Luke Bogacki is still trying to convince himself it’s real. He’s done the math, and he knows that he’s clinched the 2013 NHRA Lucas Oil Super Comp championship. His friends have offered congratulations. NHRA officials have called to confirm that he will represent them as their champion. He wants to believe it, but the gravity of it all just isn’t sinking in.
Growing up in a racing family, he’s dreamed of this moment for as long as he can remember. And he’s come close before, painfully close, to realizing that dream. In 2010 he triumphantly won his final Super Comp event to take the national lead on a tie-breaker; only to watch Gary Stinnett overtake him by less than one round at the final Lucas Oil Series event of the season. Just last year, Bogacki made the trek from his Southern Illinois home to Las Vegas, NV in pursuit of the crown. There, he needed to make the final round of the event to win the title, but fell a few rounds short of eventual champion Alan Kenny.
“I don’t know how many sheets of paper I’ve wasted since September scribbling out who had a chance to catch me and what they had to do,” laughed Bogacki, who has led the national standings since late June. “Between NHRA and IHRA I think I’ve displayed every top 10 number except the one everyone wants. After a while you get conditioned to thinking it’s just not meant to be. I kept watching the standings and waiting for someone to get hot and pull the rug out from under me.”
Racers did get hot. Ray Miller III made a strong run at the title, but will likely finish 2nd. Kyle Cultrera enjoyed a stellar season and made the battle for the title interesting deep into October, but Bogacki’s 676 point score; likely the highest of any sportsman competitor this season, proved too much to overcome.
Bogacki started his season inauspiciously, with back-to-back first round losses at the NHRA Winternationals in Pomona, CA and Arizona Nationals in Phoenix, AZ. He salvaged his trip to the west coast with a pair of solid divisional performances: a runner-up finish at the Phoenix Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series event, and a fourth round loss in Las Vegas (where he also won Super Gas). He then took 2 months away from the tour surrounding the birth of his firstborn son, Gary. When he hit the road again in late May, the new father caught fire.
Following a third round defeat at the Atlanta Lucas Oil Division Series event, Luke drove to his first Super Comp victory of the season in early June at Chicago’s Route 66 Raceway. A week later, he took runner-up honors at the LODRS event in Cordova, IL. He entered the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals in Norwalk, OH as the points leader, and won that event to put a stranglehold on the championship that he would not relinquish. Bogacki finished his points ledger with a quarterfinal showing at the Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN and another runner-up at the divisional level, this time in Bowling Green, KY. As the season neared conclusion, Bogacki also added a pair of runner-up finishes at the national level in his Super Gas Corvette, at the AAA Texas Nationals in Dallas and the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals near St. Louis.
When asked to pinpoint the difference between his championship season and his past near misses, Bogacki offered little explanation. “I’ve been asking myself the same question. It’s easy to chalk it up to luck or good fortune. And I’ll be the first to admit that I found myself in the right place at the right time a lot this year. But I’ve always been one to want a tangible explanation – something with a little more substance than pure luck. The only thing I can say is that I feel like I’ve raced smarter this year than in years past. I always thought of myself as a really good driver, and I was dependent on my ability; but these days I don’t get to race nearly as much as I did five or ten years ago. I don’t know that I’m necessarily worse behind the wheel; but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not as sharp. That realization really allowed me to put more faith in my car, which has been better than its driver by far, and to keep things pretty simple from a driving standpoint. I feel like I’m a better racer because of it.”
Bogacki points to his 2013 American Race Cars dragster as the biggest key to his success. The 240” American Chassis is outfitted with a 632 cubic inch Huntsville Engine & Performance powerplant that features a BRODIX aluminum block and new SR20 cylinder heads. The motor includes Wiseco Pistons, a Crane Cam and lifters, Jesel belt drive and rocker arms, Milodon oiling system, and Hedman Hedders featuring Nitroplate coating. The engine is lubricated by Lucas Oil products, protected by a K&N Wrench Off oil filter, and surrounded by a J&J Performance Engine Diaper. The combination is topped by an APD carburetor and fuel system that transfers Renegade 116+ Racing Fuel through Earl’s Ano-Tuff fittings and line. The engine, capable of low 7-second elapsed times, is reigned into the 8.90 Super Comp index thanks to a Dedenbear Throttle Stop and K&R Performance Engineering Pro-Cube delay box and throttle stop timer.
