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Funny Car Veteran Tasca Returning To Cockpit

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 1 2017

Bob Tasca III is returning to the NHRA. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

The Ford brand-loyal racing family that pioneered the iconic phrase “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” is returning to the NHRA’s Funny Car ranks in 2018.

Bob Tasca III _ grandson of Tasca Ford founder Bob Tasca Sr. _ will partner with Ford Performance on Tasca Racing’s Mustang-bodied Funny Car for the full 2018 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season. Ford and its selected brands will serve as Tasca’s primary sponsor for 16 races, and as a co-sponsor the rest of the season, building upon the company’s legacy of drag racing that dates to the sport’s start.

Additionally, Ford’s involvement will reach out to its NHRA fan base for business and recruitment of dealer technicians and mechanics. The agreement was announced Tuesday at the industry-wide Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) show in Las Vegas.

Tasca III is booked to run the full 24-race NHRA schedule for the first time since 2014. To that end, Tasca Racing has formed a technical alliance with Don Schumacher Motorsports and the engineering support of Ford Performance in a bid to compete for the Funny Car championship. Ford Performance will help Tasca Racing make its Mustang as “slippery” as possible via the company’s investments in aerodynamics engineering, including racing and production vehicle wind tunnels.

“This is a very exciting day for me personally, and for everyone involved at Tasca Racing,” Tasca III said in a statement.  “We have always been a Ford family and have a long history with drag racing, so to be able to return to NHRA Funny Car fulltime in 2018 with the support of our long-time friends at Ford is the perfect scenario for us.”

Tasca III has led the racing branch of his family since 2008. When not involved with his Mustang “flopper,” Bob III works at the family dealership in Rhode Island.

Ford Racing stunned the drag racing community in August 2013 with the decision that it would discontinue support of its professional Funny Car and Pro Stock teams at the end of the 2014 season. The company opted to concentrate its drag racing dollars on NHRA’s grassroots and production-based Sportsman racers beginning in 2015 with Mustang Cobra Jet race cars. That program included engines/parts support and contingencies in many classes.

Tasca III was a vocal critic of Ford’s exit from NHRA, a move which ended the Blue Oval’s 17-year association with John Force Racing’s championship-winning organization and prompted owner/16-time world champion “Brute” Force to join the Chevrolet Racing camp. Ford’s decision also impacted the Mustang-bodied Funny Car program of Tim Wilkerson Racing as well as Larry Morgan Racing’s Pro Stock Mustang.

Tasca III said Ford’s decision to leave NHRA professional drag racing “underestimated the passion and loyalty of the NHRA fans.” Bob Tasca Sr. founded Tasca Racing in 1962, one of the first businessmen to capitalize upon the potential of “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” during sanctioned drag racing’s infancy. Bob Sr. opened his Ford store in East Providence, R.I., in 1953 at age 27 and developed it into “super-dealer” status.

Tasca Sr. was a hands-on car-guy who loved working in the shop on his various 427 cubic-inch Galaxie Lightweights, 427 Thunderbolt Fairlane and Mustang hot rods driven by Bill Lawton in classes including A/Factory Experimental and Super/Stock Eliminator. A member of the Ford Drag Council, Tasca Sr. often displayed his race cars on the showroom floor of his dealership to emphasize Ford’s “Total Performance” marketing plan.

Tasca Sr.’s relationship with Ford Motor Company senior management and Special Vehicles engineers also led to creation of a one-off 427-equipped 1964 Thunderbird. A Ford dealer for more than 55 years, Tasca Sr. died in January 2010 at age 83.

Tasca Automotive Group continues to be run by Bob Jr. and Bob III, the family’s second and third generations. Tasca III has entered his Mustang in selected NHRA national events during the past three seasons while continuing to negotiate with Ford executives.

“This is something we have been working on for months now, so it’s great to be able to finally talk about it,” Tasca III said. “We are ramping-up for a full-season effort on the track, but also are ready to start working with our Ford partners to help reach their business goals and to help recruit technicians and mechanics for Ford dealerships by leveraging the NHRA platform.

“My team is focused on winning a championship for all the Ford fans that have supported Tasca and Ford since the 1960’s. My grandfather coined the phrase ‘Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.’ That statement is alive and well within the NHRA. We can’t wait to get started.”

During his decade as an NHRA Funny Car competitor, Tasca III has recorded four national event wins, 11 final-round appearances and qualified for the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoff three times. His career-best elapsed time is 3.892-seconds; his career-best speed is 326.56 mph.

