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Tasca Thinks Things Are Now Lined Up Perfectly

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 12 2012

Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III will go four-wide with a lot of confidence this weekend. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
RacinToday.com

After going three entire events without being able to collect an elinination-round victory, Bob Tasca III was very aware that something was askew on his NHRA Funny Car team. Not blow it up and start all over again askew. Just a little something missing kind of askew.

Tasca, a Mustang driver, decided to tap into Ford Racing’s “one-team” approach to solving on-track problems. As a result, veteran tuner Dickie Venables moved from John Force Racing to Tasca Racing’s shop just prior to the fourth NHRA event of the year at The Strip in Las Vegas.

The results jumped off the stat sheet at Vegas. Tasca qualified second fastest and advanced all the way to the event finals, where he lost to the hottest driver in the NHRA, Robert Hight of JFR.

“My gamble was that it was going to lead to better decision making,” Tasca said of bringing in Venables to the team during a telephone conversation this week. “Did it pay off? Well, if you want to take Vegas as the first example, certainly, directionally, it looked pretty good. That’s one race and we’ve got a lot of racing left this season, but my gamble is that the decision-making process will be improved because we’ve got another very capable person in the mix.”

Tasca and his team have been one of those bunches that have flashed good success during the four years they have competed in the NHRA. And then retreated.

Tasca has won three events and has been a constant in the season-ending Countdown playoff the last
three seasons.

But the team has never quite been able to take that next step up to being a consistent winner in Funny

Bob Tasca III is going to zMAX with three crew chiefs. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Car. In saying that, you’re not telling Tasca something he doesn’t already know.

“Clearly we’ve had some real bright spots the past  four years,” Tasca said. “We finished fifth in points in 2010, struggled a little bit last year; truthfully not from performance, just from a lot of bad luck. Coming up on the wrong end of races which were won and lost by a few inches. That’s the way the sport is. You ride the lows and you ride the highs.”

Hopes were high for lots of highs in 2012. Tasca thought he had the right people in the right places and, he had confidence in the Ford Boss 500 program.

Among the right people was the crew chief combination of Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner.

The team tested well and it even qualified well in the season-opening events in Pomona (fifth), Phoenix (9th) and Gainesville (fifth).

But on Sundays, it was one and done all three weekends. It was after Gainesville that Tasca added Venables, who has worked with the some of the best in the biz: Shirley Muldowney, Gary Ormsby, Don “The Snake” Prudhomme, Whit Bazemore, Cory McClenathan and Morgan Lucas.

At Vegas, the team blew through Jeff Arend, Matt Hagan and Cruz Pedregon to get to the finals and Hight.

Tasca said the problem was not with Cunningham and Denner. He said the team needed to add something, not subtract.

“It was little things,” Tasca said. “The car’s a great car.”

It showed that with Venables on board at Vegas.

“It takes a brain trust to compete with the brain trusts of the Force camp and the Schumacher (Don Schumacher Racing) camp,” Tasca said.

“Bringing Dickie in, he made a lot of little small suggestions and pretty much observed at the first race.

Bob Tasca III knows how to win. (File photo courtesy the NHRA)

Pretty much contributed by just bringing a little bit different thought perspective on some of the decision making. But all in all, it was the car we ran the first three races of the year.

“We’ll start making more changes and tweaking a little bit to see if the race car likes it. But what I liked most about Vegas was how Dickie and Chris and Marc all worked together. Sometimes it just takes another person to ask the questions that will maybe job something in your memory.

“I think where the big value of having a guy like Dickie is in the fine-tuning in the decision-making process. Particularly from round to round on Sunday where you have to make a decision on a tenth of a pound of tire pressure, three grams of weight on the clutch or half a degree of timing. Those are the types of decisions you have to make.”

This weekend, chapter two of Venables joins Tasca will play out in the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C.

It’s a big event for the team. For a lot of reasons.

