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NHRA Funny Car - Tasca Returns To Pomona

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POMONA, Nov. 10, 2011: One year ago, Bob Tasca III stepped up with what will always be remembered as one of the greatest passes of his career.

Around him, a battle was raging for the 2010 NHRA Full Throttle Championship title and another Ford Mustang driver, none other than 14-time champion John Force, was in trouble. Like so many times in his life, Force was the underdog, looking for a way to put a lot of bad luck behind him. He needed a point man – a blocker who could clear the path to his unbelievable 15th-career championship.

In the way was Don Schumacher Racing pilot Matt Hagan, a fresh-faced farmer from Virginia who seemed to have luck and a healthy dose of momentum on his side. Hagan, seeking his first world championship title, had certainly done the work to get himself there. But there was one driver who could swing the door for Force wide open.

That was none other than Bob Tasca III, in the driver’s seat of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane and Ford Mustang.

To understand the remarkable coincidence this was, one must first know the story behind it.

Tasca’s grandfather Bob Tasca Sr. was the one who first advised Ford Motor Company to take Force into the fold – a decision that seems easy now, many years and championships after the fact.

It was Bob Sr. who early in the sport’s history engineered a fan letter campaign that persuaded Ford to get involved with the burgeoning quartermile races born in Southern California. Through the years and at racetracks across the country, later with grandson Bob Tasca III in tow, Bob Sr. remained active in the sport that demonstrated his “Win on Sunday, Sell on Monday” philosophy and scored plenty of wins of his own with his “Mystery” cars and driver Bill Lawton.

Fast forward a few decades, to the Auto Club Finals at Auto Club Raceway in Pomona, 2010.

Bob Tasca III, a self-described “Ford kid” who literally grew up with the Ford brands Motorcraft and Quick Lane that were now on his car, had Force’s destiny in his hands - and he played his part flawlessly.

Force went rounds that day, winning the race and the championship. It was much more than a race – it was a statement clearly made, that even through losing a teammate and surviving an incredible accident of his own, Force was back.

Tasca, a self-motivator that is every bit the hard worker Force is, clearly remembers what it was like to pull up to the starting line, knowing that pass would be one of the most memorable of his career, even if it wouldn’t bring him his own championship title.

“It was one of those weekends that you could live to be 1,000 and never experience something like that,” Tasca said. “A lot of things had to happen for that drama to play out. We had to qualify poorly. Matt qualified great. Clearly, we had to step up in that first round and then John had to go on to get to the finals. It was an amazing thing to be part of. You could drive a lot of years and not be part of anything like that.”

Now, one year later, John Force Racing’s Mike Neff, the formidable driver/crew chief combo, is in much the same position his boss was in last year, after a string of first- and second-round losses erased the lead he’d built after earning a runner-up finish at the first race of the Countdown to the Championship, in Charlotte.

“I think it (2010) was maybe one of the most drama-filled championships we’ve ever seen, and now we’re right back here again,” said Tasca, who with Ford driver Tim Wilkerson is ready to bring his best as blocker. “You’ve got teammate Mike Neff in position to win the championship and clearly, he’s behind the eight ball. A lot of things have to happen for him to win, but it happened last year – it can happen again.”

The best stories are always about the underdog, after all.