EPPING, N.H. – official release — NHRA photo — If Bob Tasca knows a turnaround is coming, and the Funny Car driver is confident one is, having that turnaround begin to take shape at his home track might be the ideal way to make a resounding resurgence.
That is at least the plan for Tasca, who has been left scratching his head far too often during the recent stretch in the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series. But Tasca is ready to put a few of those rough patches to rest, starting this weekend at the second annual Auto-Plus NHRA New England Nationals at New England Dragway.
The race is the 11th of 24 in the 2014 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season and the Rhode Island native sees it as the perfect opportunity to showcase his 10,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang running at a championship level.
“With the way our season is going we need some home court advantage,” Tasca said. “We need a good weekend and it couldn’t come at a better time than right now. I can tell you no one is working harder than we are to turn our season around. Unfortunately we have nothing to show for it yet. I know we are very close to turning the corner and there is no better time than the New England race.”
Spencer Massey (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Allen Johnson (Pro Stock) and John Hall (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were inaugural winners of last year’s event at New England Dragway.
Despite a first-round loss at the Epping event a year ago, Tasca thoroughly enjoyed NHRA’s debut in the region. The build-up was tremendous and Tasca eagerly did his part to drum up interest for an event that entertained fans at a fervor level all weekend. But if the debut was a massive success, Tasca, who has four career Funny Car victories, thinks the encore will be that much better.
“It was awesome,” Tasca said of the inaugural event. “I know firsthand how hard so many people worked to make it happen. To have that kind of turnout for the first event was awesome. I know this year’s event will be just as big. Fans were talking about it all year long. I can’t tell you how many people from races this year that keep telling me they will see me in New England. It will be another great race.”
The next step is Tasca following suit with a performance that captures the attention of the strong local fan base and the rest of the ultra-competitive Funny Car class.
He had that early in the season, performing at a championship-caliber level in picking up four round wins in the first three races, and held down fifth in points after Gainesville. But since then Tasca has struggled mightily, earning just one round win in the past seven events.
He has been plagued by a litany of difficulties, falling to eventual runner-up Tim Wilkerson in the first round at the most recent event in Bristol. Tasca now sits 12th in points and will face an uphill climb to jump back into the top 10 and earn a spot in the Countdown to the Championship.
Standing in his way is an array of talent, including last year’s Epping winner Courtney Force, who beat her father and 16-time Funny Car world champion John Force in the final in 2013. Everyone is chasing points leader Robert Hight, while other championship-caliber drivers include Alexis DeJoria, Jack Beckman, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, Del Worsham, Bristol winner Tommy Johnson Jr., and Jack Beckman.
“I really felt like we would make a great run against Tim in the opening round,” Tasca said of his first-round loss at Thunder Valley. “The track was really hot, we knew that Tim would make a great run and we pushed a little too hard. We are a determined team and we will have our day of glory. It just might be in New England.”
In Top Fuel, Massey is looking for a repeat victory at New England Dragway and his third victory overall in 2014. Other contenders in the talent-packed class include points leader Doug Kalitta, who advanced to his sixth final of the year in Bristol, 2012 world champion Antron Brown, seven-time world champ Tony Schumacher, Steve Torrence, 2013 Auto Club of Southern California Road the Future Award winner Brittany Force, defending world champion and Bristol winner Shawn Langdon and J.R. Todd.
The 2012 Pro Stock world champion Johnson is currently third in points with a class-best three wins but is chasing teammate and reigning world champion Jeg Coughlin, as well as points leader Erica Enders-Stevens, who has won three times including this past weekend in Bristol. Other factory hot rod class hopefuls seeking a first win at Epping include Vincent Nobile, Greg Anderson, Jason Line, V Gaines, Dave Connolly, Shane Gray and Chris McGaha.
In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Hall claimed his first career win on his Buell last season at the inaugural event and is currently third in the points standings. The Screamin’ Eagle Vance & Hines Harley-Davidson team of Andrew Hines and Eddie Krawiec sit first and second, respectively, in the points standings and will face strong competition from the likes of reigning world champion Matt Smith, John Hall, Hector Arana Jr., Michael Ray and Scott Pollacheck.