Bogacki monitors all critical functions of the machine thanks to Auto Meter’s Multi-Function Data Logger. His combination also features Moser Axles and brakes, an Ohlins shock, BTE “Top Dragster” transmission and converter, Mickey Thompson Tires and Wheels, a B&M shifter, paint design and application from Todd’s Extreme Paint, as well as products from Dixie Racing Products, Nitrous Express, ISC Racer’s Tape, and JEGS. Bogacki also recognized the staff at Charlie Stewart Race Cars, who built his Super Gas Corvette.
Although he admits he hasn’t completely come to grips with the title of world champion, Bogacki’s experience in the sport helps him put his dream season into perspective.
“It’s kind of surreal, to be honest. I grew up watching guys like Tommy Phillips and Scotty and Edmond Richardson race at our local track. They’ve all had great success in Super Comp and they found a way to make a living driving sportsman race cars. That opened my eyes; and for as long as I can remember that’s all I wanted to do. I used to sit in my room as a kid; most kids were playing video games. I had a practice tree set up, and index cards with the names of racers on the front, and a list of their reaction times from National Dragster on the back. I’d run rounds, races, seasons against those flash cards for hours at a time. I bet I won 100 world championships on that practice tree! It’s just hard to believe it’s come true in real life.”
Bogacki thanked his wife, Jessica and their son Gary for their unwavering support. He also wished to recognize his team’s major marketing partners: ThisIsBracketRacing.com and the Motor City Hot Rod and Racing Expo, as well as associate partners K&N Engineering, Tinsley Drilling & Company, C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Advanced Product Design (APD), JEGS, Mickey Thompson Tires and Wheels, Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), and Product Development Group (makers of AirTek Pressure Systems and Flo-Fast pumps).
Thursday, October 31, 2013
Thursday, October 3, 2013
Carterville, IL: ThisIsBracketRacing.com/K&N Engineering backed NHRA Super Comp and Super Gas racer Luke Bogacki has enjoyed a banner season. The 32-year-old professional racer has driven to nine final rounds in 15 appearances along the NHRA Lucas Oil Series and Mello Yellow tour. As a result, he currently leads the NHRA Lucas Oil Super Comp standings, and is in position to earn his first NHRA national championship.
Despite not hoisting an NHRA “Wally” trophy since his Super Comp victory at the Summit Racing Equipment Nationals back in July, Bogacki has been hot of late, particularly in the Super Gas category. He drove his ThisIsBracketRacing.com backed Charlie Stewart Race Cars built Corvette roadster to a semi-final finish at the prestigious Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis to kick off the month of September. Two weeks later, he took runner-up honors in the same category at the AAA Texas Nationals in Dallas. He closed the month with yet another Super Gas runner-up finish at the AAA Insurance Midwest Nationals near St. Louis, MO.
Bogacki’s September success can be directly attributed to a stellar performance on the starting line. After a .023 reaction in the opening round of the US Nationals, Bogacki posted five reactions time between .004 and .014. In Dallas, his .024 in round 2 was an outlier: his other six lights fell between .014 and .017. Then in St. Louis, he opened eliminations with a “late” .019, before posting lights ranging from .008 to .012 before fouling with an uncharacteristic -.003 red light in the final round.
“I’ve been very pleased with my driving for the last month, if you throw out final rounds!” Bogacki laughed. “Seriously, it’s nice to be back in a groove at both ends of the track. I really struggled on the starting line for a period this summer; probably the worst slump I’ve ever been in. I put in a lot of work on the practice tree, and I changed my approach and routine a little bit. It’s paid dividends.”