“We’re excited about partnering with Tasca Racing and helping them return to NHRA for a championship run,” said Dave Pericak, global director, Ford Performance.  “We believe we have the technology tools to help the team be competitive on the track long-term, and are looking forward to the effort starting in 2018.

“The Tasca family has always been a pioneer in racing, and a leader in Ford vehicle and parts sales for many decades.  This partnership will only serve to strengthen that legacy.”

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Fortunately for NHRA, Pro Stock cars do get shoved into reverse.

NHRA officials announced on Sunday the Pro Stock category will feature 16-car fields at all 24 Mello Yello Drag Racing Series national events in 2018. NHRA reached the decision after what it termed “a collaborative and productive meeting” with several Pro Stock drivers and teams in the wake of its previous decision to run eight-car fields at nine national events in 2018. That controversial decision was announced on Oct. 5 in a release.

NHRA officials said then the change in field size was intended to “elevate competition and spark renewed interest” in the Factory Hot Rod category, specifically bringing more qualifying to events historically drawing fewer entries. Eight-car fields were scheduled to be run at the following national events: Baytown, Texas, near Houston; Heartland Park Topeka; Epping, N.H.; Englishtown, N.J.; Bristol, Tenn.; Morrison, Colo., near Denver; Sonoma, Calif.; Kent, Wash., near Seattle and Brainerd, Minn.

NHRA has been working closely with Pro Stock teams for several years on initiatives designed to improve fan engagement and interest. Changes have included switching to fuel injection; facing cars forward in the pits so fans can see the teams work on their engines and staging burnout contests. 

One of the ideas from the recent meeting with Pro Stock teams involved the possibility of including a new engine platform that NHRA’s Tech Department is evaluating. NHRA will continue to work with Pro Stock teams and manufacturers this year, evaluating key metrics and supporting initiatives to generate interest.

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Glen Cromwell, who rose through NHRA’s ranks from division director to become senior vice-president, media and marketing, will begin his tenure as the sanctioning body’s president, effective Jan. 1, 2018.

Cromwell succeeds Peter Clifford as president. Clifford will assume the newly created post of chief executive officer following over 20 years with the organization, including serving as president since 2015. Cromwell will head up NHRA’s leadership team and report to Clifford and the NHRA Board of Directors.

“Glen Cromwell takes the helm of NHRA at an exciting time, with all of our metrics on the upswing,” said Dallas Gardner, chairman of the NHRA Board of Directors. “With the forward momentum created by Peter Clifford’s leadership, including leading NHRA’s transition to producing its own television programs in-house and creating an entirely new broadcast and media organization, Glen will be able to build the sport even further.

“Glen began his career with NHRA as a division director, and was hands-on in running NHRA’s grassroots racing series in the southwestern United States and Hawaii. He soon moved into a broader marketing role and has played a major part in NHRA’s growth over the years, leading countless initiatives to bring the sport to more people and to support racers, teams, sponsors, and always our fans, both on-site and at home.”

Cromwell joined NHRA in 1997 and has been a key player in the sport’s marketing efforts the past 20 years. In addition, he has been leading all of the sanctioning body’s television and new media activities and its owned racetracks.

“I’ve loved NHRA ever since I started as a division director, and I feel honored to have the opportunity to lead this amazing organization,” Cromwell said. “I look forward to my new role and to working with the entire NHRA team to bring NHRA Championship Drag Racing to even more people.

“Thanks to the support of our many marketing partners; our broadcast partner FOX Sports; our track partners; our team owners, drivers and crews; our loyal fans and of course our team of dedicated employees, NHRA drag racing is poised for continued growth and greater exposure. I look forward to continuing to work with Peter Clifford and the rest of the board as we enhance our programs and continue to expand the sport.” 

The news was announced Tuesday at and live-streamed from the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

“Glen’s depth and breadth of experience with NHRA is unmatched,” Clifford said. “Since his promotion to senior vice-president, he’s quickly learned every facet of the business and I have every confidence he’ll succeed in leading NHRA into the next decade.

“Glen’s commitment to growing the sport and to doing everything in his power to meet the needs of our many and varied constituencies _ fans, racers, sponsors, partner tracks, television, media and more _ is unparalleled. I’m looking forward to turning over the reins to Glen and working with him in the years to come. I’ll be available as a resource to consult, advise and serve as a sounding board.”

Headquartered in Glendora, Calif., NHRA is the primary sanctioning body for drag racing in the United States.

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Three-time NHRA champion Larry Dixon constantly has been asked what it’s like to drive a nitro-methane-burning Top Fuel dragster.

