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Tasca In Hang-On Mode As U.S. Nationals Begin

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 1 2011

Bob Tasca III has had some problems this season, but he still has big hopes for the U.S. Nationals and the Countdown. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

Big events tend to produce big pressure for athletes. For that reason, NHRA Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III should theoretically being going through double hell this weekend.

Beginning Friday, Tasca will be driving his Ford Mustang in the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind. – the series’ biggest event. He will also start the event, the final one before the NHRA’s six-race Countdown playoff begins, on the bubble.

“When the NHRA made Indy the last-chance race, the last race to make the top 10 playoff field, this race took on an even greater significance,” Tasca said this week. “For teams like us, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang Funny Car team, it’s time to prove we are a championship contender.”

Tasca’s season has not gone as planned. It started with a first-round loss in the Winternationals in Pomona and then sputtered periodically for the rest of the schedule.

There would be seven more first-round losses. There would be zero victories and only one final-round appearance – that in the Four-Wide Nationals at Charlotte where he finished as runner-up to Jack Beckman.

Still, Tasca heads to the “Big Go” clinging to the 10th place in points and in position to capture the final Countdown berth. When pro racing begins Friday, Tasca will hold a 62-point over 11th-place Johnny

Bob Tasca III has his eyes on victory at this weekend's NHRA Mac Tools U.S. Nationals. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

Gray.

That translates to a three-round advantage but, considering Tasca’s first-round problems this season, and the fact that Gray won and his Don Schumacher Racing teat won at Brainerd, Minn. in the last event, not a rock solid advantage.

“Clearly, we’re going into Indy in the driver’s seat,” Tasca said. “We’re not necessarily happy we’re going in 10th, but we are certainly in the driver’s seat. We have a 62-point lead over Johnny Gray, and I have a lot of respect for that team and the whole Don Schumacher Racing organization

“They’re not going to Indy to lose it, that’s for sure. They’re going to be riding some momentum out of Brainerd with that win. We’re going to keep doing what we’re doing. If it plays out the way that it should play it out, we’ll roll into Charlotte and be a championship contender. Heck, we could roll into Charlotte, I think, in eighth place with the way the points shake out. We’re looking to move up, certainly not move down.”

Gray said, yes, he loves the momentum he will bring to LOR.

“I know it looks tough,” said the Don Schumacher Racing driver. “But it looked even tougher before Brainerd (Minn.), and then we went out and put the Service Central Funny Car into the winner’s circle for the first time this year. We’ll need a little bit of luck and then have to go three rounds beyond Bob, but that’s part of racing.

“For the past several races I’ve said it was going to be difficult getting into the Countdown, but we would keep working at it. And I’ve also said if we don’t make it, we will make it tough on those in it during the final six races of the year. We’ve shown everyone we can get the Service Central Funny Car to go rounds against anybody.”

But chances are, the momentum will be worth nothing unless Tasca stumbles and Gray wins.

History lessons

The most historic and prestigious event in the NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series, the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil has been contested annually since 1955. Originally known as “The Nationals” and first held at an abandoned airstrip in Great Bend, Kan., the event made stops at Kansas City, Mo., Oklahoma City and Detroit before eventually moving to Lucas Oil Raceway at Indianapolis in 1961. Past winners include “Big Daddy” Don Garlits, an eight-time winner in Top Fuel; Shirley Muldowney, 1982 Top Fuel winner; Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, a seven-time winner and one of a handful of drivers to win the event in both Top Fuel and Funny Car; and Bob Glidden, the legendary Pro Stock driver who dominated the race by advancing to the final round in 13 consecutive seasons from 1977-’89. The Indiana native won the event a record nine times. It is the only major motorsports event to be contested on Labor Day. In 2004 the event celebrated its 50th anniversary in memorable fashion with spectacular racing witnessed by one of the biggest crowds in NHRA history. This year during the NHRA’s 60th anniversary celebration, there promises to be major drama as the event will be the last race during the NHRA Full Throttle Series regular season, and the top 10 drivers in each of the four classes will be determined for the Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Fast facts

The Nationals is the final of 16 regular season Full Throttle Series races. At the conclusion of this event

Greg Anderson has been a U.S. Nationals kind of guy.

the top 10 drivers in each Full Throttle Series category will qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six-race playoffs that begin Sept. 15-18 at zMAX Dragway in Charlotte, N.C. …  Tony Schumacher is a 10-time U.S. Nationals finalist in Top Fuel (winning eight)…  Schumacher’s first career NHRA start came at the U.S. Nationals in 1996 and the then rookie posted a runner-up finish to Cory McClenathan…  Pro Stock dominator Greg Anderson has won the race five times in the past 10 seasons…  Six female drivers representing three professional categories are pre-entered for the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil…  John Force, 15-time NHRA Full Throttle Series world champion and winner of a record 133 events, has won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil four times, his last coming in 2002…  Last season track performance records for E.T. and speed were set in all four Full Throttle Series categories…  Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden, who will be honored as a legend during the event, is the winningest driver in the history of the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals presented by Lucas Oil, with nine victories…  Since 2000, only two drivers – Tony Schumacher and Larry Dixon – have won the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in Top Fuel.

Watch this

Tony Schumacher, who is winless this season but has advanced to the last four final rounds, is seeking

Top Fueler Tony Schumacher knows how to win at Indy. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

his ninth Top Fuel victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals; with a win he will break his current tie with “Big Daddy” Don Garlits for most U.S. Nationals Top Fuel wins…  A victory by Schumacher would tie Pro Stock’s Bob Glidden for most U.S. Nationals victories with nine…  Four-time Pro Stock world champion Greg Anderson, the defending world champion and series points leader entering the event, is seeking his sixth Mac Tools U.S. Nationals victory…  Don Prudhomme, Kenny Bernstein, Ed McCulloch and Jim Head have won the U.S. Nationals in both Top Fuel and Funny Car. Top Fuel points leader Del Worsham, who won here in Funny Car in 2005, could join the elite group with a victory this weekend…  The official NHRA 60th anniversary legends of the event will be nine-time Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Pro Stock winner Bob Glidden and 1982 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals Top Fuel winner Shirley Muldowney…  Funny Car points leader Mike Neff is pulling double duty as both driver and tuner of his Castrol GTX Ford Mustang. He has raced to four victories this season…  Erica Enders has raced to three final rounds this season in Pro Stock and with a victory at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals would become the first female to win a Pro Stock race in NHRA history. The Houston racer, who got her start in NHRA Jr. Drag Racing League, would become the 12th female winner in the Full Throttle Series in NHRA history…  Defending Pro Stock Motorcycle winner and world champ LE Tonglet is riding a hot streak into the event, as he has posted four victories this season aboard his Nitro Fish Suzuki…  Two other drivers riding momentum into the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals are Antron Brown in Top Fuel and Ron Capps in Funny Car. Brown won at Sonoma and Brainerd, while Capps also won at Sonoma and was runner-up at Brainerd…  Three rookie drivers – Pro Stock’s Vincent Nobile and Pro Stock Motorcycle’s Hector Arana Jr. and Jerry Savoie – enter the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals in the top 10; Nobile has won two races this season while Arana Jr. has posted a runner-up finish.

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, September 1 2011
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