10-13 "On The Road" With Luke Bogacki - The Ongoing Fight
If you remember back to the last time I touched base with DRR “On the Road,” I was sitting out a rain storm at the NHRA national event in Norwalk, OH. Up to that point, Norwalk had been an exercise in loading and unloading, as persistent storms kept popping up just as my classes were next to the lanes. Sunday the skies cleared and we were able to get the race complete.
In the second round of Super Gas my Corvette decided it was time to make an awful run, and the driver wasn’t much better – the result was an ugly defeat. In Super Comp, however, my car was nearly flawless. And despite my own efforts to sabotage the day, we wound up in the winner circle.
Seriously, it wasn’t pretty on my end. My reaction times varied from a best (best!) of .016 to a worst of .053 (.053!!), but a great race car, some heads up thinking, and a bunch of good fortune was on my side. The victory shot me out to a pretty substantial early lead in the NHRA Super Comp standings, which is always a great place to be.
After countless runner-up and semi-final losses, I finally turned the table on Summit Raceway Park in Norwalk. The win was a great shot in the arm for my championship hopes.
After a hurried loading of the cars (the rains set in again right after the winner circle festivities), and a great dinner with Super Gas winner Ray Connolly at the best Mexican restaurant on the NHRA tour, I headed home with a co-pilot. Jason Lynch’s daughter Ally wanted to babysit Gary, and I figured my wife would appreciate that; so she rode home to Illinois with me.
I like to think our house is a fun place to begin with… Ally brought the fun meter up a notch or two!
With the 3rd annual JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout looming just a week away, Jess and I made a brief appearance at the Tenn-Tuck Triple Crown event in Bowling Green. We drove down Friday evening, raced Saturday, dropped Ally off with her parents, and headed back home to stuff goodie bags for the SDCS. We had a great time, but I didn’t do much good on the track. My inconsistent reaction times continued to be an issue, and I got smacked around pretty early in both races.
The 3rd annual JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout definitely goes down as the best SDCS yet. Despite a sketchy forecast and a number of competing events in the area, we still had a great turnout of 165+ of the best door cars and drivers in the Midwest (and beyond)! The weekend was a bit of a struggle, as we did have weather in the area throughout the event and had some PA system issues early in the day on Sunday, but overall it went really smooth.
The $7500 Moser Main Event victory was the first victory of any kind for Kentucky racer Bill Beever. What a way to break into the winner circle!
Congratulations to our 2013 winners: Wesley Fowler (all the way from Iowa Park, TX! – Auto Meter Friday Pregame), Bill Beever (Moser Engineering Saturday Main Event), Jeremy Jensen (BRODIX Sunday Main Event), Wayne Franks (Ohlins King of Illinois Hi-Roller), and Todd Senseney (Meziere Quick 16). On behalf of the Bailey family, the I-57 Dragstrip staff, Jess and myself, we want to once again thank each of the racers who supported the event, as well as all of the sponsors who helped make the SDCS so great. We’re already making plans to do it again in 2014, so stay tuned for details!
Following a long (and if you’ve never ventured into race promotion, you don’t understand the meaning of long) week of SDCS preparation, to say that we were ready for a vacation was an understatement. A trip to Orange Beach, AL was just what the doctor ordered! We loaded up the whole fandamily (Me, Jess, Gary, Jess’s parents, and both of her sisters, along with their husbands and kids) and set out for a week of fun in the sun.
We had an absolute ball down south, as the getaway was timely and relaxing. While we there, we celebrated my beautiful bride’s birthday with a fun night out. Good times to be sure.
A “vacation” that doesn’t include the race car? What!?!?
After returning home, I spent the next two weekends testing the Corvette at I-57 and Gateway International Raceway. It and I haven’t been on the same page lately, so I was hoping to make some changes and gain a little confidence in the 9.90 tune-up again. I had also essentially decided that my S/G season was a write-off in terms of points, so I shifted into test mode, trying to gain some valuable information and get a leg up on 2014. Among a myriad of changes and updates, I made the switch to APD’s new Carburetor Throttle Stop setup.
