After earning his Nitro Funny Car license during testing at Firebird International Raceway last week, Bob Tasca III and the entire Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Shelby Mustang team look forward to their first event of the season this weekend during the 48th Annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals in Pomona, Calif.
The season-opening event will mark the first Nitro Funny Car event for the 32-year-old rookie who has competed in select Top Alcohol races the past three seasons.
Bob Tasca III – Driver, Motorcraft/Quick Lane Tire & Auto Center Shelby Mustang Nitro Funny Car:
YOU EARNED YOUR NITRO FUNNY CAR LICENSE LAST WEEK TESTING AT PHOENIX. “I can tell you that it was a pressure-packed week of testing. We lost the Las Vegas test session because the car or the race-car chassis just didn’t get done in time. So that kind of put us a little behind the eight ball. The track conditions were extremely difficult. We were dealing with 40-degree weather when we got to the race track and 68-degree weather come race time and then went back to 50-degree weather by the time the night session came, so when you add it all together, we were really under the gun. The track conditions were tough, we had a new team, a brand-new race car that truthfully, there’s only one other car like ours out on the race track, we have the updated chassis with the new framing system which no one has any experience with tuning as far as what the car likes. When you add all that up, it really put us under an awful lot of pressure come Thursday morning.
“We went into Thursday and we had not had a full run under our belt and I needed two runs [to get his license]. We get to the track Thursday morning and the car went out there and shook and as a new driver in a fuel car, it was really, in hindsight, beneficial for me to feel the car when it’s unhappy, and I pedaled it on that first run. We did that on the first run and went 310 mph at 5.1 seconds, so that was one of the two runs that I needed. We came back out for the afternoon run and it shook and I pedaled it twice and we lost the engine. The car went 301 and 5.6, but I needed it to go 5.5 or quicker, so we were .1 away. It was really projecting for all of the time and effort that we put in. We knew the night run, the late afternoon run was going to be a difficult one because the weather was getting colder and the track was getting colder. We pulled up and were literally the last car or one of the last cars down the track. It went out and rattled a very slight rattle and I pedaled it as quick as I ever pedaled a car in my life and it hooked up and went 4.9, 317 mph and I can tell you that I almost didn’t want to pull the parachute. I said, ‘Let’s just keep on going to Pomona,” because we were absolutely all kind of burned out and way on overload to get this thing done and out of the way.
“At the end of the day, we made great progress. The team did an excellent job of working together for really the first time to service the car. From a driver’s standpoint, it was really invaluable to me to feel the car when it’s not happy and what needs to be done as a driver to correct the situation and to get the car to go down the race track. We made some night runs, which was pretty neat. The first time I stepped on the throttle at night I thought I was on fire. I never realized how much of the flame the driver actually can see in the car. But that was a pretty neat experience. I really give a lot of credit to how much time I spent in that alcohol car because the characteristics of the car were very similar – how it steered, how it stopped. It just pulled a lot harder than I ever felt in the alcohol car. We ran 263 mph to the eighth [mile] and that’s typically what we make on a full run in the alcohol car. The acceleration was just incredible, how hard the car accelerates.”
ARE YOU FEELING MORE COMFORTABLE IN THE NITRO CAR? “Yes. There is no question that the car is violent. It’s much more violent than the alcohol car. It’s literally an explosion when you hit that throttle and it shakes harder and it shakes quicker – when it moves, it moves quicker. It’s just more. Again the time I spent in the alcohol car was invaluable to give me a baseline of how to steer it. Some of the things to correct tire shake in an alcohol car are shifting and pedaling it, where in a nitro car, the only option is to pedal it because you can’t shift it. So I really started to hone in and by the end of the test session, I was catching the tire shake quicker, I was pedaling it quicker. John Force and Robert Hight signed my license and John has really been a mentor for me. He came up to me and said, ‘Kid, if this thing went down the race track perfect, you’d kind of have a false expectation. This is what these cars do. They smoke and they shake, they’re a violent ride and as a driver, you need to be able to feel that, you need to be able to react to that as quick as you can to try and save the run.’ I think at the end of the day we were all happy with the progress we made with the fuel curve and the ignition curve and the clutch setup and we feel quite comfortable.”
THIS WEEKEND IS A BIG ONE FOR A TEAM THAT DIDN’T HAVE CARS OR EQUIPMENT JUST FOUR MONTHS AGO. “Exactly. When you look at where we’ve come since Thanksgiving. Literally, the first day of work was the Monday after Thanksgiving. So, to go from the end of November to December and January, basically two full months of actual work. We had some stuff on order prior to that, but two months of actual work is just a real tribute to my team and I just can’t acknowledge their efforts and how hard they work. This test session was seven days. It was three to four runs per day and when you do the math, that’s like running three races back-to-back-to-back. It was just an immense amount of work. We were obviously all under the gun to get the license. That would have been a horrible way to start the year off to not be licensed for Pomona. But we’re excited about it. We all feel pretty confident and heck, if the New York Giants can beat the New England Patriots, then don’t count us out at Pomona.”
WHAT IS THE THING THAT YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO MOST THIS WEEKEND? “The biggest thing I think for us is the satisfaction to know that we made it and now it’s time to race. A lot of people congratulated me and now my email back is that now we race. And that’s what we’re focused on. We’re focused on qualifying; we’re focused at one run at a time. People say, ‘Gee, what do you expect for Pomona?’ I expect that we perform and gauge ourselves on each run. Not to get ahead of ourselves to predict the qualifying position or the win, we want to be focused on racing each round, each day, each event. The rest will take care of itself because if you can qualify, if you can win rounds, if you can win races, you can win championships, but it starts with the first time the car goes down the race track. Now we’re ready to race and that’s what I’m looking forward to in Pomona, just to get the race going.”
WHAT ARE YOU AND YOUR TEAM HOPING TO LEARN THIS WEEKEND? “I think in our first race we’re going to learn a little bit more about the car. We’re going to learn on how close we think our tune-up is and I really think the first five races for us is what we really need to get a foundation for us. We have a very, very thin foundation at this point obviously with just one test session on a difficult track. But the first five races are critical for us to establish a solid baseline that we can build off of. Obviously we have high expectations for this program and for our team, but we’re not naïve. It’s a learning curve that we have to stay focused on and work very hard at and I feel very confident in how we can end the season.”