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).