You really have to see this contraption to appreciate it. To be honest, when I got it, I took it out of the box and played with the throttle linkage for 2-3 minutes before I even realized how it worked. Just the mechanics of this thing are an engineering marvel; but as I got to testing with it I was even more impressed – John Kyle and the gang at APD have really done their homework. I picked up nearly 3 mph by going to this carb/stop over my conventional carburetor with a plenum-style stop. That shocked me so much that I had to put the old stop back on to verify that it was accurate (it was – and I’m not alone. The other racers who have made the switch have reported similar results).
In addition, John and his crew have essentially designed a fuel control system that allows us as racers to adjust the fuel curve on the throttle stop almost completely independently of the wide open fuel curve. Better yet, we can make adjustments that directly affect the initial rpm “fall”, or close of the throttle stop, without changing the latter stages of the throttle stop sequence (and vice-versa). At this point, I’ll be honest; I’m still at the introductory stages of learning what all this thing can do. But I’m convinced that it’s a better mousetrap than we’ve ever had at our disposal for “Super” class competition, and once we’ve got some more testing and data under our belts, this piece will become the most successful and popular carb/throttle stop on the market.
In my “test” day at I-57, I advanced to the semi-final round of Super Pro in the Corvette (running it in S/G trim with the new carb) before turning on the red bulb opposite my buddy Zach Schlumpf, who went on to win.
The next weekend, the testing continued at Gateway. They had scheduled a regular bracket event Saturday, which includes an 1/8th mile and ¼ mile Super Pro class, then a Sunday $5,000-to-win 1/8th mile race. My plan was to test both the Corvette and the dragster on the stop Saturday to make sure I had everything right for the upcoming 3-week swing of NHRA events, then run the dragster wide open for the $5k on Sunday.
I ran the dragster in the 1/8th mile race, but my .007, drop to .01 above in round one was completely in Bill Beever’s way, so that was short-lived to say the least. In the Corvette, I advanced to the quarterfinal round of the ¼ mile race, while making significant carburetor adjustments each round, only to hit it right and pick up .06 with 6 cars remaining. My quicker opponent made a run that I couldn’t beat: .040 and .02 above (yep, I took .080).
This story ends with me admitting that I’m getting old. I lost in Saturday’s race at 4:00 AM Sunday morning. The carburetor shaft on my generator snapped off at about 2:00 AM (literally – the shaft broke in two). I had to leave Tuesday evening for Brainerd, MN and had some normal upkeep and cleaning to do on the cars. Long story short: as they were calling for the first time trial for Sunday’s $5,000 event, I was rolling out the gate. Yep, I’m the guy that drove to St. Louis, raced in two races that paid $1,000-to-win, then packed up and went home instead of running the 5-grander. Imagine that five years ago!
That Monday, I was determined to find a replacement throttle shaft for the generator. I made some calls to area dealers, but they all wanted to sell me a complete carburetor ($320), and didn’t offer the shaft separately. So I did some digging. I wasted the entire day going from one junkyard or generator shop to the next, only to find several throttle shafts that didn’t match the one that had broke. At one point, my buddy Jeff Hayes and I crawled over a mountain of rubble in an old semi-trailer to get to an old generator at the front that looked to have the same carburetor. We pulled it off, only to find that the shaft was about .020” too small. Long story short, after wasting about 8 hours on my wild goose chase, I drove to Sikeston, MO, paid the $320, and bought the complete carburetor. Awesome.
I set out for Brainerd Tuesday evening and met up with Brad Plourd somewhere in Wisconsin on Wednesday morning. We made it to the track without issue, and I had high hopes of repeating last season’s Brainerd performance (where I won Super Gas, and took runner-up honors in Super Comp). Unfortunately, that was not in the cards. Despite my recent work to improve the consistency of the Corvette, my issue once again reared its ugly head in round 1: I was running .08 slower than anticipated, and dropped to a losing 9.99 despite having a .02 advantage on the starting line.
Super Comp was certainly the more important category, however, as I entered the race with the national points lead, and I was able to sneak through a few rounds in the dragster. After putting together a pretty stellar starting line performance through the first four rounds, I completely fell off the map in round 5 to lose to D5 standout Steve Swenson. Up to that point, I had varied just .005 on the tree through 7 runs. And when I let go of the switch against Steve, I was happy to see that I wasn’t red – I thought I crushed it! Of course, that skewed my whole blueprint of the race (I wanted to cross first), which compounded the mistake. As it ended up, I was a fresh .035 on the tree and lost a double breakout. Honestly, when the nice lady at the ticket shack handed me my time slip I was in the process of handing it back, thinking she gave me the wrong ticket, until I looked up and saw that it was my car number. I have no idea what I did.
