters. While the risk at this event is high, I’d always been able to turn a significant profit in past seasons.
 
This year, the race really became a marathon. Friday’s opening event was halted by rain after round one, and the remaining entrants split the purse (I won in both cars, so that was a good start). Once the facility was dried out Saturday, we realized that the lightning storm the night before had taken out the entire timing system. We didn’t get to hit the track on Saturday until 6:00 PM. At that point, race promoters had to cram 7 individual events into a day and a half. Let the marathon begin!
 
Of course, I didn’t have the sense to sit a race or two out (or not double enter the races that I could). To make a long story short, I made 45 passes within the 30-hour span from 6:00PM Saturday until 11:59PM Sunday night (and I did sleep for awhile). In the seven races that were contested, I made it down to 10 cars or less in five of them. I never made a final. I got beat ten times over the weekend, and in eight of those ten my opponents’ packages were .013 or better. I made really, really, nice runs. At the end of the weekend I won $3175. My tab at the gate was $3170. That’s not good math.
 
If it weren’t for Wes May and Jeg Coughlin, Jr. I may have enjoyed a much better fate. Unfortunately for me, I locked horns with each of them three times and posted a record of 1-2 against both. Early in a $12,000-to-win race, my .014 package was no match for Wes’s .012. We paired again in the quarterfinals of the $50,000-to-win main event (which Wes went on to win). There, I was .005 and got to the finish line first by .011 to be .006 under. If you’re doing the math, you can see that he was .010 package. I ran Jeg with 6 cars left in a 10-grander with the Vega. I “missed” the tree with a .014. He was .013 package. Then we ran with 8 cars left in a 5-grander. I was .007 and dead-on 9. He was .008 package. This is awesome! Shawn Langdon threw down .008 for me, and Steve Taylor joined the club with a .008 package to knock me out in the last 6-grander. I did manage to keep the Vega in the final race, where we split the money evenly at 10 cars (given my recent track record in late round matchups, I was happy to escape with $1100).  John Labbous, Jr., who was still in the Sunday night race as well, said it best: “At that point, I wasn’t even concerned about the cheese, I just wanted to get my head out of the trap.”
 
Once we split the purse, I walked to the gate to close my tab, then back to the trailer where I literally fell into bed. I awoke Monday morning to a pit area that looked like a bomb went off: two cars still outside, junk scattered everywhere. I don’t remember ever being so (mentally and physically) worn out from a weekend of racing!
 
Sometime between the US Open and the Ultimate 64, over a few post-race frosty beverages, Jason Lynch decided it would be a good idea for me to take his Cavalier to Bristol for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals. The mad-Cavi looked like fun, and given my recent (lack of) success on the bracket scene, I had a bit of an itch to get back to a TV race; so I agreed. A couple days after the Ohio adventure, I loaded up the Rocket and set out for Nashville. There, I snagged the Lynchmobile (formerly known as the Folkmobile) and drove east to Bristol.
 
The nationals really just brought an extension of my recent frustration. The Cavi was a lot of fun, but Larry Bernhausen spoiled the good times in round 2. I let go with a normally competitive .013 reaction time, but I was wasting fuel from that point on; Larry posted a .011 package (I thought I left the 1/8th mile bracket race on Monday morning). In Super Comp, I did have a cool rare occurrence in round one: I posted the second perfect run of my life: .000 and 8.900. I don’t have to tell any of you that the run was pure coincidence and nothing more than a happy accident. But it was pretty cool to see zeros across the slip.
 
These don’t come along very often. In some 5,000+ runs down the track, this is only the second time I’ve ever gotten it right!
 
I did a good job in round two to earn a bye run on Sunday morning. Shortly thereafter, my wheels came running off when Bo Upton smacked me in round 4 with 9 cars remaining. I’d like to tell you Bo laid down a .00x package, but he didn’t. He was competitive with a .017 and 8.91, but my car sped up by a minute and I didn’t do a good job. The train whistle blew at the finish line as I gobbled up a bunch of stripe to break out. Another race, another loss in the late rounds. This stuff is fun.
 
Jessica and I left Bristol and made our way to Alabama to spend a few days with my mother. Her 60th birthday was a few days prior, so it was nice to catch up and spend a little time with my favorite mama.
 
When we arrived back home I made some changes to the “bruiser” before heading to I-57 to do a little testing before we start another swing of big money events. That day ended just like everyday has lately. I made really nice runs to advance to the quarterfinals. There, I missed the tree with a .020 lamp and my opponent had a .009 package. It doesn’t matter who you are or where you race: local brackets, big dollar events, or the NHRA tour. If you want to lay down a .00x package, just pull in the lanes next to me! It seems like your odds of victory go up the closer we get to the money rounds; so don’t be shy. Come drop me into the dunk tank!
 
Oh well, in all seriousness it’s not bad at all. I’m having the time of my life surrounded by people that I love, and making a living (granted a meager one) within the sport that I love. Thanks again to the marketing partners who make that possible: Bill Taylor Enterprises, Mickey Thompson Tires, American Race Cars, JEGS, Lucas Oil, Huntsville Engine & Performance, K&N Engineering, BRODIX Cylinder Heads, Auto Meter, J&J Engine Diapers, APD, Moser Engineering, ISC Racer’s Tape, K&R Performance Engineering, Rockett Brand Race Fuels, Milodon, Dixie Racing Products, Ohlins Shocks, Goza Racing Products, B&M, Figspeed.com, PimpMyCrew.com, Todd’s Extreme Paint, Sunset Racecraft, Sparco, Nitroplate Coatings, Hedman Hedders, Nitrous Express, and of course DragRaceResults.com.
 
When we touch base again we’ll have another few months of racing in the books (and hopefully a few more win lights!). Upcoming events for team Bogack include the Firecracker Nationals in Muncie, IN, the Tenn-Tuck Extreme at Bowling Green, and the Bottom Bulb Extravaganza in Ohio. Obviously, late July will bring the Summer Door Car Shootout here at I-57 (don’t miss that one!). After that I’m off to the World Super Pro Challenge in Michigan, and then the Great American Bracket Race in Belle Rose, LA in September. Hopefully I’ll see you at one or more of those events (like the Summer Door Car Shootout!) Okay, I’m done with the shameless self promotion for this month. Good luck, be safe, and I’ll see you “On the Road!”
 

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