The opening stretch of the NHRA Countdown to the Championship features three straight weeks of racing, capped off by this weekend’s 12th annual NHRA Midwest Nationals at World Wide Technology Raceway.
It’s an intense span of races and can go a long way in shaping championship journeys across all four classes in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series. Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III has made a strong impression over the first two races and looks to close out the first half of the Countdown to the Championship in style this weekend in St. Louis.
He won on Sunday in Charlotte, getting past points leader Robert Hight in a thrilling final round to move to second in points. He trails Hight – the defending Funny Car winner in St. Louis – by just 25 points, firmly putting his name in the championship mix. But Tasca, who qualified No. 1 at the first race of the playoffs, is eager to keep rolling in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang this weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway.
“I can’t wait to get to St. Louis,” Tasca said. “This is a grueling stretch for the teams and the drivers, the points, and your psyche. If you slip up during this three-in-a-row, you’re looking through binoculars to try to get to first place. You’ve got to come out of St. Louis within striking distance of the points lead. You’ve got to stay close to Robert, and you throw in Matt Hagan and Ron Capps, you have to be on your A game to beat them. We’re going to have to win another one to [keep] our hat in the game, and we know that, and that’s what we’re focused on doing [in St. Louis].”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock), and Matt Smith (Pro Stock Motorcycle) won last year in St. Louis, and this year’s playoff event will again be broadcast on FOX Sports 1 (FS1), with action from eliminations set to air at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 1. It is the 18th of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA season and the third of six playoff events, and Tasca and his team, led by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks, have shown steady and impressive improvement all year.
They’ve had one of the quickest cars from the outset of the year, qualifying No. 1 five times and running well in all conditions. Going against a loaded Funny Car field that also includes back-to-back world champion Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, John Force, Tim Wilkerson, Chad Green, Alexis DeJoria, and J.R. Todd, Tasca and his team have also become more consistent, which is pivotal this time of year.
He’s already posted six round-wins during the Countdown to the Championship but knows he will need plenty more to try and track down Hight, as well as hold off Capps and Hagan, who are both 69 points behind Hight. Tasca, though, is ready for the challenge.
“The pressure, the level of competition, it only does one of two things – it makes or breaks you,” Tasca said. “This team all year long has performed flawlessly, but our consistency is what is making us a championship contender. That’s something we’ve been working hard on. We know we can run low e.t. whether it’s hot or cool, and now you’re seeing us string together three, four, five runs in a row when it’s like that. It just shows their mindset is we’re not going to get picked off if there’s anything we can do about it. We’re going to go up there and try to press because that’s what it’s going to take a win a championship.”
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature one round at 6 p.m. CT on Friday, Sept. 29, and the final two rounds on Saturday, Sept. 30 at 1:30 and 4:30 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 11 a.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 1. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 7 p.m. ET on Friday, Sept. 29 and 2 p.m. ET on Sunday Oct. 1, with eliminations starting at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 on Sunday.
Tickets may be purchased at the WWTR ticket office, by phone at (618) 215-8888, or online at www.wwtraceway.com. All children 12 and under will be admitted free in the general-admission area with a paid adult.