As frustrating as that was, a quarterfinal finish boosted my points total and kept my championship hopes alive. Granted, a win would have been much sweeter, but a first round loss would’ve sucked; so we take the good with the bad and move on.
After a 14-hour journey, I made it home in time to enjoy my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner on Sunday evening. I enjoyed a brief stay at home before setting out for my favorite racing facility and an event that had been really good to me in the past.
The last weekend of August traditionally brings the Lucas Oil Division 3 event at Beech Bend Park in Bowling Green, KY. As you know, Beech Bend is my favorite track to begin with, and in this particular race, believe it or not, I came in undefeated in the 8.90 category. I won the event in 2010 and 2011 (genius that I am, I chose not to attend last season). That sounds like a good combination, huh? Come into a race where I’ve never lost in Super Comp, and in need of precious points in that category… It looks good on paper!
Ray Connolly was set to deliver a new American Race Cars dragster to Bowling Green for me. That would be the car that would be awarded two weeks later to the American Race Cars Shootout winner at the Moser Great American Bracket Race in Memphis, TN. I really appreciate Mark Horton and Ray getting together and bringing the car (it saved me a trip to Ohio); but it also created a bit of a dilemma. I had to figure out how to get it back home! My wife agreed to drive down Friday evening with our tag trailer, but she was weary of towing a trailer by herself with Gary along for the ride. No big deal, I thought: I’ll just take Gary with me!
So the little guy and I set out for Bowling Green Thursday night. What could possibly go wrong in one day without Mom? Well, I managed to get little G completely off his schedule on the ride down. We ended up stopping for a bottle on the side of the road (not exactly a bunch of convenient stops between here and there), and pulled into the track around 1:00 AM. As I paid my entry fee and drove away from the gate, I heard Gary coo from the back seat. I looked back to see him wide awake – not a great sign for daddy. Two hours later, yep – still wide awake. Conveniently enough for Gary, he got to sleep most of the day Friday. Obviously, his father didn’t have that luxury!
Truthfully, we had a lot of fun together at the track. I had just gotten out of bed Friday morning when Jason Lynch text to let me know he’d take Gary while I got unloaded and through tech. Between Jason, Michael Tedesco, Brad and Katie Plourd, and countless others that I’m forgetting, Gary put several (hundred) miles on his stroller on Friday alone. Thanks to everyone who pitched in to watch him when I had to go up to make a run!
This picture came from Jason Lynch, as he and Gary were making one of several laps through the pits.
The ongoing fight that has been my Super Gas season continued. After a bad final time trial, I made wholesale changes for round 1 and lost a double breakout, 9.82 to 9.84: nothing like being dialed in! In Super Comp, however, I got dangerously close to continuing my streak. Through a combination of decent driving, a great race car, and a lot of good fortune, I advanced to an all-C.A.R.S. semi-final round. There, I took on my buddy Jason Lynch, while Mia Tedesco had the bye run. I was fortunate to get by Jason, but got cracked (yet again) by Miss Mia in the final round. It’s not like I was awful: .012 and 8.910 is a respectable lap. But beside her .013 induced 8.903, well… It wasn’t so good.
Seriously, I’m really happy for Mia. She’s a great kid who has become an excellent driver. But sometimes I can’t help but feel like she’s picking on me!
Despite the disappointing final round that ended my BG winning streak, the day provided a nice boost to my Super Comp points total, taking it to 676. That’s a score that historically has a really good chance to hold up for the championship. More importantly, it surpassed the goal of 650 points that I set for myself back in February. There’s no way to know if that score will hold up (I still have opportunities to improve it), but regardless I’m happy with my season.
After Bowling Green I retreated to Southern Illinois for a couple days before heading to Indianapolis for the “Big Go.” Last season was my first U.S. Nationals experience, and with a little better idea of what it’s all about, I was hoping for better results in 2013. Indy was my 6th national event of the season in both cars, meaning it was my last opportunity to gain points for the national side of my season ledger.