Unfortunately for Bogacki, the bulk of his Super Gas success has come at races beyond his quota of points earning events. Only the semi-final finish in Indianapolis helped Bogacki’s cause, as the pair of runner-up finishes came after he’d maxed out his national event claims. Bogacki is currently ranked 15th in the NHRA Lucas Oil Series Super Gas chase.
Bogacki’s ’63 Corvette roadster was constructed by Charlie Stewart Race Cars of Azle, TX, and painted by Todd’s Extreme Paint. The chassis features rear end components and brakes from Moser Engineering; Ohlins Shocks; Mickey Thompson Wheels and Tires; Auto Meter’s Multi-Function Data Logger; a K&R Pro-Cube Delay Box and Switch Panel; a B&M Shifter and trans coolers; Dixie shift solenoid; Earl’s Plumbing Products; a Dedenbear remote mount water pump; and a K&N carbon fiber hoodscoop. Bogacki monitors tire pressure with a precision AirTek gauge. Additional components come from ISC Racer’s Tape and Nitrous Express.
The machine is powered to the 9.90 Super Gas index at speeds in excess of 168 mph thanks to a Huntsville Engine & Performance 582 cubic inch engine. The powerplant features a BRODIX Aluminum block and BRODIX Head Hunter cylinder heads; Wiseco Pistons; Jesel rocker arms and cam drive; and a Crane camshaft and lifters. The motor is topped by APD’s new carburetor/throttle stop combo, which distributes Renegade 116+ Race Fuel. That fuel is exhausted thanks to a set of headers built by Charlie Stewart Race Cars from a Hedman Hedders kit, then coated by Nitroplate. The engine is protected by Lucas Oil and K&N Filters, as well as a J&J Performance engine diaper. The power is put to the tires thanks to a BTE Top Sportsman powerglide transmission and 9” BTE converter. The vast majority of parts on Bogacki’s machine are available at JEGS.com.
As Bogacki prepares for his final points earning event of the 2013 season, the Division 2 Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series Event in Reynolds, GA, he’s aware of the points implications and at the same time comforted by past success at the Georgia facility.
In 2010, Bogacki came into the same event as a long shot contender for the championship. In order to take the lead, Bogacki needed the leader to fall in the opening round of eliminations, and he needed to win the event. The incoming leader, Ray Miller III fell, and Bogacki won. Weeks later, Gary Stinnett would earn just enough points to surpass Bogacki and deny him his first national championship.
Last season, Bogacki came into the event ranked in the top five of both Super Comp and Super Gas. Although he fell early in Super Comp eliminations, he won a memorable final round battle with fellow championship contender Sherman Adcock, Jr. The win catapulted Bogacki to 3rd place in the 2012 Super Gas rankings.
This season, Bogacki comes into the event as the hunted rather than the hunter. With a massive 676 point score, he leads the Super Comp standings by more than 7 rounds of competition, but the race is far from over. Kyle Cultrera and Ray Miller III lead a group of racers that have an opportunity to overtake Bogacki for the title. In Super Gas, Bogacki will need a late finish to secure a top-ten finish in the national standings.
“I suppose if I had to choose, I’d rather come into my last event as the leader; even though it’s uncharted territory for me,” laughed Bogacki. “Honestly, I’m in a pretty good spot in terms of mental preparation. In Super Comp, I’m improving a 4th round loss. Reynolds is generally a 6-round race. So basically I need to make the final to improve. In Super Gas, I need a huge gain if I have any chance to make the top ten. So really, anything short of victory in either class doesn’t do much to help my cause. That allows me to approach the race like I would any other: I won’t be tempted to count rounds or count points – I’m just trying to win the race.”
Bogacki is backed by ThisIsBracketRacing.com and the Motor City Race Expo. His team also includes Associate Marketing Partners K&N Engineering, Tinsley Drilling & Company, Advanced Product Design (APD), C.A.R.S. Protection Plus, Product Development Group – makers of Air Tek pressure monitoring systems and Flo-Fast pumps, Bill Taylor Enterprises (BTE), JEGS, and Mickey Thompson Tires.