Three short weeks ago, Luke Bogacki etched his name in the NHRA record books by reaching the final rounds of both Super Gas (which he won) and Super Comp at the NHRA Lucas Oil Nationals in Brainerd, MN. There, Bogacki wheeled his familiar ThisIsBracketRacing.com backed Corvette Roadster and American Race Cars dragster to final round appearances. Fast forward three weeks to the other end of the country, a completely different form of competition, and another race car; and Bogacki once again found himself in the final round of one of the biggest events of the season.
Leaving his familiar NHRA Super Comp and Super Gas entries at home, Bogacki entered his venerable ThisIsBracketRacing.com ’74 Chevrolet Vega in the Moser Engineering Great American Bracket Race at No Problem Raceway Park in Belle Rose, LA. There, he drove the machine to a final round appearance in Saturday’s $50,000-to-win main event before he was defeated by bracket racing mogul Gary Williams. On his way to the final, Bogacki took down notable competitors including Mike Bloomfield, Jr., former Million Dollar Race winner Stephen Hughes, Friday winner Kris Morris, bracket standout John Labbous, Jr., and former B&M Series champion Allen Wickell.
“My little Vega doesn’t look like much, I know,” laughed Bogacki. “But it’s an incredible bracket car. People tell me all the time: ‘You win in that thing, you’re the man!’ But to be honest, the car makes me look a lot better than I am. I used to race it just about every weekend when I did a lot more bracket racing. There were years that I put over 600 runs on that car alone. With my current emphasis on the NHRA tour, those days are long gone; I’ll be lucky to make 150 runs in it this year. My wife drives this car more often than I do anymore, but the comfort level is still there: when I get in it, I feel right at home.”
That was evident throughout the race. In Saturday’s main event, he posted reaction times that varied from .006 to .016 and matched his dial-in 5 times in the 9 round event.
In the final round, Bogacki left the starting line with his worst reaction of the event, .016, which was trumped by Williams’s .008. At the finish line, Williams left Bogacki no room, posting a dead-on 5.085 for a .013 package. Bogacki slowed to a 6.207 (6.18 dial) in a losing effort.
“It was just my day, right up until the final,” Bogacki said. “Don’t get me wrong, my car was incredible, and for the most part I felt like I drove pretty solid, but everything went my way. In my runs with Stephen (Hughes), Caboose (John Labbous, Jr.) and (Allen) Wickell the thousandths fell into place. I let Stephen by me, and he’s .001 under. I dropped Labbous, and he’s .002 under. Then I win the race with Allen by .001. Any of those could have gone the other way. I was fortunate to win any of those rounds, much less all of them.”
Williams, the only driver to have won the Million Dollar Race twice, earned his second $50,000 windfall in under a month. In early August, he claimed the top prize at the annual World Super Pro Challenge in Stanton, MI.
“In the final, I knew I missed the tree a little bit. It looked like Gary was catching me really early, so I got on the nitrous and then hit the brakes. In retrospect, had I sprayed a little earlier and dropped a little later, maybe I could have forced him to break out. But it didn’t work out that way, and I have to tip my hat to Gary. He’s a great driver who seems to elevate his game when the stakes are at their highest. His record in the richest events is just incredible.”
Bogacki’s Vega has featured essentially the same combination for over 6 years. The engine is a 350 cubic inch “beater” from Huntsville Engine and Performance that features a set of BRODIX Race Right cylinder heads, Wiseco Pistons, Crane Cam and lifters, a Milodon oiling system, and an APD alcohol carburetor. Lubrication comes from Lucas Oil Products, and the machine burns 100% methanol from Renegade Racing Fuels. Power is transferred through a BTE powerglide to a Moser Engineering rear end and axles before it’s applied to the track by Mickey Thompson wheels and tires. Bogacki keeps an eye on essentials with Autometer precision instruments, and relies on a K&R Pro Cube Delay box along with a Nitrous Express nitrous system. Nearly all components on the winning ride can be purchased at JEGS.com.
“The car really is amazing; it defies common sense,” said Bogacki. “Every bracket racer knows that the main keys for consistency are the carburetor, torque converter, and tires. In my case, that means APD carbs and fuel system components, a BTE converter, and Mickey Thompson slicks. It’s a winning combination.”
Bogacki also credited ThisIsBracketRacing.com along with associate backers Tinsley Drilling and Company, and C.A.R.S. Protection Plus. Additional support comes from ISC Racer’s Tape, DragRaceResults.com, Hedman Hedders, Nitroplate, Charlie Stewart Race Cars, Ohlins Shocks, Dixie Racing Products, Dedenbear, Frankenstein Cylinder Heads, J&J Performance, AirTek, and American Race Cars.
While Bogacki will turn his focus back to the NHRA tour, where he currently ranks in the top 5 of both Super Comp and Super Gas in the national Lucas Oil standings, he does plan to make a few more appearances on the bracket scene in 2012. Most notably, Bogacki will attend the 17th annual Million Dollar Race in late October.
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