TASCA CONTINUES CAREER YEAR WITH THRILLING WIN OVER HIGHT AT CAROLINA NATS
Minutes before pulling into the water box to face No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the finals of the betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, Bob Tasca didn’t have an engine in his 11,000-horsepower nitro-burning machine.
Discovering a problem as the team was assembling the motor, the pit area of the Ford Motorcraft team became a hotbed of activity as the entire team pitched in to swap engines and prep the car for a gargantuan duel of championship contenders in the second of six races in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship.
Moments later, Tasca powered to his third win of the season and, most importantly, moved up to second in the championship standings just 25 points behind Hight.
“I wish the fans could have had a live feed to my pit,” Tasca said moments after climbing from his race-winning car. “The motor was half together and a head stud came loose, and we had to swap the motor. Going into the final round you figure you are on your last motor and you don’t need another one, but the guys got us another motor ready. Every person on our team, crew chiefs included, thrashed to swap the engines. For me, it was the most gut wrenching part of racing because there is nothing I can do. This win is dedicated to the team.”
Tasca defeated Hight in a final round for the first time in his career via a holeshot Sunday as he left first and just staved off his hard-charging opponent. Tasca recorded a 3.933-second pass at 329.26 mph in his Ford Motorcraft Mustang to collect his 15th career win, while Hight came up just short in his Cromwell Tools/AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car despite a 3.932, 326.95.
Despite being in the championship mix of the Funny Car class for the past few seasons, Tasca said that he has been racing with a chip on his shoulder this season. He sees wins like the one over Hight as validation of the hard work that he and this team have put in on and off the race track.
“I think we are somewhat racing with a chip on our shoulder this year,” Tasca said. “How many people would have bet that Bob Tasca would be half a round out of first place leaving Charlotte? Most of the guys on my team were let go [last year] because they weren’t good enough and, bottom line, we have really come together as a team.
“Probably more so than at any point in my career, we are coming together and the race car sees it. I am just so impressed with the car they have given me. Career best speed and the fastest run a Mustang has ever made on the planet here this weekend. That is pretty cool when you make some history like that.”
With Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks calling the shots on the Ford Motorcraft machine, Tasca feels this team has moved into another category as he begins to trade blows with the best drivers in the sport, knocking off two of the championship favorites Sunday to remain in the thick of the title chase.
Tasca notched a semifinal win over Matt Hagan at zMAX Dragway, chasing down and passing the four-time 2023 race winner with a 3.935, 327.35 to Hagan’s 3.953, 321.04.
“I have been a team owner for a while now and I’ve had a lot of good cars, but I’ve never had a car that could run when the conditions were throw down,” Tasca said. “The harsh reality in this sport is, if you can’t run with the best when the conditions are the best, particularly with how they reset the points, you are just playing for second place.
“We have a moonshot to win the championship from where we are, but I can assure you there is nobody that pulls up alongside that Motorcraft car now when the conditions are good and says we can pull it back. Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks, I thought that the chemistry between those two would be good, and it has been better than I thought and our performance has indicated that.
“Hight and Hagan and [Ron] Capps are the guys you really have to bring your A game to beat. Today we were fortunate to beat two of the three.”
Tasca added round wins over a tire-smoking Alexis DeJoria and Terry Haddock to reach his third final round of the season with runs of 3.871 and 3.894, respectively.
Hight reached his fifth final round of the year by knocking out Paul Lee and Alex Laughlin.
Tasca said Sunday was another example of the strides this team has made as they work on moving beyond hero laps under the lights to consistent passes throughout the weekend.
“The level of competition only does one of two things: It makes you or breaks you,” Tasca said. “I think this team all year long has performed flawlessly, but our consistency is what is making us a championship contending team. That is something we have been working hard on. We know we can run low ET whether it is hot or cool and now you are seeing us stringing together three, four, five runs in a row like that. We don’t care who we run, whether it is Haddock or Robert Hight or Hagan, we are going to go up there and try to press because that is what it is going to take to win the championship.”
Sitting ahead of Hagan and reigning series champ Ron Capps and just 25 points behind Hight, Tasca is excited to continue that momentum when the NHRA tour heads to World Wide Technology Raceway outside of St. Louis for the third of six races in the Countdown to the Championship.
“I can’t wait to get to St. Louis,” Tasca said. “This is a grueling stretch for the teams and for the drivers. If you slip up you are looking through binoculars to try and get to first place. You have to come out of St. Louis within striking distance and stay close to that Robert Hight car.”