Over the years I’ve heard the adage “Best laid plans,” when things just don’t quite go the way we laid them out. When I type that, I’m not even sure it makes sense; maybe the adage is “Best made plans.” If it’s not, I think it should be. Regardless of the verbiage, I think that old adage sums up my last month and a half of racing pretty well. As per usual, I came in with a plan. And, as I should know by now, life happens and plans tend to be about as useful as the paper they’re written on.
The last time I touched base with each of you “On the Road,” I was actually pretty excited to get back on the race track. Little Gary had grown enough and my wife and I had established enough of a routine that I felt comfortable leaving his side for a few days to get back to racing. The schedule layout would allow me to make a couple divisional events in Atlanta and then back-to-back weekends of $50,000-to-win bracket events. That thought definitely whet my appetite. For one, I love the thrill of racing for big money. More importantly, between the kiddo coming into our lives and my commitment to the NHRA tour, I don’t feel like I’ve raced a lot this season. I’ve made several events, but I haven’t made the laps I was accustomed to a few years ago when I was bracket racing 3 days a week. I don’t feel like I’ve been driving particularly poorly as a result, but I haven’t felt sharp either. Three consecutive weeks of multi-race competition appeared to be just what the doctor ordered. Best laid (made) plans…
In preparation for the double divisional in Atlanta, I had changed combinations in both cars and was able to do a little bit of testing. Unfortunately every test session either ended in rain or broken parts, so I didn’t get nearly as much accomplished as I would have liked. After four torque converter changes, the new SR20 motor showed some promise in the dragster. I managed a 4.56 effort at I57 Dragstrip on a hot afternoon. I still think there’s a little bit left, but I’m pretty content with it for the time being. I actually only got one test lap in with the Corvette, but it showed great promise with an 1/8th mile throttle stop run that netted 4 more mph than I’d ever run with the previous combination. On the second run, the oil pump pickup fell off in the water box… A billet oil pump from Huntsville Engine and Performance later, we were back in business.
Although I wouldn’t say I was completely confident in either combination, the time had come to head for Atlanta and try my luck on the LODRS level back on the Eastern side of the country. My intention was to leave home Tuesday afternoon for a pit stop at Beech Bend Raceway in Bowling Green and a brief test session before continuing down to Atlanta. About 10:00 that morning, I came into the house and threw up. That was the onset of a nasty case of the flu, and I was laid up in bed for the next two days. Best made plans…
By Friday morning I summoned enough energy to get out of bed and review the NHRA schedule to figure out where I could go to make up the 2 events that I was in the process of missing in Atlanta. The options didn’t look too good. Against better my judgment, I decided to load up and head South in an effort to run the second of two races in Atlanta. Coming into race 2 cold, when everyone else has spent 2 days on the track probably isn’t a wise idea; particularly with 2 cars that I wasn’t sure were really “right.” But that option sounded a whole lot better than driving to Timbuktu for a points race later in the season. Off to Atlanta.
On the way, I think I drank 20 bottles of water and still felt like I was thirsty. In all honesty, I probably needed an IV, but the longer the weekend went the better I felt. I unloaded Saturday morning for my first time trial, and promptly developed a massive transmission leak. Off to a great start! Thanks to my buddy Jason Lynch, I was able to swap transmissions in under 30 minutes and make the first time trial. Wonder of wonders, both cars were pretty competitive right out of the trailer, and I actually entered eliminations with some confidence.
I advanced through the opening rounds in both cars, but fell in round 3 of Super Comp to an excellent run from George Caheely. In retrospect, I probably gave up a little bit early (I dropped to 8.91), and might have been able to win the round, but he made a nice lap and I would’ve had to execute perfectly to pull it off. In Super Gas, I was the beneficiary of a timely red light and a semi-final bye run to advance to the final round opposite Mia Tedesco. Miss Mia had been putting on an absolute clinic all day, and I was the last of her casualties en route to her first LODRS victory. Mia got lucky one round: she was red and her opponent fouled by more. Other than that, her worst reaction time was .007. That’s one impressive box score folks.
Hats off to Mia Tedesco for the most impressive Super Gas victory I’ve seen in quite some time.
In our final, she was .004 to my .01-something. She missed the dial slightly, giving me a small window to win the race, but I ended up .002 behind and she got to hoist the first of what will surely be many “Wally” trophies. Losing stinks, I hate it as much as anyone. But if I had to lose to someone, it would be Mia and the Tedesco Racing Team. I’ve had the fortune of working with the team, and offering a little advice and mentorship to Mia. She’s come a long, long way in a short period of time. The scary part is that she just keeps getting better. The future is definitely bright in that camp, and I’m proud to say that I played a small role in her development. In the future, however, I would appreciate it if her success did not come at my expense!
