After the Ford Motor Company pulled out of NHRA pro drag racing in late 2013, Cranston, RI’s Bob Tasca III warned it had made a mistake: “I truly believe they have underestimated the passion and loyalty of the NHRA fans” – and lobbied hard for a decision reversal.
Ford agreed to continue supporting his Funny Car program, but Tasca made a promise on his end, too.
“I told them I would win. I said, ‘If you come back to racing, please give the opportunity for these Ford fans. I will win. I will compete for a championship,’” Tasca said.
He won twice but had experienced a winless streak since June 2019. Finally, at the Denso Spark Plugs Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, Tasca delivered again.
He defeated Matt Hagan, Tim Wilkerson, and Ron Capps in Sunday’s final round. Besides giving Tasca the points lead for the first time in his career, the Motorcraft /Quick Lane Ford racer, the victory came on the 57th birthday weekend for the Mustang. The model debuted April 17, 1964.
More significantly, Tasca’s triumph signaled that the Funny Car class appears to be wide open this year.
In the season-opener at Gainesville, Fla., in March, Kalitta Motorsports driver JR Todd halted Don Schumacher Racing’s 14-victory streak that had started in October 2019 and swept through the entire 2020 season.
Robert Hight, from John Force Racing, pushed the class further toward parity this past weekend by qualifying No. 1. But Tasca knocked off both Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) rivals Hagan and Capps to keep the NHRA’s most successful team out of the winners circle this season.
Hight, Force, and privateer Alexis De Joria were 1-2-3 in the starting lineup at Las Vegas.
Hagan, the three-time and reigning Funny Car champion, said, “Well, the only guy we’ve lost to this year is the guy we sold our chassis to [Tasca], and we might have two Wallys already, but we don’t. That’s drag racing.”
Tasca, like Todd last season, had strong outings but couldn’t stop the DSR steamroller, which boasted four cars. Jack Beckman and Tommy Johnson Jr. are sidelined because of a lack of sponsorship, so the DSR strength has been sliced in half.
But Tasca isn’t intimidated by four DSR Dodges or two, nor is he worried about racing in four lanes or two. His mission is to win, and he has a lot riding on it.
“They don’t sponsor me because they like me,” he said back when he won his first race in the post-Promise Era. “They sponsor me because the Ford brand likes to win. That’s why Ford races. There’s no other reason why they’re here. They’ve put an unbelievable amount of resources into engineering, aerodynamics. And they want to put me in a position to win.”
They have done that, and Tascas expressed his appreciation Sunday.
“I cant thank Ford enough,” he said, holding his seventh Wally statue. “When a lot of these sponsors cut back and people had to lay people off, Ford gave me the funding to keep my whole team together. And it shows with how the car’s running.”
He said he could sense the victory – “I felt it building and building” throughout the day.
“Last year, we went to a bunch of semifinals. We had a car every race that could win it. These things aren’t easy to win. The four-wides are even harder. You’ve got to beat three of them in the finals.”
Also winning Sunday were Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Ryan Oehler (Pro Stock Motorcycle).
BY SUSAN WADE / Source: Auto Week / Photo: RON LEWIS