“It’s a home track for us,” Tasca said. “We got a lot of family, friends and sponsors that come out to this race. It’s one of the biggest races of the year. We did very well here last year. Went to the finals, came in runner-up last year. We’re coming out of a great race in Las Vegas with a lot of momentum and a lot of good energy in the camp.

“We’ve got a car that’s run extremely well since Pomona really. And we’re glad to have this Ford Motorcraft Quick Lane car on the Ford bandwagon with Robert (Hight) winning three and John (Force) winning one and (Mike) Neff going to some finals. It’s nice to be in the mix with the Ford boys.”

It will be nicer for the team to get its hands on a Wally.

Below is a quick reference guide that will help answer any questions regarding the special rules, race procedures and configuration for four-wide drag racing, NHRA style.

LANE IDENTIFICATION

Lanes are referred to in numerical order from left facing down track (outermost left lane is No. 1, then No. 2 and No. 3, and the outermost right lane is No. 4).

QUALIFYING ORDER

In the first session, drivers with the least number of points will run first, and the points leaders will run last. The top four in the points standings will be the final group (points leader will be in lane 4, second in points in lane 3, third in lane 2, fourth in lane 1). The order for subsequent sessions will be determined per normal qualifying procedures.

QUALIFYING FIELD

Because each team will have only one qualifying run in each lane, the standard qualifying procedure of transferring only the quickest 12 times from Friday to Saturday will not be in effect. All elapsed times from all qualifying sessions from both days will be used to establish the 16-car fields.

ELIMINATIONS BRACKET

The specially-modified eliminations ladder structure will feature Race A: qualifiers 1, 8, 9, 16, Race B: qualifiers 4, 5, 12, 13, Race C: qualifiers 2, 7, 10, 15, and Race D: qualifiers 3, 6, 11, 14; Race A and Race B will be on one side of the ladder, while Race C and Race D will be on the other.

STARTING SYSTEM

Each track (left two lanes and right two lanes) will have the standard NHRA Christmas Tree. Each Tree will be fitted with four specially designed LED pre-stage/stage units, which will indicate the pre-stage/stage position of drivers in all four lanes (from left). The Compulink Auto Start system will continue to be ­utilized; however, unlike in two-lane racing, the Auto Start system will not activate until all four vehicles are pre-staged and one vehicle has staged. Each lane will be monitored by a qualified Starter.

RED-LIGHTS

In eliminations, should three drivers red-light, the two to advance will be the driver who receives the green light and the driver who red-lights by the least amount. For example, if driver A has a -.029 r.t., driver B a -.103, and driver C a -.049, driver A would advance. If three drivers red-light, the win lights will come on immediately for the driver with the green light and the driver who red-lighted by the least. The winner’s light will flash, and the second-place light will be steady.

LANE CHOICE

First-round lane choice will go to the quickest qualifier in the group of four, second choice to the second-quickest, and third choice to the third-quickest. In subsequent rounds, first choice will go to the driver with the lowest elapsed time from the previous round, second choice to the second-lowest, and third choice to the third-lowest.

SCOREBOARDS

In qualifying, the lane number with the low elapsed time of each run will light up on the scoreboard. In eliminations, the lane number of the first place car will flash and the lane number of the second place car will be lit solid on the scoreboard.

ELIMINATIONS

Two drivers from each group will advance in the first two rounds of competition, the first and second to cross the finish line. In the final round, the drivers will finish first through fourth in the order they cross the finish line, barring any red-light starts.

DISQUALIFICATIONS

The following prioritizes the degree of infraction (No. 1 being the worst):

1. Driver leaving starting line before starting system is activated

2. Driver crossing centerline or striking timing fixture(s)

3. Driver contacting barrier wall

4. Driver red-lighting

POINTS

Points will be awarded at the same level as at other NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series events. The winner will receive 100 points, the runner-up 80, the third and fourth finishers 60, the four second-round losers 40, and the eight first-round losers 20.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

Jim Pedley | Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, April 12 2012
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