The Super Comp party came to a crashing halt in the opening round, as I lost a tight race to Jack Sepanek. He had a slight advantage on the tree, and we both hit the brakes (seemingly at the same time) at the finish line. I came up 8.90, to his 8.91, but he got the nod by .001. Obviously that was disappointing: for one it’s Indy. And of course, that was my last chance to erase a third round national loss from my score. But let’s be honest: those coin-flip rounds have been going my way all season in Super Comp: I was due to lose one (I’m probably due to lose several).
In Super Gas, things started to click. After another monumental change prior to first round of competition (where I posted a 9.80 ET… for the win!), the car was actually really good. The driver was pretty solid as well, and together we began picking our way through the competition, all the way into Monday’s semi-final round.
Anyone who has done it will tell you that Indy is a marathon; and they’re right, it’s a weeklong ordeal. But pulling into the waterbox on Monday at Indy is a pretty neat feeling. My father always glorified the U.S. Nationals in his stories , whether it be swapping engines at the drive-in across the street or rebuilding transmissions in a motel bath tub. I’ll admit, I never really saw the appeal – it just seemed like a long, drawn out race. Now that I’ve lived it, and felt that excitement in the air, and been a part of the true Indy experience… Now I get it. It’s one (along with the Million Dollar Race, in my opinion) of the pinnacle events of our sport.
The Corvette made the late rounds at “The Big Go.”
Unfortunately, my Monday experience didn’t go as planned. The odd curse of the Corvettester struck again, and I was running .07 slower than I anticipated. I dropped to a nice, conservative, 9.96 in the semi-final round. In saying that, I certainly don’t want to take anything away from my opponent (and eventual champion), Phil Smida. He made a really nice run, and I would’ve had my hands full if I had been running what I thought. Either way, the semi-final pill was tough to swallow, and sent me back the drawing board once again on the Super Gas combination.
The weekend after Indy brought the $50,000-to-win Great American Bracket Race, which was contested at Memphis International Raceway this season. As much as I like going down to Belle Rose and seeing all of my Cajun buddies, I’ll admit the change to Memphis was welcomed: it’s a quick 4-hour ride South from Carterville.
Like in year’s past, the GABR brought a full weekend for yours truly. We kicked the weekend off Wednesday with a ThisIsBracketRacing.com “Live” Driving School that I co-hosted with Britt and Slate Cummings. On the track, I organized the American Race Cars Dragster Shootout, which featured 32 of the baddest dudes (and dudettes) in the land squaring off for a gorgeous American Race Cars dragster. The car is a 240” ARC, featuring Mickey Thompson Wheels and Tires; Moser Engineering rear end, axles, and brakes; Auto Meter’s new Sportsman Data Logger; K&R Pro-Cube Delay Box & Switch Panel; and custom paint from Todd’s Extreme Paint.
On the race track, I didn’t have much success on Friday. I did foul a spark plug in the opening round of the Phantom Race Cars dragster dash; so I promptly changed transmissions (twice) trying to fix it. But all of those shenanigans were in the rearview mirror in time for Saturday’s $50,000 main event. In that race, I drove my ThisIsBracketRacing.com backed dragster, as well as Mitch Clary’s “Fancy.” I was really, really, good up front (really on both ends) all day.
Somehow I got paired up with Troy Coughlin, Jr. not once, not twice, but in three consecutive rounds. First, I was able to take him out in round 3 with my car. Then, I was .002, take .007 to get the big L beside TJ in “Fancy” (take that Brian Whitworth…) at the end of round 3. Back to the lanes with mine for round 4, and who am I paired with? In the rubber match, I was .000 and he was red. A round later, I finally missed the tree (.019) and got beat by Dillon Bontrager.
After watching my longtime buddy A.J. Ashe win the $50,000 check, we got the American Race Cars Dragster Shootout underway. Normally, I wouldn’t spend a lot of time talking about a race that I wasn’t competing in, but this one was pretty special. Some of you may know that Mike Echols, a Texas racer, lost his trailer and two race cars in a devastating trailer fire a week prior to the GABR. Mike was on his way home from a race in Oklahoma and literally watched his rig burn to the ground on the side of the highway.
