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Tasca, Ford Contenders Again In Funny Car

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 7 2019
Bob Tasca III celebrates after winning the Funny Car portion of the NHRA show at Norwalk, Ohio recently. (Photo courtesy of the NHRA)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Bob Tasca III’s fierce brand loyalty has returned Ford Motor Company to relevance in the NHRA’s nitro Funny Car ranks and rekindled memories of “Ford Total Performance.”

The winner of back-to-back national events for the first time in his career, Tasca now rates among the favorites for Sunday’s final eliminations at the seventh annual NHRA New England Nationals in Epping, N.H. 

“It’s my home track,” said Tasca, 43, who qualified second Saturday at New England Dragway in his PPG/Motorcraft Ford Shelby Mustang. “It’s been home to some great memories for me. I’ve won in everything but my Funny Car (at Epping), but this is the best car I’ve ever sat in. It’s the most consistent car I’ve ever been in, it’s as quick as anything I’ve ever driven, but what gives me is the car. When you have a car that goes down the racetrack, it will get quicker because you have the data to look at.”

Tasca’s best lap of 4.035-seconds at 318.17 mph has paired him against Jeff Diehl’s Toyota Camry in Round 1 of a 15-car field. Qualifying was concluded after three rounds due to inclement weather.  Eliminations are scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. (EDT) today with live televised action on FOX Sports 1 starting at 1 p.m. The event marks the halfway point of the 24-race Mello Yello Drag Racing Series schedule.

The additions of former John Force Racing crew chief Jon Schaffer and Mike Neff, idled by eight-time Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher’s sponsor search, to a tuning crew led by Eric Lane have elevated Tasca to championship contender. Tasca ended a near seven-year winless streak on June 16 when he defeated Funny Car icon Force in the final of the 19th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Tasca, who last won late in the 2012 season, denied Force his 150th career victory by covering the 1,000-foot distance in 4.008-seconds at 316.23 mph. Tasca earned his fifth career win and first in 100 races. Tasca, who qualified third, defeated Jim Campbell, point-leader Robert Hight and back-to-back Bristol winner Ron Capps _ who, ironically, had trailered Tasca in the Bristol final a year ago.

“It was just a hard-fought effort,” said Tasca, who improved to ninth in Funny Car points with that win. “I knew it would be a slugfest against Force, but I love racing John. It was probably one of the biggest wins in my career. There’s so much history with my family racing in Thunder Valley and I really wanted to win this one.

“I remember walking into the place for the first time and saw a photo of my grandfather hanging in the tower. I’ve always wanted to win one here and I’m glad to get it done. To see my guys work as hard as they’ve been working to put us in position and then close the deal…it’s really hard to win out here.”

Tasca _ triumphant cover boy on the July 5 issue of National Dragster _ waited only a week to return to the winner’s circle at the 13th annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio. Tasca knocked off “Fast” Jack Beckman via a final-round pass of 4.383-seconds at 245.09 mph on June 23. Tasca reached his 14th career final with wins against Matt Hagan, Paul Lee and Force and moved to seventh in the point standings. 

“I worked a lot of years to get to this place and there were days I never thought I would get back here, but I never gave up and I thank the people that never gave up on me,” Tasca said. “I always knew if I could get the right car under me we could do great things. When you make four runs in the 3.00s in very challenging conditions, there was no reason why we couldn’t have won. I’m glad we got it done. I have all the faith in the world in the guys that not only will we be ready for Indy, but we’re going to be a contender for the championship this year.”

NHRA’s 18-race “regular season” ends with the 65th annual Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis Aug.28-Sept. 2, with the top-10 in Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle advancing into the six-race Countdown to the Championship playoffs.

Data provided by NHRA confirms Tasca is running as well as anyone in the Funny Car class. “It’s very satisfying but it comes with a very high expectation,” Tasca said. “We hold ourselves to a very high standard. The only thing this has done is made us more confident, but by no means are we resting on our laurels. We’re a long way from where we want to be, but we’re on the path of what we want to achieve and I can say that with confidence.

“We’ve got a lot of hard work ahead of us, but this team, we’re not afraid of hard work. We’re in the meat of the season and we want to continue to move up in the points. That’s the bottom line.”

Ford fans know the Tasca family pioneered the iconic phrase “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday.” Tasca III, grandson of Tasca Ford founder Bob Tasca Sr., returned to the NHRA ranks fulltime in 2018 with backing from Ford Performance and its selected brands. In addition, Tasca Racing formed a technical alliance with Don Schumacher Motorsports to supplement engineering support from Ford Performance.

Ford, meanwhile, has leveraged its NHRA involvement to reach out to the sanctioning body’s fan base for business and recruitment of dealer technicians and mechanics _ an effort led by Tasca as motivational speaker during the season.

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

Recall that 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 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.

Tasca insisted that 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 III, who ran a limited NHRA schedule from 2015-2017 while courting Ford’s braintrust and bean-counters for sponsorship dollars, admittedly struggled through a 2018 season that saw him fail to qualify for the Countdown.

“Last year was a tough year,” Tasca said. “We started from scratch. We didn’t have the consistency. You have to take notice of how the car is running. The only thing that’s the same in this race car is me. We flushed everything. Eric checked his ego at the door and he has worked well with Schaffer. Trust me, this isn’t going to be the last time you hear from this Ford.”
 


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 7 2019
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