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John Bugenski

 
John Bugenski was born in Mt. Clemens, Mi in 1952. His primary involvement in Drag Racing was when he and brother Jerry bought a GMC 6 race engine from Tom Langdon of the "Hole Shot 6" fame. Jerry and John had been running his engine in a '57 Chevy at the Southeastern Michigan dragstrips. When Jerry was drafted into the Army, Bob Seibert then bought out Jerry's share of the engine, and he and brother-in-law John formed their legendary partnership with Bob as driver, and John in the role of expert crew chief. A ’57 Chevy sedan delivery that Bob owned received a makeover of a fiberglass tilt front end, and a then-popular straight front axle. The car was raced locally at Lapeer, Milan, and Tri-City in the J/Gas class, winning frequently and setting a number of individual track records.
 
With Seibert joining the Army Reserve in 1966, team wasn’t able to run many of the NHRA national events and divisional point meets until 1972. However in 1970, John and Bob managed to compete in the NHRA U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis Raceway Park, with Bob scoring a J/Gas class championship runner-up at their first venture into the NHRA National scene. In 1971 the '57 sedan delivery was retired, and a much more modern and successful '68 Camaro was then competed by the team in the same class, J/Gas. This car was campaigned for only one season, highlighted by the J/Gas class championship at the 1971 NHRA U.S. Nationals. During the winter of '71-'72, the "little gold terror" was constructed. It was a 1972 Vega Hatchback, and much of the race chassis construction took place at "The Chassis Shop" where Wayne Gapp and Jack Roush were building new Pro Stock drag cars. In it's first season, the Vega with Bob at the wheel, was the J/Gas class champion at both the NHRA SpringNationals in Columbus, Ohio, and the U.S. Nationals at IRP.
 
During the 1973 season. John and Bob competed a full season schedule. They and the "the little giant killer" did that year what they knew they could do with a full race schedule. They were class winner at all of the following NHRA National events: GatorNationals in Florida; SpringNationals in Ohio; SummerNationals in NJ; and again at the U.S. Nationals at IRP. They set and re-set the National record for J/Gas three times that year, ending with a 1/4 mile of 12.55 seconds at 109.09 mph. However, at the Rockford, Illinois Gas Coupe and Sedan meet in 1973, they uncorked a 12.27 with the little inline six Vega, which netted them the #1 qualifier spot (based upon how much quicker a car can run in comparison to it's individual class index), and John and Bob won the event. As if this all wasn't enough for a first full season, they also won two NHRA Division 3 point meets, and took the Division 3 Modified Eliminator overall point championship title. Bob was also voted the Sportsman Driver of the Year for NHRA Division 3. 1974 found class wins were taken at the following NHRA National events: GatorNationals, SpringNationals, SummerNationals, SportsNationals and U.S. Nationals. While not repeating their Division 3 Modified point title, they did win the NHRA National event Modified Eliminator title! The next year, John and Bob scored wins at the GatorNationals and the SummerNationals. NHRA had also altered the weight-break structure in Modified that year, having added more classes, and the Vega had a new class designation of N/Gas, but weighing the same. With continued massive research and development on the "antique" four main bearing GMC "stovebolt" inline six, John and Bob kept destroying the National class record to 12.31, then ran a 12.05 in the final round when they won the SummerNationals.
 
In 1975 the car received a facelift with a newer and swoopier Vega front end, a new color of red, and a completely new lettering scheme. Bob had class wins at the SpringNationals, SummerNationals, SportsNationals, U.S. Nationals, and LeGrandNationals. He won yet another national event, the Modified Eliminator title at the SummerNationals in New Jersey. Along with being awarded the best appearing sportsman car for NHRA Division 3, John and Bob also captured the Division 3 Modified season point championship once again! This was the Vega's last year, but before the season's end, they had also reset the N/Gas record 3 times. The final performance register of the car was an 11.47 at a non-record event. Much of this performance gain was due to the development of a new cylinder head in conjunction with C.J. Batten Competition Heads. When they started with the GMC six in the Vega, the record had been in the high 13's, and they ended up knocking on the door of the 10 second zone, twisting nearly unbelievable rpm’s out of that "old truck engine", with fans witnessing many hapless, higher class V-8 cars, unsuccessfully chasing down the fleeing little six on a handicap start race. John and Bob went a completely new direction in 1976, with an inline- six Pinto, in which the engine was based upon the more modern 300ci Ford. Bob won the J/Gas class title at the NHRA GatorNational. This was Bob’s last race event as driver, and John continued to race the Pinto himself through 1978, along with new partner Mark Fotia. John sold the Pinto at the end of the ’78 season, and sold the engine separately to famed Canadian racer Ralph Hope. From 1979 to 1982, John & Mark then partnered with Arlen Fadely on a Competition Eliminator C/Dragster.
 
John is now a semi-retired Master Plumber living in Clawson, married to his wife Margaret since 1983. Bob eventually moved from Sterling Heights to Shelby Township, retired from GM in 1997 with wife Judy, John’s sister. The Drag Racing onslaught of Seibert and Bugenski was only ten-plus years, but they accomplished more in those years than many racers manage in a lifetime.