7-06 "On The Road" with Luke Bogacki
For those of you who suffered through my futile attempt at humility last month (“Yea, I pretty much won every weekend--but we played golf and I suck at that...”), you’ll be happy to note that the last few weeks have been humbling enough! Don’t get me wrong, things are still going great--I’m having what may prove to be my best racing season to date, and it’s been a good month. That being said, I’m not sure I’ll ever have a string that measures up to May and the first half of June.
When we left last month, I had just come off a grueling weekend at the Ultimate 64 Shootout at Mountain Park Dragway. That event was a bunch of fun, and it was successful, as I managed to get the Vega into the winner circle in one of the Footbrake Gamblers races. This column will start off the following weekend, as Bubba and I pointed the big Beaver (that’s my motorhome for you newbies) South and headed for the DragRaceResults.com Series event in Gainesville.
While I didn’t take the big check in Florida, I think I gave my DRR series title hopes a shot in the arm. I claimed a fourth round loss Saturday in Super Pro, and backed it up with a runner-up finish on Sunday. At three cars, it was me, Drew Phillips, and ummm... Drew Phillips. He was double-entered in the semi’s, but I had the best react the round before, so I got the bye. Drew had to eliminate one of his entries, then he whacked me in the final. So basically, no one beat him all day (other than that Drew Phillips guy)--which is pretty awesome.
I had a miserable performance in Jeg’s Sportsman with the Vega. I actually drove pretty well, and the car was great as always--I just had a hard time pulling up in the staging lanes. My opponents made good, solid runs and sent me home early. Bubba wheeled the Vega in Super Pro competition, and made it down to 10 cars Saturday before losing a good run to eventual runner-up Dave Janis.
I know this is getting repetitive, but I once again won’t mention any names directly (you know, to protect the innocent)--The Applebee's trip was one for the ages, and I somehow cleared over $300 in the ensuing practice tree tournament (which I didn’t realize until the next morning)--and Tessa at Applebee's in Gainesville has to be the coolest waitress in the world (mainly because we didn’t get thrown out)!
If the trip from Clay City, KY back to Woodville, then on to Gainesville, FL wasn’t considered criss-crossing the country, then I would think the trip back past Clay City to Tri-State Dragway near Cincinnati the next weekend would qualify. Actually, it wasn’t quite that complicated for me--I drove to Nashville (2.5 hours), put my car in “Racin” Jason Lynch’s Bullet Motorsports trailer, walked into his motorhome, fell asleep--and the next thing I knew.... We’re in Cincinnati. Brilliant!
Tri-State played host to the Jeg’s U.S. Open Bracket Championships, which featured an awesome $100,000-plus purse and tons of product giveaways. Jason and I double-entered each other’s cars, but we didn’t do anything spectacular on the weekend. I went a few rounds each day... He didn’t (Sorry J-Bob)... But we did have an absolute ball. My hat’s off to Mike Fuqua, Dave Szerlag, and the staff at Tri-State Dragway for putting on one of the best run, most enjoyable events I’ve been to in a long time. The event was marred by a situation Sunday that absolutely no good could come from--and it was a bad deal for everyone involved... But the worst part of that deal was that it’s all anyone was talking about the next week, which is a shame because that was the coolest event this side of the Winter Series.
My highlight of the weekend was getting to six in the golf cart race. Hey, if you were riding a golf cart with Emily & Stephanie Lewis, that’d be the highlight of your weekend too. Special thanks to Brian Folk and his son Aaron for use of the golf cart, and for joining the fun riding on the back (even though the golf cart hosed me in the quarters when she fell off a smooth second!).
How about this for a rare and very cool deal? I never advanced past fifth round all weekend--in two cars (hang tight--that‘s not the rare part or the cool part). At a race around here, that nets you a $1,000-plus loss. At Tri-State, the round money was so good, and there were no buy-backs--I basically broke even! Plus, Sunday I had a .003 package one round, which won me a Quickfuel Fuel System (worth $800!), so I didn’t lose a dime!
The July 4th weekend brought the annual Rocket City Nationals at Huntsville Dragway. After three weeks of the windshield, you’d think I’d be excited about racing thirty minutes from home. You’d think. For whatever reason, I decided that I was completely over it. My weekend was spent doing yard work, playing golf, and sitting around being lazy.
Bubba and I were planning on running at Sand Mountain Friday night, but when he went to load the Vega on the trailer, it blew about a half-gallon of water out of the left header. I’m not a mechanic, but I don’t think that’s a good sign. A quick tear down revealed a cracked cylinder, so the Vega is out of commission until the boys at Huntsville Engine can get me fixed back up. We ended up riding over to the Mountain anyhow, with the sole intention of drinking beer and hanging out. Shortly after arrival, we were recruited by Ted Waldrop to drive two of his cars, as he and his son Joey had caught some nasty 24-hour virus.
I did a good job of tearing up a nice race car, as the ring gear in Ted’s Camaro broke when I left the line in round three. Bubba drove their Vega to a runner-up finish in Super Pro.
While I hung out in Woodville basking in the sun, Bubba took the dragster to Huntsville. He probably would’ve been better off playing golf and lounging with me--he got a front row seat to the Scotty Richardson show, as “too-hot” collected back-to-back 10-grand victories, and my hired gun won a grand total of about 8 rounds in three days. I did make an appearance on the weekend--even though I had no intentions of it. I drove to the track to take Bryan and Cassie Robinson to dinner to get started on settling several bets that I had lost the weekend prior (it’s a long story) on Saturday night. Once I got there, they announced a $500-to-enter 16-car gamblers race for $5,000. Being the sick, perverted individual that I am, I enter that race blind, and proceed to screw up the finish line second round. It’s only money, right? My Dad used to say; “If it was meant to hold on to, they’d put handles on it.” Thanks Dad.
