Mon, 30 Dec 2013, 11:40 AM
This One's For You, Dad
By Bob Frey
Photo copyright 2013 Auto Imagery, Inc.
Luke Bogacki celebrates championship.
I've been around the sport of drag racing for a long time, a very long time, and over the course of
the years I have seen a lot of other groups, sanctioning bodies and organizations come and go. They
have all had their own little spot in the sport and some have contributed more than others, and
while some are still around the landscape is littered with groups who had big ideas that never
materialized. Over that time there were two constants, NHRA is still around, and racers, fans and
other "experts" constantly pointed out all the things that NHRA was doing wrong. With that as a
background I will say this, if you ask any racer what the pinnacle of their drag racing career is
or would be they would almost all say winning an NHRA national championship. Regardless of what
other titles you may have claimed, how many races you won, or how much money you have pocketed, if
you are a drag racer and don't have an NHRA championship to your credit there is a void in your
life. And while that may not be the case with one hundred percent of the racers it certainly does
hold true for most. For example, Luke Bogacki had done a lot in his career prior to the 2013 season
but he had never won an NHRA title, and even he says that this was the highlight of his career. Of
course he had some other things on his mind besides racing in 2013 so it's amazing that he was able
to stay focused on the task at hand and claim the championship.
Luke is thirty-two years old and now the proud owner of an NHRA World Championship, and more
importantly the father of a baby boy. "I actually planned my 2013 racing schedule around his
birth," Luke said. "He was scheduled to be born in May so I signed up for Division 7 and raced a
lot out West early in the year. Winning the championship was great but having my son, Gary, was the
best thing that ever happened to me." Well, that and marrying Jessica, who just happens to come
from a drag racing family herself. "Yeah, her grandfather raced and so does her father and her
sister, and with my racing
background I guess little Gary will probably be a racer at some point. Obviously we'll support him
in whatever turns out to be his passion, but if he's anything like me or Jessica this sport is in
his blood." The name, Gary, is a tribute to Luke's father who passed away in 2001. "He was the
reason that I race," Luke said. "He raced his whole life and did so in everything from bracket cars
to an alcohol Funny Car. He was my inspiration and I really miss him. I'm sure he would have been
proud of what we accomplished this year."
Luke's dad started him in the Jr., Dragster ranks and slowly moved him up the ladder. "I raced in
the Jr. cars and then did mostly bracket racing," he said. "A couple of years ago I also teamed up
with Bryan Robinson, the former Super Gas World Champion, and we fielded a Stock Eliminator car and
we had some success with that." That's putting it mildly since the team, with Luke driving,
finished sixth in the national points that year. "I enjoyed the racing but I have to tell you that
car and that eliminator were very labor intensive. If I ever did it again I would have to make sure
that Stock was the only class I was running in because it demands your full attention."
In addition to the strong showing in Stock Eliminator in 2010 Luke also finished second in Super
Comp. "I experienced every emotion you could that year," he said. "We went to Reynolds, Georgia,
for the final Division 2 race of the year. That was the year that Ray Miller III was on fire and
looked like he had the championship wrapped up in May. Well, I had to win the Reynolds race and Ray
had to lose in round one for me to pass him and, as unbelievable as it was, both of those things
happened. I was on top of the world." But, as the old expression goes, "it ain't over until it's
over" and Gary Stinnett went to Las Vegas needing to win six rounds to pass Luke and he did just
that. "It was really disheartening at that moment," Luke said. "But looking back on it I have to
say that it makes winning the championship this year that much sweeter."
For a man who has bracket raced for almost all of his drag racing career, and for a man who has
done so well in the IHRA circuit, winning the NHRA World Championship really is a big thing. "It's
absolutely amazing," Luke said. "When I was growing up at Texas Raceway I would see guys like
Edmond and Scotty Richardson, Frank Kohutek, Tommy Phillips, the Hefler family and many more
competing in Super Comp and I admired what they did and I fell in love with Super Comp. So for me
to win the championship is like coming full circle in my career. It's unbelievable to be mentioned
in the same sentence as those great champions."
Bogacki celebrates Norwalk win.
This is a championship that almost didn't happen, after all, his early start in the Division 7 area
didn't go very well. "I was awful early in the year. I couldn't win anything. In fact, until the
Norwalk race I didn't think I had much of a chance to win the championship." Norwalk, which has
always been one of Luke's favorite tracks, was the site of his only national event win of 2013.
"You've heard racers say that it was their day to win, well that was true for me at Norwalk. I have
always enjoyed going there and have had success, both at divisional races and at their big money
bracket races, but I had never won until this year." And he almost didn't win in 2013, either. "I
had a very lucky round in the fourth round against Nick Willard. I was 'fifty-three' on the tree
and missed the number but won when he broke out. Against an opponent of Nick's caliber, that late
in the race, I would get beat nine times out of ten with the run that I made. It was a round that
changed my season, because if I didn't win that I had no chance at the national points." He
followed that up with wins over Greg Kamplain, Leo Zynda and Tom Hunter to get the win and vault
into first place.
After the Norwalk race Luke didn't exactly coast to the championship and it wasn't until Landon
Stallbaumer, the last guy with a chance to pass him in the points, lost in Las Vegas that the title
was secure. "It's great to win this and I just wish my dad was here to share it with me." And now,
for the 2014 campaign, what does the champ have in mind. "I'll probably stay closer to home this
year. I'd like to be able to spend time with Jessica and Gary and that means I won't travel as
probably claim Division 3 and race the eight divisional and six national races and see where I end
up in the points. I'll also do some more bracket racing and go to the race that Peter and Kyle put
on because they do such a great job. But for now I'm just going to enjoy looking back on the year
because it was such a good one for me." Yeah, that's what a World Championship and a new baby boy
will do for you. "To be an NHRA World Champion is every racers dream and it's nice that mine could
come true." Now all he has to do is find a car for Gary, although I don't believe there is any real
rush for that.
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