You can’t measure competitive drive. It also isn’t very much fun to try. So, I’ll share three of my favorite Bob Tasca III stories to try to paint a picture of how much the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals Wally means to him.
The first time I became aware of Tasca, he beat John Force on a holeshot at the NHRA New England Nationals in 2017. That was my first season covering the sport. Tasca hopped out of his car with his hair on fire, bore a hole into the NHRA on FOX tv camera and said, “Force taught me everything I know – maybe he taught me too good.”
Later that year, in his trailer in Dallas, Tasca said he wanted to come back and run full-time with backing from Ford. He made it clear, in colorful language, that he was going to be running for a championship. “And you can put that in ink.”
Then there’s Sunday morning. I asked if there was any extra pressure coming from Ford to get the company a win now 34 races (back) into his tenure. He seemed legitimately insulted that anyone could put more pressure on him than he could put on himself. That makes a lot of sense; Tasca is doing this because he wants to. Hell, that’s why Ford is doing this. Tasca’s singular will is the linchpin for everything that makes this work.
His win in Bristol backs up the aggressive moves that put him there. First, hiring Eric Lane. Then, pulling the trigger on bringing aboard Mike Green – and subsequently moving on to Jon Schaffer when he realized the former move wasn’t working out. Tasca doesn’t have patience for failure in himself or anyone else; but he also took time to celebrate the resiliency of his team, particularly Lane and the crew members who bore the brunt of all those changes.
The numbers back up his moves. He’s picked up 4.8 points in NHRA Power Rankings since bringing Schaffer on board, no small feat in such a short period, and his Funny Car is getting down the track 90 percent of the time on race day. If he can continue to go down the track, he’ll make the NHRA Countdown to the Championship. Tasca wants more than that, but this is a good start.
His partner in the winner’s circle, Salinas, made a similarly aggressive move during the offseason. Yes, Salinas already employed Alan Johnson to a degree in 2018, but bringing aboard the entire crew and choosing to be hands off in 2019 was a big step for the business owner. It’s paid off in a big way to the tune of two wins and a team that is a legitimate contender for a championship.
Salinas is second in NHRA Power Rankings after moving up 23 points over the course of the season. He’s allowed Johnson to come in and do his thing, which in turn allowed Salinas to focus on becoming a better driver. The proof is in the results as well as in just about every stat you care to look at.
There are times when picking away is the right approach – but there also comes a time when big swings are necessary. For the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals winners, well, aggression is the better part of valor.