After my weekend “off,” I was actually jacked up to go to the Tenn-Tuck event at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green. It’s one of my favorite tracks in the country, and not just because it’s been very good to me in the past--it’s just a really neat place (RV Park & Amusement Park on the grounds, all the amenities, it’s just nice). Plus, Bowling Green has been really good to me over the last few years. It was not, however, good to me that weekend...at all.
Friday I drove like a nimrod--my week off may as well have been a year, I definitely lost the touch! Saturday and Sunday I actually drove pretty well, and my car was mean, just in the wrong place at the wrong time. Ted brought the same Camaro that I tore up the week prior, and I did manage to get to 12 cars in it Saturday night before my one man wrecking crew, eventual winner Lester Adkins (who beat me in both cars), put an end to the night.
After a week of licking my wounds from the Tenn-Tuck experience, I headed West for Holly Springs Dragway for their first big dollar bracket event. I might sound like a broken record here (I think I’ve praised every event I attended in the last few weeks), but Be-Bop and Aileen Davis have done a ton of work to make Holly Springs one of the nicest 1/8th mile tracks in the region. There’s still some minor stuff to work out, but Holly Springs is a first class facility: lots of parking, smooth surface, plenty of shut down, top-notch timing system, well-lit, etc. They’re good folks working hard, and I was glad that they got a good turnout (over 120 S/Pro Cars) for their first big event.
Actually, I say that--I wish they’d have had one less entrant. I think the rest of the field will agree--Greg Brotherton could’ve just stayed home! “Big Poppa” crushed the entire field (myself included--twice), and won both the $5,000 race Friday and the $10,000 race Saturday. We squared off with three cars remaining Friday night, where I’m .506, take .007, and get to load her up. In Saturday’s final, I’m .499 and he’s .500. After a runner-up and a semi, you’d think I had a pretty good shot at the weekend points title (a new BTE Top Dragster Transmission). When I rolled into the water with 8 cars left Sunday (for my third consecutive quarterfinal appearance), I was mathematically eliminated from the points title. My R/U, Semi, 1/4 fell well short of Greg’s Win, Win, 1/4--he’s the man!
Actually, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that Saturday evening’s event was the second $10-grander of the season that I runnered-up completely by accident (see Bowling Green in March). I drove well, really well actually... But I never should’ve made the final. With 20 cars remaining, I’m .003 to my opponent’s .078. He’s in a 6.70 car, so I’m chasing. At about 450 feet, my car shuts off, and all hell breaks lose--I have no idea what’s wrong, but stuff is banging and clanging all over the place. I go from thinking I’ve hung the rods out to thinking I’ve broken the car in half when something hits my feet (yea--in the driver’s compartment!). I see my win light come on--I’m .2 over, and my opponent is .02 under. I get stopped, unbuckle my belts, and lean down to see the crank trigger wheel at my feet. Obviously, the mandrel on the balancer was loose, and the bolts sheared off, sending the mandrel, pulleys, belts, crank trigger, etc. haywire at about 6500 rpm’s.
I got towed back to the trailer, where a bunch of people made a mad thrash to get me back together. Special thanks to Bubba, Jason Lynch, Keith Quick, Bryan Robinson, Greg Coffman, Rusty Nichols, and everyone else who I’m forgetting that pitched in. We got about 1.5 bolts back in the mandrel (I’m not exaggerating), and got the crank trigger and fuel pump belt back on (no alternator, no vacuum pump). I was carrying the bye run, so I figured I could just stage, back out, and get back to the trailer to fix things a little better. Unfortunately for me, there are 10 cars left, so I’ve got an opponent. I dial up a tenth and drive around the water (because I’m afraid I’ll break the mandrel off in the burnout). When we stage, my opponent puts it on the chip, and his stage bulb flickers. In an amazing stroke of luck (good luck for me... Not so good luck for him), he’s red and I idle my wounded warrior to the win light.
We get it back to the trailer, fix if halfway right (we managed to get two bolts in), and I stage for my bye run at 5. With three cars left, my opponent’s car dies when he decks it, and never leaves the starting line. So essentially, all I’ve had to do for the last four rounds is stage. Big Poppa finally stopped the madness in the final, but I walked with a runner-up and a whole bunch more money than I probably should have!
Sunday I parked the dragster and drove Lynch’s whip to a quarterfinal finish, plus I made the final of Footbrake in Bryan Robinson’s Nova. There, I had to run Nick Tapp (Bryan’s co-worker at BTE and a good buddy). So Nick and I swapped cars for the final, where we lit up the score boards .07 and .09-under respectively with his beacon shining (we were dialed)! My boy Bubba made the semi’s of Super Pro Sunday, and I think he’s a big win waiting to happen (hopefully it will happen in one of my cars!)
I guess that pretty much sums it up for June and the first half of July. In the next few weeks, I’ll make my bid for the DRR title with back-to-back events in Columbus, OH, Owingsville, KY, and Adel, GA before the 50-grander in Stanton, MI. I hope you enjoyed reading--and I hope you’ll help me out by supporting some of the companies that make my racing possible: BTE & Memphis Performance, Mickey Thompson Tires, American Race Cars, Huntsville Engine & Performance, Advanced Product Design, Auto Meter, Goza Racing Products, Brodix Cylinder Heads, M2 Race Systems, Hedman Hedders, TD Performance Products, J.W. Performance, Nitroplate, K&R Performance Engineering, DragRaceResults.com, Milodon, Rockett Brand Race Fuel, and Dixie Race Products. As always, feel free to e-mail me with any questions or comments: LukeBogacki@aol.com.
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