NHRA Pro Stock driver Rodger Brogdon owns several businesses in the Houston area, including a roofing company and one building custom homes. So, he knows the carpenter's mantra "Measure twice, cut once."
He applied the theory to the racing situation he found himself in this summer. He analyzed his choices from all angles before finalizing his decision, and the decision still cost him dearly.
Brogdon forfeited a spot in the Countdown to the Championship, but what he gained with the MAVTV Chevy Camaro operation was peace of mind. And today, three months later, he said he has no regrets, "not at all."
The Tomball, Texas, businessman had seen some decent return on his and racing partner Steve Kent's investment. Brogdon had been as high in the standings as fourth early in the season and was ninth -- still in the Countdown mix -- when he decided to step away from the tour at the start of the Western Swing. By the end of the Sonoma race, he had slid to 13th in the standings.
In the meantime, he and Kent severed ties with engine provider Victor Cagnazzi and bought the program Richard Freeman and Elite Performance started with Jimmy Oliver. And strangely, it was a complex decision, yet it was a clear decision. The competitive part of him hated to make it, but the business side told him he really had no choice.
"It's something we needed to do. I'll just leave it at that," Brogdon said. "Things weren't going so well where we were. We didn't think it was going to get any better, no matter how much we talked about it.
"We were going to do something different probably by the end of the year, anyway. The way things were looking, we thought we'd just do it now and just get a head start," he said.
Brogdon, who still is feeling the effects of the layoff, has chosen to skip this weekend's race at St. Louis and next weekend's race at Reading, Pa., saying he used logic to arrive at the decision.
"I look back on that -- not real sure if that was the right decision, but the decision to do our own deal was definitely the right decision. And you couldn't do one without the other. But we weren't going to be any good in the Countdown the way we were running. That's what you got to think about," he said. "We're not out here just to say we made the Countdown and just to say we made the top 10.
"Steve and I talked about it a lot," Brogdon continued. "I told him, 'If we don't do something different, I didn't want to do it all anymore.' If you go back and look at the winners and runners-up in 2011, about 75 percent of the guys who win races are the top four qualifiers. Around 90 percent of them are top eight qualifiers -- consistently.
"We weren't there -- and we weren't going to get there. Despite what we were promised ... I'd better keep my mouth shut. It just wasn't working out right like it should."
Brogdon brought out the MAVTV entry at Indianapolis and two weeks later at Dallas, both times with encouraging results.
"We ran real good at Indy. We qualified ninth, only two- or three-thousandths [of a second] behind Jeggie [Coughlin]," he said. And he defeated Coughlin in the opening round of the U.S. Nationals. Then he knocked off reigning Pro Stock champion Jason Line on a holeshot in this past Sunday's first round at the Texas Motorplex.
"We really shook things up with that first run today," Brogdon said after knocking out Coughlin; but, unfortunately he then fell to Richard Freeman in the quarterfinals.
Even during qualifying for the AAA Texas Fall Nationals, Brogdon said, the Camaro is coming around, even though he and the crew are still trying to sort out the new engine program.
"We're so pleased with it," Brogdon said. "This is probably going to be the best car we've ever gotten from Jerry Haas Race Cars. They've all been good, but this seems to be a special car. We made a flawless run that last pass (the fourth and final qualifying run). If you look at the graph, there wasn't a hundredth of a second left in that run - we got all of it. We were fifth or sixth that last session, and we don't have that kind of power yet."
The two positive performances will sustain him through his hiatus until the Oct. 26-28 Las Vegas race. He'll need the support, as there are still some daunting tasks to master in that span.
"We got a lot of disadvantages right now: the different intakes we're having to run, not real sure if we've got the right carburetors yet. It just takes time. It takes testing. We haven't had that," Brogdon said about his preparation to return to research-and-development mode.
Moreover, Brogdon and Kent are in the process of moving their shop from Oklahoma to the Houston area and are planning an ambitious effort for an unusually quick transition in November.
"We've been spending a lot of time getting this new shop ready," Brogdon said. "In November we want to start moving everything down here. The goal is to be able to disconnect everything up there, move it all down and have it back up and running; only losing about five or six working days."
Preparations for the move have left little time to experiment with new parts and set-ups, but Brogdon said he'll have some new additions to his Camaro before season's end.
"We've got a few things in the works, but we're not going to roll them out quite yet. We're not going to unveil any new stuff until we get to Las Vegas," he said.
What fortune comes his way this year is a bonus, for Brogdon said since June he has been considering the bigger picture. Just as in Top Fuel competition Al-Anabi/Toyota Racing team manager Alan Johnson sacrificed early-season success to be prepared for a strong Countdown run, Brogdon and Kent are aiming to be a title contender next season.
"We know what kind of team we've got to become. That's what we're working toward now," explained Brogdon. "Next year when we pick up about 30 average horsepower with the engine program, we should be able to run at the top with it. I'm really excited to see what next February brings.
"Starting this deal when we did ... [sigh] ... You'll see what we mean when we go to Pomona in February [for the 2013 season-opening Winternationals]. I think we're going to be up in that [No.] 3-4-5 [qualifying] spot on a very consistent basis," he said. "And, then we're going to give ourselves chances to win races."
He indicated a championship-caliber team needs to be strong during the entire weekend, not just on race day. Qualifying strength translates into Sunday confidence, which constitutes a huge portion of readiness in eliminations.
"You've got to drive by people in this class. When you're down in 9-10-11-12 or wherever down there starting [in the order], the first round's a toss-up, a coin flip. And 99 percent of the time you're not winning the second round unless your opponent screws up," Brogdon said.
"When you're in that bottom half, you've got to leave on somebody all the time. And I don't care -- you can't do that all the time. And when you go up there with that attitude, where you've got to do that in order to have a chance of winning, most of the time all you do is screw up. You can't relax. You don't have any confidence. It's just a bad position to be in, down in that 9-10-11 or further hole all the time," he said.
"It's not good to come out here and race under that circumstance every weekend. It's bad for me as a driver, bad for Steve being the guy who's putting up 80 percent of this money, and your crew. We've got to be able to go to the racetrack knowing we got a chance to win. And the only way you're going to do that out here is probably, the best I can figure, what we're trying to do -- have your own program," he said.
So next year, when he locks the shop door midweek and the race hauler takes off for a racetrack full of equipment and promise, Rodger Brogdon will know he will be making the best effort he possibly can make.
"At least when you leave the shop, you know what you got," he said. "You don't have to count on somebody else."
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