I left Atlanta and made my way to Todd Ewing’s home near Cullman, AL, where I left the rig for the week. Brad Plourd picked me up early Monday morning and took me to Birmingham to catch a flight home. Thank you to Bones and Brad for the hospitality and help! I made it back to St. Louis without issue, but my puddle jumper to Marion was cancelled due to inclement weather. Best made plans… Jess had to make the 2 hour drive to St. Louis to pick me up. What would have been a 6 hour tow home from Alabama turned into a 14 hour day of travel.
At any rate, my rig was in Alabama, just 100 miles from Montgomery, where the following week the C.A.R.S. Mini-Million would be contested. I was excited for my first opportunity to bracket race the dragster all season. Plus, it all fell into place: my mother had intended to throw Jessica a baby shower at her home in Alabama , but since Gary was a few weeks early he actually arrived on the weekend of the original shower. So she rescheduled it for that Sunday. How great is that? Race for $50K+ on Saturday, spend time with the family and some old Alabama friends on Sunday! Best made plans…
I got the call Tuesday morning. My uncle Paul (my father’s brother) had passed away. I immediately booked a flight to Rochester, NY to spend the weekend with my mother and our family, canning the plans for Montgomery. I made it back home Saturday morning, and Jess, Gary and I loaded up and drove to Mom’s house in Alabama. Just to rehash: that’s Friday in New York, Saturday in Illinois, and Sunday in Alabama. Whew! We enjoyed a wonderful shower and then Monday morning Jess took me back to the rig and I drove everything back home.
Brad Plourd provided me some much needed testosterone at the baby shower. Brad looks like a natural with little G!
Originally, the plan was to attend the Ultimate 64 Shootout the following weekend. I love that event. It’s fun, it’s laid back, and it provides a ton of opportunity to race for great purses. And I absolutely love the main event structure: 6 rounds to win $50K. That’s cool! Best made plans…
Having only made 1 of 2 divisional races in Atlanta, I had a hole in the schedule to make up. To make a long story short, the options were to either drive halfway across the country at a later date, or skip the Ultimate to make the 5 hour tow to Chicago for a division event. I weighed the pros and cons, and it’s kind of ludicrous to pass up a $50,000-to-win event to race for about $3500 at a points meet; but priorities they are a changing and time at home is as precious as anything right now. I decided to head to Chicago.
It took me until June, but I finally broke through in the new American Race Cars dragster with a Super Comp “W” in Chicago
Thankfully, I was able to make the trip worthwhile, as I managed a Super Comp victory, my first win in my 2013 American Race Cars Dragster. I drove pretty well, the car was really good, and I got a couple breaks when I needed them. In short, it all fell into place. In Super Gas, the Corvette made a mysteriously slow run in round 3, but that’s just a good excuse: my opponent’s package was better than my light, so I was getting a butt kicking regardless of what the car did.
Meanwhile, Jess knocked the cob webs off of her fire suit and made her first appearance in nearly a year, taking the Vega to Sikeston Dragstrip. She’s her own worst critic and said that she drove terribly. But a fourth round showing your first time out is nothing to hang your head about; nice work babe!
What’s “On the Road” without a picture of the Vega? This is Jess at Sikeston with what will always be my favorite race car.
I’m really proud of my dragster! The new SR20 combination came together quicker than I could have imagined. It’s pretty sporty: 8.90 @ 182. And I’ve found a killer throttle stop combination. The chassis is a new 2013 American Race Cars 240” model. I’m using all Moser rear end componentry, including their new line of Pro Drag Brakes. Like every car I’ve owned for nearly 15 years, it’s riding on Mickey Thompson tires (I’m running the 3186) and wheels.
The 632 CID Huntsville Engine features a BRODIX aluminum block, their new SR20 heads and a BRODIX intake. It’s got the best pieces available: JESEL cam drive, JESEL rocker arms, Wiseco Pistons, Milodon oiling system, Crane Cam and lifters, Lucas Oil and K&N Filters. It’s topped by a Dedenbear throttle stop and an APD “throttle stop” carburetor that is fed Renegade 116+ Racing Fuel through Earl’s ANO-TUFF fittings and line by an APD belt drive fuel pump. The air/fuel mixture is exhausted through a set of Hedman headers featuring Nitroplate coating. In fact, there’s a lot of Nitroplate coating between the frame rails, as I had them coat the intake, valve covers, and several other odds and ends in their low-temp black coating. The bottom end (and my rear end) are protected by a J&J Performance Engine diaper.
