In this edition of “First Seasons” Speedway Media caught up with NHRA Top Fuel driver Bob Tasca III.
Tasca joined the professional ranks of the National Hot Rod Association in 2008 where he first competed full-time in the Funny Car division. Since then, the Motorcraft Quick Lane driver has notched six wins and has enjoyed success.
During the interview, Tasca spoke about what it was like making his debut during that time period of NHRA as compared to now, his thoughts on the very first NHRA race in which he competed, his first win and if he would do anything differently if time travel was possible.
SM: You began racing Funny Car in 2008, not that long ago, at the age of 33-years-old. Can you talk about what it was like making your debut in NHRA during that time period? It only may be 12 years ago but seemingly a lot has changed since then. What differences are there in today’s sport compared to when you started racing?
BT: “It doesn’t seem like that long ago,” Tasca said. The time has gone pretty fast. By 2008, I’d already raced for years in the sportsman classes. It felt like my work had finally paid off because during those years, I was always working toward making it to Funny Car (highest class division in NHRA) and once I did, it felt like ‘Okay, I made the first goal. Now let’s go after the next one.’ And the next one was a Funny Car win.”
SM: It seems as though 33-years-old is kind of a late start for someone wanting to make it in NHRA as a full-time driver. Did you feel as though it was the right time to break into the sport? Kind of explain what you were doing prior to making your NHRA debut.
BT: “NHRA is a little different than other sports and that you can race for years as a sportsman to get plenty of time under your belt and then enter the pro ranks when the budget looks good or a ride opens up, whatever the scenario is,” Tasca said. “And when you do, as long as you have the right people behind you, and you’ve done the work preparing as a driver, you’re on the same playing field as the rest of the pros. It’s not like IndyCar or NASCAR racing, where if you don’t start as a young kid, you can’t get there. So in that way, I felt completely at home when I made my pro debut.”
SM: When entering the 2008 season, do you remember having any high expectations for that year? Was a win on the radar despite being a rookie? What were your expectations as the season began and did they ever change as the season went along?
BT: “I’m realistic, but of course, I always wanted to win,” he said. “I think you have to go in expecting you have what it takes to do it with as much time away from your family and effort it takes to do this full-time. So, I knew I had what it took, it was just a a matter of time.”
SM: Your first Top Fuel start came at the famous Pomona nationals. What was it like in the weeks leading up to that event? Were you starting to feel anxious or nervous about getting to the track? Kind of talk about what you were doing to help prepare for your debut?
BT: “My everyday job in the family (car) dealership comes with a lot of pressure, so I was pretty used to operating under that anyway (laughs),” Tasca said. “Of course, it’s a bigger show when you show up in Pomona, but I wouldn’t say I was really nervous. Maybe excited.”
SM: Your first win wouldn’t be until 2009 at the Gainesville Nationals, where you scored your first Wally. What does that victory still mean to you to this day and have you ever had a chance to go watch that race back? Did that victory sort of help you break through and put you on the map?
BT: “I can remember every moment of that day,” Tasca said about his first victory in NHRA, Every moment. You never forget a big win like that and the feeling always comes back when I get back there. The NHRA world is pretty small so people are always aware of each other, but I’m sure the win helped me on the fan side.
SM: Before that 2009 win, were there any turning points when you and the team started to click with each other where you felt like you were capable of winning races? Was not winning starting to get frustrating?
BT: “While you go into a career like this expecting you have what it takes to win, you know there are 15 other very talented drivers starting every Sunday, so you never know when it (winning) will happen,” he said. “Every driver I know wants to win every race, but like I said, with a talent field this deep, you just never know when it’ll be your turn (to win). I had faith that with my team behind me, we’d get there.”
SM: Looking back on your rookie years, what races in your mind do you wish you had another chance at?
BT: “I guess if I had to answer this question, I’d say all of them (laughter),” Tasca said. “As a driver, I’d love to get another shot and put our team in a position to win, but not one (race) in particular.”
SM: I’m sure a lot of seasons are a blur to you but are there any fond memories that you still remember to this day or always will remember about your rookie year in Top Fuel? If so, what memory sticks out the most?
BT: “There’s so many memories about my rookie season,” he said. “It’s always a dream of mine to compete in the Nitro Funny Car ranks and to actually have been able to do it (race in Funny Car), and go out there and compete with the icons in the sport, it’ll be a year I’ll never forget.”
SM: Some racers have a memorabilia collection and some don’t. Are you a driver that collects your own merchandise? If so, what do you have in your collection that reminds you of your rookie season?
BT: “I don’t collect much (merchandise), however, I have every helmet (other than the one I gave to Jay Leno) and every fire suit that I ever wore in my collection.”
SM: It’s been 12 years since your rookie season in NHRA. What would a 45-year-old Bob Tasca tell a 33-year-old Bob Tasca? Is there anything you would do differently?
BT: “Yeah, there would be a whole bunch of things I would tell a 33-year-old Bob Tasca, however, a 45-year-old Bob Tasca wouldn’t have gotten to where I’ve gotten today without all the lessons learned along the way,” Tasca said. “I would have told him to keep going and don’t look back.”
Tasca has raced professionally in the NHRA Funny Car division for 12 years now, ever since making his first start in 2008. His highest championship points standing finish was fifth, which occurred twice in 2010 and most recently in 2019. In addition, the Rhode Island native has a total of 27 semi-final round appearances, 10 runner-ups, 67 quarter rounds, and four playoff appearances.