Tasca III - Ford interview 2009-01-20

This Week in Ford Racing Bob Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang Funny Car, reflects on his rookie year as he prepares for the 2009 Full Throttle NHRA season. Tasca talks about his goals for 2009, the alliance with ...

This Week in Ford Racing

Bob Tasca III, driver of the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang Funny Car, reflects on his rookie year as he prepares for the 2009 Full Throttle NHRA season. Tasca talks about his goals for 2009, the alliance with '08 Funny Car championship contender Tim Wilkerson and other changes at Tasca Racing.

YOU SPENT SOME OF THE OFF SEASON TESTING; CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE TESTING? "For us, our 2009 season started right after Pomona. We went to Las Vegas with Tim Wilkerson's setup, because at the end of the day for us, a second car is critical, getting the two cars to run common parts with similar tune-ups is really the next step in the relationship. We wanted to get into the offseason at least with a couple of runs under our belt at Las Vegas. We made nine runs. Five of the nine runs were the quickest runs we've ever made, ever, to half-track. We weren't making full runs by plan purpose, but it was just incredible. A lot of what Tim has worked on and developed and some of the things that (crew chief) Chris Cunningham wanted to try really came together well for us at Las Vegas. Certainly, it was a great way to go into the off season with that enthusiasm knowing that we've got a hot rod. We struggled in 2008 in certain areas of the race track, not getting the car to accelerate as hard as we wanted it to without smoking the tires. Getting that kind of information going into the off-season is a real morale boost. It had the guys pumped up."

HOW DOES THE 2007 OFFSEASON COMPARE TO THIS OFF SEASON? "This time last year - you talk about pressure - I didn't get a race car until January 15th. I had a multi-year contract with Ford and didn't even have a license. I knew I could drive, but didn't have a license to get to Pomona. Then you get to Phoenix and we make 25 runs and two of the 25 are full runs and we go into the last day, of the last run of the last test session, and I need to make a run to get a license. The pressure, heck, if my team or I didn't fold then, we'll never fold because that's pressure. If you look at this offseason and I think the whole attitude of the team, last year it was about let's get qualified, let's put ourselves in a position to win, let's see how the chips fall. This year it's: 'Let's qualify number one' and 'Let's put ourselves in a position to win the championship.' That is the attitude and I think at the end of the day, if you look at the steps we've made in '08, we couldn't have gotten to '09 without going through '08. You've got to lay a foundation. If we've come out of '08 with anything, it's a team that almost everyone is coming back to. It's an assistant crew chief that's worked many, many years with Chris Mockdenner, that's joined our team. It's an alliance with Tim Wilkerson, who both as a person, as a racer, a competitor is about as triple-A as you can find. The guy, the more I got to know him, the more excited I am about standing shoulder-to- shoulder with him and his team and to attack this 2009 season because you really, really need the data. Two cars is 400 percent better than one, three cars isn't much better than two and four cars can just be a confusion sometime. The two-car team is the right formula. Cruz and Tony [Pedergon] have won back-to-back championships with a two-car team. As I talk to you, I'm about three inches off the chair because I just can't wait to get out there and hit the ground running with Tim and our team. I just think we're going to be a tough team to beat in 2009."