As the entry list for the American Dragster Shootout began to fill up, I was approached by another Texas gentleman, Josh Curnutte (some of you may know him as the “Honey Badger”). He purchased four entries to the race and said simply, “I want to win that car for Mike.” Among the drivers that Josh entered in the event were Echols himself, and (in my opinion) the best bracket racer on the planet, John Labbous, Jr. As fate would have it, Echols and Labbous met in the final round. John’s win light came on in the final, but there were no losers on this night. Labbous and Curnutte presented Mr. Echols with the dragster, no strings attached. Watching it all happen was nothing short of incredible. There have been a lot of moments that made me proud to call myself a drag racer, but I can’t think of one more prominent than that. The generosity, camaraderie, sportsmanship, and spirit displayed by those two racers, and really everyone that night was tremendous.
After 4 straight weeks on the road, I decided to forego Sunday’s event at the GABR and made my way home to Jessica and Gary. The following week, I once again made wholesale changes to the Corvette and took it back to I-57 Dragstrip for a Saturday night bracket race/test session. Despite a quarterfinal loss, I was actually pretty pleased with the results. It picked up quite a bit when I got beat, but it did it in the first 60’. For the past two months, it’s made crazy ET changes from 330’ on, so that’s a step in the right direction: particularly when I can pinpoint the discrepancy on the graph and feel like I can correct it! As a humorous side note: I went racing locally. I’m the guy that’s leading the national points – some would think “big fish, little pond.” C’mon, we all know better. In Footbrake, I gave it back .002… To be .06 above. In Super Pro, I took .080 to breakout. Looks like championship material to me!
That Monday I set out for Texas, an annual trip that has quickly become one of my favorite weeks of the year. For one thing, I get to compete at the AAA Texas Nationals, contested at the Texas Motorplex, about 40 miles from where I grew up. It’s always fun seeing old friends, catching up, and rehashing the good ‘ole days; like when I snuck my Nova out of the garage and had a friend tow it to the track (unbeknownst to my parents) so that I could race it at 14 years old. I digress.
Even better than the race itself are two extra-curricular activities that I’m so fortunate to be a part of: The Racer’s For Kids Car Show at Children’s Medical Center, and the Greg Morris Memorial Golf Tournament.
The Racer’s For Kids Car Show is one of the “Can’t miss” events on my calendar.
This was my second season at the Racer’s For Kids Show, and it’s honestly my favorite event of the year. About a dozen racers come in and set up our cars around the entrance of the hospital. For a few hours, we show patients and visitors the race cars, answer questions, sign autographs, and hand out a bunch of cool, free stuff. I’m not naïve enough to think that our presence makes a huge longterm difference in these children’s lives. But there are kids at CMC that fight battles that you and I cannot imagine. There are parents whose lives have been turned upside down as they watch their children struggle. If our presence can provide a little bit of fun; a little bit of distraction from those battles for those folks; then how can that not be worth my time? It’s a rewarding day. It can tug at the heart strings, but it’s a very rewarding day.
The day after the show, I got to participate in the golf tournament. The outing is put together by Craig Anderson and Gregg Odom, along with their family and friends, to benefit the Greg Morris Foundation and the Racer’s Benelovent Fund, two really great charities rooted in sportsman drag racing. I had an absolute ball as I no doubt carried my team to a great par finish (par is good in a four-man scramble, right?).
With all of that out of the way, we moved on to the race itself. Once again, I fell early in Super Comp, this time by making an awful decision at the finish line, but once again I advanced deep into Super Gas eliminations. On the strength of some newfound data from testing, the Corvette was (wait for it…) fantastic! I was pretty solid on the starting line and did a decent job at the finish line when necessary to advance once again to the semi-final round. There, I had to match up with a familiar site: a Charlie Stewart Race Cars built ’63 Corvette. This one was being wheeled by Charlie’s son, Jason Richey. Luckily, I got the nod in that round with a slightly better reaction time and moved on to a final round matchup with former NHRA national champion Jimmy Lewis.
Unfortunately for me, my runner-up kind of season continued, as I did an absolutely awful job and Jimmy did a pretty good one. I had the tree by a significant amount: .014 to his .037: in fact, when we left I said to myself, “He can’t win!.” I was wrong.
