BOB TASCA III SNARES PROVISIONAL FC NO. 1 SPOT IN ST. LOUIS
This has been a season to remember for veteran NHRA nitro Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III.
He navigated through an offseason when he was searching for new crew chiefs to being in the mix to win his first career nitro Funny Car world championship.
Tasca III arrived at the Midwest Nationals in St. Louis, fresh off a win at the last race in Charlotte, N.C., and second in the points standings just 25 back of leader Robert Hight.
Tasca III, who drives the Ford Motorcraft/Quick Lane Mustang, clocked a 3.852-second elapsed time at 324.90 mph to capture the provisional No. 1 qualifying position at World Wide Technology Raceway Friday.
“We’ve been working on this all season long. We started in testing, and we had to have the setup to go out here and run with the big teams when the conditions were good,” said Tasca, who cut Hight’s lead to 22 points with the three qualifying bonus points he received. “We definitely had flashes of that early in the season. We worked on it when we could, when the conditions were good, and you have just seen this car run really hard.
“(Crew chiefs) Aaron Brooks, Todd Okuhara have a lot of confidence in the setup, and they were trying to run 85, and the car ran 85. I mean, this wasn’t a fluke. They told me, ‘Keep it on the inside until about half-track and then pull it back slowly.’ Normally, you muscle a Funny Car, in this example, you’re really just finessing it. I kept it on the inside.”
If Tasca III stays No. 1, it would be his sixth of the season and 15th of his career.
“It’s amazing; it actually put a hole out at half-track. So that was a seven-cylinder race car,” Tasca said. “That’s why the speed was down as much as it was. It probably would’ve run a little quicker than 85, and there was probably more out there if we had another shot at it. I don’t normally like to make predictions, but I feel pretty good that I’m going to see you guys here (Saturday). Looking at the forecast unless something really spectacular happens. That run and that data, we’re going to put on the back burner, and we’re going to pull out our Topeka (Kan.) and Brainerd (Minn.) runs where we made some great runs. Obviously (we) won Topeka in very hot conditions, and that’s going to be what it’s going to take to win on Sunday. We just hope we can put ourselves in a position to run hard Sunday.”
Tasca III has been in the top five in the final points standings the past three years – and finished a career-best third in 2021. He has won three races this season and has an impressive 26-14 elimination round record. That round record proves his team has been able to adapt in all types of track conditions.
“Well, that’s what it takes to win a championship. You can’t be a one-trick pony, right? You’ve got to be able to throw down when it’s hot and be able to pull it back and still throw down when it’s cool,” Tasca said. “So, we’ll go back to some of those runs that were pretty impressive and you see that left lane, man, that’s tricky. Not many cars have gone down that left lane.
“But no, I’m excited. What can I say? This is what we worked all season for to put ourselves in the position to win. There’s a lot of racing left, a lot of racing left, but with the way NHRA has reset the points and as much racing that there is in front of us, if you bobble the ball, you are way in the back. So, we’re just happy to be in striking distance of this championship, and it’s going to go down to Pomona (Calif.) no matter what you do in the next couple of races. We just want to be in the conversation.”
Following St. Louis, the Countdown to the Championship will conclude with races in Dallas (Oct. 12-15), Las Vegas (Oct. 26-29) and Pomona (Nov. 9-12).
Although Tasca III has been strong in the Countdown, he acknowledged there was nothing certain about his Friday run.
“I have a great chemistry with Todd and Aaron, and Aaron says, ‘Listen...’, he said, ‘It’s not easy, it’s tricky. We’re going to put you way on the inside.’ I like to kind of know what they’re thinking. So, the tree looks very different depending on where you are on the lane. And he said, ‘Do the best you can to hug the center line until about half-track.’ Not often do you get in the car and try to hug the center line. I just did the best I could to keep it on the inside. I felt like it was really hooked up. Then, once I went past half-track, I kind of let it just drift back to the center of the racetrack, and it did exactly what they wanted it to do.
“As a driver, I’ve always said, ‘The only thing I can do is make the car go slower.’ So, you just want to do the best you can to typically keep it in the center of the track. But in this example, you want to be on the inside line, and I think the cars that take that inside line have a better chance of going down that left lane.”