With over 20 years behind the wheel, Dixon has decided to answer that question by producing the “Fastest Ride in Drag Racing” with his all-new, nitro-burning, 10,000-horsepower “Two-seat” NitroX2 Top Fuel dragster. The unique two-seater is the key element of the Larry Dixon Top Fuel Experience. Fans will get to experience acceleration up to 4Gs and 250 mph during an eighth-mile run with the 62-time NHRA national event winner at the wheel.

Dixon began working on the concept almost two years ago and now has tested the two-seater for customer rides. The Larry Dixon Top Fuel Experience NitroX2 is making its debut this week at the Traxxas booth at the SEMA show in Las Vegas.

“We went through the proper steps to ensure that the NitroX2 dragster could be designed and constructed with the utmost regard to rider safety,” Dixon said. “In a town known for doing things over the top, I teamed up with a company known for speed in Traxxas.  I’m proud to introduce the NitroX2 Top Fuel car in their SEMA booth along with the Traxxas Top Fuel Experience. Traxxas is known for having the fastest Radio Control cars on the planet and now they have aligned themselves with one of the fastest ride-alongs on the planet.”

Dixon has teamed with Traxxas, the Fastest Name in Radio Control, to unveil the NitroX2 car as well as announce the Traxxas Top Fuel Experience Sweepstakes.  The contest will give one winner the chance to take a ride with Dixon in the NitroX2 two-seater.

“Larry Dixon Racing has now created an opportunity to actually put a racing fan safely in a seat next to a pro driver in a two-seat Top Fueler and make a pass,” said Doug Evans, secretary and past chairman of SEMA. “I think this is an outstanding way to reach out and get people excited about all things racing and automotive.”

The Larry Dixon Top Fuel Experience NitroX2 dragster will be available in the future for various corporate events. For information, contact info@larrydixonracing.com or send inquiries to Larry Dixon Racing, P.O. Box 435, Brownsburg, Ind., 46112.  

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E3 Spark Plugs, an industry leader in spark plug technology, has been named series title sponsor for the NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series. The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service will feature 12 races during the 2018 season, a second visit into the Texas market and a change to qualifying procedures.

The series will compete at Billy Meyer’s Texas Motorplex in Ennis Oct. 4-7, 2018 during the 33rd annual AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals in their 3,000-horsepower cars that include 1967 Mustangs, ’68 Firebirds and ’69 Camaros, as well as a variety of late model American Muscle Cars.

New for the coming season, the category will get a total of four qualifying sessions (up from three) with the first round of eliminations in their 16-car fields taking place on Sunday. Like drivers in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle, Pro Mod teams will get two qualifying sessions on Friday and two on Saturday prior to race day.

“We’re excited to become the title sponsor of the rapidly growing NHRA Pro Mod Series,” said Rob Fisher, vice president of motorsports for E3 Spark Plugs. “We’ve been involved with NHRA drag racing as a marketing partner for over 10 years; Official Spark Plug and Ignition Products sponsor for five years and now we’ve added a series-level sponsorship of a very exciting form of drag racing. In our mind it was the next logical step and gives us the opportunity to give back to the pinnacle of Sportsman racing.”

E3 manufactures a complete line of spark plugs for automotive, small engine, power sports and racing applications.

The 2018 season for these “door-slammer” cars will begin March 15-18 at the 49th annual Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway and conclude at the 18th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

“The 2018 schedule for the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service is one that will thrill fans across the country,” said Brad Gerber, NHRA vice president and chief development officer. “The support of E3 Spark Plugs and J&A Service along with our industry partners at each of the 12 events will entertain the fans in this exciting series that features turbo, nitrous and supercharged vehicles.”

J&A Service will be designated as the presenting series sponsor. The series is supported by the Real Pro Mod Association, a group of NHRA Pro Mod Series team-owners working closely with NHRA on initiatives to maintain and grow the series.

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2018 E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service Schedule

March 15-18 _ Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, Gainesville, Fla.

April 20-22 _ NHRA SpringNationals, Baytown, Texas

April 27-29 _NHRA Four-Wide Nationals, Concord, N.C.

May 18-20 _Menards NHRA Heartland Nationals presented by Minties, Topeka, Kan.

June 7-10 _ NHRA Summernationals, Englishtown, N.J.

June 15-17 _ NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, Bristol, Tenn.

June 21-24 _ Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals, Norwalk, Ohio

Aug. 29-Sept. 3 _Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals, Clermont, Ind.

Sept. 21-23 _AAA Insurance NHRA Midwest Nationals, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 4-7 _ AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals, Ennis, Texas

Oct. 12-14 _NHRA Carolina Nationals, Concord, N.C.

Oct. 26-29 _NHRA Toyota Nationals, Las Vegas

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, November 1 2017
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