My car picked up quite a bit in the final (again to 60’, and again I think I understand why), and the skewed track position made me question my initial gameplan. I questioned it just long enough. Jimbo dropped, and I took .046. Yep. .046 to lose a double breakout. This game would be so much more enjoyable if I was just a little better at it! Hat’s off to Jimmy, Phyllis, Buddy Wood, and the entire team for a well-deserved victory.
Add this to my two-decade long list of runner-ups at the Texas Motorplex (including a pair of LODRS events, the NHRA Bracket Finals, and a bunch of big bracket races).
OK, I know you’re tired of reading, but we’re almost up to date… The last race of this column was the following weekend at Saint Louis; our hometown NHRA national event. Of course, “hometown” is used loosely; Gateway International Raceway is about 2 hours from “home,” but it’s by far the closest the NHRA tour gets to Carterville. We had a great turnout of family and friends onhand to support team Bogacki, which always adds to the fun.
You know what wasn’t fun? It wasn’t fun to go completely 0 for September in Super Comp, which I accomplished by getting my teeth kicked in by my opening round opponent. Said opponent put down a .030 package. Beatable, right? I agree, it is a run that I feel I should beat more often than not, particularly from an opponent running anywhere from 150 to 190 miles per hour. This particular opponent, however? How about 116 mph? .010 and 8.92 at 116 is a pretty good lap.
Despite my ineptness in Super Comp, I was once again able to go deep in Super Gas. For a third consecutive outing I was really good on the tree, and for the second straight weekend the Corvette was really dialable and consistent. For a second week in a row, we rode that wave all the way to the final round, only to come up short, this time to Marlin Snyder. After a string of five consecutive reaction times that fell between .008 and .012, I jumped on it to light the red light by .003. Believe it or not, in 2 years of racing Super Gas that was my first red light in competition. As much as I hate to lose, you will never see me get too upset over a red light, or giving back the finish line for that matter. I know my outlook differs from most, but it’s my opinion that those mistakes (going red or giving it back) are mistakes of aggression. In this day and age, I believe I have to be aggressive to win; and I believe that mentality wins me a lot more races than it loses. So while a final round red light can be a bitter pill to swallow, I’ll accept is as part of the territory.
After months of losing sleep over the Corvette, I think back-to-back national event final round appearances prove that we’ve got it sorted out! Thanks to Charlie Stewart Race Cars and all of the manufacturers whose products we put to the test every week: APD, Huntsville Engine & Performance, BTE, Mickey Thompson Tires, JEGS, K&N Engineering, BRODIX Cylinder Heads, Todd’s Extreme Paint, Moser Engineering, Wiseco, CollectorTethers.com, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, Dedenbear, Auto Meter, B&M, K&R Performance Engineering, Earl’s Performance Plumbing, Nitrous Express, ISC Racer’s Tape, Ohlins, Dixie Racing Products, California Car Cover, Milodon, Jesel, Renegade Race Fuels, Lucas Oil Products, Crane Cams, and J&J Performance Engine Diapers.
At the time of this writing, there are only 2 events remaining on our 2013 schedule: the NHRA Division 2 LODRS at Silver Dollar Raceway in Reynolds, GA and the C.A.R.S. Million in Montgomery, AL. The divisional marks my final opportunity to improve my points total in both categories. In Super Gas, I need a deep run if I have any shot at a top ten national finish. As most of you know, I’m leading the Super Comp chase, but it’s far from over. There are a handful of competitors who still have a chance to overtake my score, and I can help my cause by advancing deep in the rounds in Georgia. We’ll see what happens!
After that, it’s off to the C.A.R.S. Million. Though I’ve had success in the surrounding events over the years, the “Million” itself hasn’t been particularly kind to me; hopefully we can change that in 2013!
As we begin to prepare for the 2014 season, our ’12 Charlie Stewart Race Cars Corvette Roadster and 50’ Performax living quarters trailer are for sale. If you’re interested, give me a call or shoot me an e-mail for pictures and information.
In closing, I’d just like to thank our major sponsors, ThisIsBracketRacing.com and the Motor City Hot Rod & Racing Expo, as well as our associate marketing partners: K&N Engineering, Tinsley Drilling & Company, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Advanced Product Design (APD), Product Development Group (maker of AirTek pressure systems and Flo-Fast fluid transfer systems), Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels, and JEGS. Our success simply would not be possible without their support, advice, and input.