TASCA USES YES PROGRAM TO ADVANCE NEXT GENERATION INTO AUTOMOTIVE APPLICATIONS
The late Bob Tasca spearheaded the dominance of Ford in drag racing in the 1960s and coined the phrase “win on Sunday, sell on Monday.”
His grandson, Bob Tasca III, is expanding on that mantra to be “teach on Friday, win on Sunday and hire on Monday.”
Tasca, 42, returned for full-time racing in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series this year with major financial support from the Ford Motor Company along with its Motorcraft and Quick Lane parts and service divisions.
Tasca, who owns four NHRA event titles, continues to develop his all-new team and understands these days success in motorsports for a sponsor is not only measured by wins on the track.
That’s why he and members of his Tasca Racing team will join U.S. Army soldiers on Fridays at 16 of 24 Mello Yello events participating in the NHRA Youth Education Services (YES) program.
The YES program is celebrating its 30th anniversary with NHRA, and it has grown through primary sponsorship from the U.S. Army.
School buses deliver hundreds of students to the race tracks where they participate in a midmorning presentation that features Army sponsored drivers (Tony Schumacher, Antron Brown and this year Leah Pritchett), members of the Army and now Tasca. After the presentation, students spend the rest of their school hours roaming the pits and watching 300-mph racing.
Until this year, options were directed toward educational and career opportunities in the Army. This year, the tens of thousands participating throughout the country will listen to Tasca talk about careers in the automotive technical industry before being invited to the Tasca pit to further discuss career opportunities with Ford engineers, representatives of a local Ford Dealership and three key members of Tasca’s team who are graduates of post high school technical schools.
The next YES program is Friday (April 20) at Royal Purple Raceway near Houston during the NHRA Spring Nationals.
“I don’t ever remember leaving school to spend a day at a drag race and be part of something like this,” said Tasca, a graduate of Providence College in his native Rhode Island where he majored in business management while working full-time at his family’s Tasca Ford dealership.
“Back in my grandfather’s day and even when I started technicians were called grease monkeys. When I started as a tech I was the lowest paid at the dealership but now they are among the highest paid in our company.”
As the only full-time educational program in motorsports, YES students are presented with various career opportunities within the world of drag racing while gaining an understanding of the important role that Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) play in almost every aspect of the sport.
The YES program was a big factor in Ford’s decision to come back to professional drag racing as dealerships have to try new ways to find future mechanics.
“In our (automotive) industry, technician shortages are rampant,” Tasca said. “Being involved with YES us in front of these kids who are looking to their futures. Half of recruiting is awareness. This will allow us to share our message with tens of thousands of students this year about the benefits of becoming a technician.
“I tell that five years from now with the right technical education and right work ethic that they could be making $100,000 a year at a dealership. There probably isn’t anything more technology advanced than today’s cars and trucks with all the microprocessors and computers.
“Today’s auto technicians really are electrical engineers,” he said. “I tell kids I love to negotiate, but when they get out of tech school there’s a lot more demand for them than there is a supply.
“I love sharing words of wisdom with younger generations. And our involvement with YES puts us right next to the U.S. Army. That’s a cool experience for me.”
After the opening presentation, those interested in auto tech are invited to Tasca’s pit meet with a Ford engineer, dealership representative and Tasca’s crew chief Eric Lane, assistant crew chief Nick Casertano and car chief John Boyce, each of whom graduated from post-high school automotive technical programs.
For Lane, the YES teaching opportunity with Tasca takes him back to how he started in professional drag racing.
Drag racing has come full circle for Lane, who upon graduating from UTI was given the opportunity to be part of the crew for drag racing hall-of-famer Gary Densham, a longtime high school auto shop instructor best known for his “Teacher’s Pet” Funny Cars.
They met at a car show, and UTI recommended Lane to Densham, who was at the school looking for crewmen in 1998. Lane knew that was the path for him to take. He remained with Densham until both joined the Force operation in 2001 as part of a new third Funny Car team. Lane moved to Schumacher’s operation in 2014 before joining Tasca at the end of the last season.
After nursing school in Southern California and becoming an x-ray technician in the mid-1990s, Lane began to take courses at a new Universal Technical Institute in Ranch Cucamonga, California. A longtime fan of hot rods, Lane excelled at UTI and graduated at the top of his class.
“It’s a cool scenario being part of the YES program,” said Lane, who is in his first year as a crew chief. He owns two world championships as an assistant crew chief, the first in 2009 with crew chief Jimmy Prock and driver Robert Hight at Force then two years ago at Schumacher with crew chief Rahn Tobler and driver Ron Capps.
“It’s neat to talk to kids and tell them it’s OK to be a mechanic,” Lane said. “It’s like what Gary Densham told me when I started with him that it’s OK to have a trade and work with your hands.
“In today’s high-tech world, you can make a good living and have a good life by working with your hands.
“Densham is why I’m a crew chief today, and it all started with my decision to take some classes at UTI,” Lane added.
At Houston this weekend, Tasca and Lane once again will get to open the eyes of a new generation to the benefits of automotive mechanics before winning on Sunday.