Power is put to the ground thanks to a BTE Top Dragster transmission and 10” torque converter. I’m depending on a single Ohlins shock, and it performs flawlessly. K&R Performance Engineering electronics control the vital functions, and a Dixie Racing Products electric solenoid controls my B&M Pro Bandit shifter. I monitor everything with Auto Meter’s Multi-Function Data Logger, and let me tell you that I would never have been able to turn the corner on this combination so quickly without it. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; what used to take 20 passes to diagnose now takes 2. I’m so dependent on the data acquisition it’s hard to imagine racing without it.
A gorgeous paint job from Todd’s Extreme Paint tops off the package, and additional odds and ends come from ISC Racer’s Tape and Nitrous Express.
After returning home from Joliet, I made a trip to Indianapolis to meet Mark Horton from American Race Cars and bring Jessica’s new dragster home. I have hopes of getting it done in time for the World Super Pro Nationals at Mid-Michigan Motorplex, but I have a feeling that may fall under that “Best made plans” title in the next column. Todd and the gang at Todd’s Extreme paint once again did a jam-up job on the paint, and the crew at American Race Cars built another beautiful car. Basically everything is sitting in the shop to make it complete, it just lacks assembly. But the head assembler is a little short on time these days!
Next up was an “off” weekend that we spent racing at I-57 Dragstrip with the Vega. Jess entered Super Pro, and I ran both Pro (No Box) and Footbrake. We undeniably had the best car on the premises. Yet in three categories we did not see round 4. Ouch! Jess didn’t win a round, but at least she managed to get staged. In round 3 of Footbrake I got timed out. That’s not a misprint. I guess I should include that in an upcoming tutorial on ThisIsBracketRacing.com: The first step toward winning a round of competition is… Stage the car. I know we all seemingly find new ways to lose every week; that was a first for me!
Next up was a trip to Cordova, IL for another NHRA LODRS event. My reliable truck was back in the shop as we tried to diagnose a pesky transmission issue that I had been fighting for nearly 9 months. My buddy Danny Estep at Danny Estep Auto Repair was the latest to tackle the issue that had been driving transmission specialists, mechanics, and most importantly me crazy since last September. He wasn’t happy with what he was seeing as time to leave town approached, so he loaned me his truck for the weekend. What a guy!
Cordova marked the first out of town adventure for the family Bogacki, as Jess and Gary came along for the trip. We had a great time and Gary did great at the races for the weekend. Jess took one for the team and took all of the late night feeding shifts that we normally rotate so that I could get some sleep, and I did my best to make it pay off.
Our little guy seemed content at the races. The noise didn’t bother him, and he slept like, well, like a baby. I think he’s a natural!
I made a couple of really nice runs in Friday’s Super Comp Shootout. In fact, in round 2 I was .012 and 8.901. Unfortunately Rose Richardson gave me .008 change with her .005 package! At that point, I was just hoping that my upcoming opponents had that out of their system for the regular Super Comp contest!
The Corvette once again posted a mysteriously slow run in round 2 of Super Gas, and this time it cost me. I was .012 to my opponent’s .050 but came up a few thou short. If you know anything from reading my columns in the past, you know that the car was strewn across the shop in a thousand pieces by Monday evening. That will not happen again if I have anything to say about it!
In Super Comp, however, things kept clicking. I made some really nice runs, got a few breaks, and compiled 12 straight LODRS round wins (including Chicago a few weeks before) to find my way to the final. That was pretty impressive given the circumstances. The dragster developed a mysterious ignition miss in round 3, and despite my constant efforts to remedy it (by the time the final rolled around let’s just say it had A LOT of new parts), I couldn’t quite shake it.
Waiting in the final was a familiar opponent whom I’d never raced before. The driver was “Big Block” Shawn Anderson, but the car was my old faithful: the 2010 American Race Cars dragster that had carried me to a pair of S/C top ten finishes and a bunch of race wins. For the first time that I can remember, that car got me beat. In some ways, I guess I trained my own assassin!
Truthfully, Shawn did an excellent job and I did not. It would take pages to accurately describe everything that I did wrong in the final, so I won’t go into it. Once again, Shawn’s package was better than my reaction time; so I’ll save you some time and frustrating reading by stating the obvious: he kicked my (butt).
After two pretty intense days of thrashing on both cars, I made my way back to Joliet for the NHRA national event; once again with Jess and Gary along for the ride, and once again in Danny’s pickup. Upon arrival, we were informed that we would be parking in the circle track parking lot, across the street from the drag strip. Obviously, it wasn’t the greatest situation; particularly with my wife and newborn along to spectate… But given the options, I would much rather be parked a couple miles from the starting line than be stuck in the mud. I rented a golf cart for Jess and Gary to wheel around for the weekend, and life was good.
Yep, that’s the race track off in the distance: across the street!
On the track, unfortunately, life wasn’t so good. While Buddy Wood cracked me in round one of Super Gas with an excellent run against my less than stellar reaction time (that’s become an alarming trend), I did leave with some optimism about the Corvette. I had completely revamped the combination, but I was very pleased with what I saw in the few runs that we made in Chicago. I Super Comp, my car was flawless but I once again struggled on the tree, and Britt Cummings made me look like a rookie in round three. I don’t think .025 take .029 is going to win very often, and that round was no exception!
I was flying the JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout colors on the Corvettester in Cordova and Chicago.
As I write this column in Norwalk, OH I actually have my entire rig back; including the trusty old Ford pickup. Danny Estep and his crew got it done on Tuesday and we swapped out. I’ve had so many issues I’m afraid to jinx myself, but I made the 10 hour tow to Ohio without a single transmission hiccup; so I believe that Danny and the gang have fixed it - thanks guys! 9 months and $5,000 later I’m back in reliable transportation!!
At the moment I type this, it’s Saturday evening in Norwalk. To this point, the race has been an exercise in loading and unloading for me. It seems that every time one of my classes is next on the schedule, the rains set in. As of Saturday evening, we’ve gotten through one round of Super Comp (a win light!), and have yet to run first round in Super Gas. Hopefully we can get everything in tomorrow.
Once I leave here I’m done for several weeks. We’ll have a week and a half to make final preparations for the biggest little door car race in the Midwest, the JEGS Summer Door Car Shootout at I-57 Dragstrip. This year’s event, our 3rd annual, takes place July 19-21. With a decent forecast, I hope to have our biggest crowd yet. For any of you door car competitors who haven’t been with us in the past: come check it out. We promise a big purse, tons of great prizes, and a really great time at a small “country” race track. I like to say it’s big track purses with a small track atmosphere.
I teased it briefly in my last column, but we’ve made the first official announcement, so I’ll share a little bit more info about the inaugural Motor City Hot Rod and Racing Expo. Dave Szerlag and I have teamed up to establish this event, which will take place March 22-23, 2014 at the Suburban Collection Showplace in Novi, MI (near Detroit). The Expo will be sort of like a trade show, in that the only exhibitors will be new equipment manufacturers and service providers (no used parts, no junk). But it’s not a “trade only” show: the Expo will be open to the public for a $10 admission and attendees can purchase products directly from most exhibitors. The show will include vendors and attendees from all forms of motorsports and hot rodding, and I believe it will create a great atmosphere for business, friendship and good times. Make plans to attend, and remind your favorite vendors that they should be a part of the Expo as well. For more details, check out our website: www.MotorCityRaceExpo.com or “like” the Motor City Hot Rod and Racing Expo on Facebook!
The next couple months will be light on racing and heavy on other activity for me. We’ve obviously got the door car race coming up, then we’ve got a family vacation planned. I’d like to make it to Stanton, MI for the World Super Pro Challenge, but assembling Jess’s car will become a priority, so I’m not making any promises there just yet. What I can say with some certainty, is that I’ll pick back up with the NHRA tour in mid-August for a three week tour that will include the national events in Brainerd, MN and the “Big Go” at Indy, sandwiching the Division 3 LODRS in Bowling Green. After Indy, I’ll head south on I-55 for the Great American Bracket Race at Memphis International Raceway.
That’s it for this edition of “On the Road.” As always, I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention the marketing partners that make my racing possible. If and when you’re in need of the products and services these fine companies offer, I encourage you to look them up: they’re all great people with excellent products and customer service. I would not be involved with these companies if I didn’t believe in each of them whole heartedly. Our 2013 Associate Marketing Partners include K&N Engineering, Tinsley Drilling & Company, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Advanced Product Design (APD), Product Development Group – the makers of AirTek Pressure Monitoring Systems and Flo-Fast pumps, Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), JEGS, and Mickey Thompson Tires & Wheels. If you have any questions about any of these company’s products, don’t hesitate to give me a shout; I’m sure I can lead you in the right direction!