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR 2009? WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH? "I have two goals. We've got to win two championships in 2009. We've got to win one on the race track and we've got to win one off the race track. I think that's what I'm most proud of this program, we've built this platform. It's not a race team, it's a platform. At the end of the day, sponsor dollars are tight, budgets are crunched, but even more so than that, when you spend X number of dollars, the return on investment needs to be more. It needs to be more than it was last year and the year before. That you can achieve by winning on the race track and off the race track. When you look at the platform we've built, me as a driver growing up around Quick Lane and Motorcraft brands, the creditability factor is through the roof. When I talk about Ford, when I talk about Quick Lane and Motorcraft to the fans, to the distributors, to the vendors, it's from my heart. When we have track activation, 19 of the 24 events, it's about building the relationships. It's about strengthening relationships; it's about starting new relationships to help Motorcraft and Quick Lane. When we're in the midway and we're interacting with the fans, it's about selling parts, selling service, selling accessories, selling Fords. That's why we race. A lot people forget that if we don't sell parts, if we don't sell cars, we don't race. We need to sell the brand that we represent, and that's winning a championship off the race track. I don't think there's another team out there that represents the off-the-track performance that we represent. We went to New York to basically represent NHRA on a best-in- class activation program. That's very important to me. In the same breath, a championship. That's what our goal is for 2009. Nobody can guarantee a championship, not in today's day and age. John Force was able to do it for 14 years. The competition is too tight, the margins of victory are too small and unfortunately, as many people won't admit, luck plays a bigger role in the outcome of some races than anything else. You lose by one-thousandths at 310 miles an hour. Is the driver a bum? Is the crew chief a bum? You shake your head. Those are the crushing losses, but unfortunately to win a championship, you need a few of those to go your way. And that's just the bottom line. I think we've positioned ourselves with Wilkerson and the team around us and the resources to give ourselves as good a chance to win a championship as anybody that's going to enter the 2009 season. I'm confident about that, but in the same breath, we have to guarantee a championship off the track, and I feel very confidently that we'll do that as well."

CAN YOU TALK MORE ABOUT THE ALLIANCE WITH TIM WILKERSON? "That was the biggest announcement we made in 2008, second to announcing that we were going racing. It's so important from a couple of perspectives. Number one, chemistry, and I say that as number one because at the end of the day, you can take the best people and put them together and they won't win. When I looked at forming an alliance, it was obviously associating myself with a team that is championship caliber and a person that had the chemistry that not only I share, but also Chris Cunningham and my team shares. The more I got to talk to Tim, the more I just fell in love with the guy. He's a first-class family man, which is obviously a big part of what I'm all about. He's a meat-and-potato racer. He's not a complicated guy. He races is car in a very simple but effective manner, which is very similar to how Chris thinks, and he's a competitor. He's just a phenomenal competitor. We are going to help one another through different initiatives. We've got a blower initiative going on, we've got a clutch initiative. We'll be doing a lot of testing in 2009 that he'll be able to gather a lot of information from. I think he'll be a mentor for me. That will be a great asset. I'm just thrilled to start this season off with Tim alongside me. I knew going in, about halfway through 2008, the owner side of me says, 'Nope, we ain't gonna do this next year. Not going into 2009 alone. That's not going to happen.' We were very fortunate to be able to put something together with Tim and I know Tim echoes the feelings. I talk to Tim a couple of times a week and he's about excited as I am of starting this season off."

CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOU AND WILKERSON RACE IN A 'SIMPLE AND EFFECTIVE MANNER'? "You know how when you ask some people for the time, they tell you how the watch is built? I just want to know what time it is. And the end of the day, that's Tim's philosophy. He doesn't try and reinvent the wheel. He doesn't try to make the race car do something it can't do. He really has a fabulous handle on his tune-up. He might not be the quickest car out there but he's by far the most consistent. The most consistent car will win a championship, period. He had the most consistent car from the beginning to the end of the season. The problem is he didn't have the most consistent car the last three races of the season. Unfortunately when NHRA resets the points, that's the way, and we play by their rules. He lost the championship because of the last three races of the season. He won the championship if you took all 24 races. I think there are things that we are going to work on to make the tune-up better because at the end of the day, like Tim said, 'We can't rest on our laurels.' We have a testing budget that we allocate to test and Tim doesn't test as much as we do, so that will be a big help for him. While we're testing, he's privy to our information as we're privy to his information."

WHAT IS THE STATUS ON YOUR CONCORD SHOP? "We have a roof and we have siding. Those are all big steps in building a building. We've got the foundation in and the project is on time. We've got some great builders out there that have done an exceptional job keeping this thing on track. We hope to move in just after the Gainesville race. Then that's where the work really begins. We have to build our blower dyno to get our blower program off the ground and our clutch program off the ground. There's just a lot of things that have to happen once they hand us the keys to the building. That goes back to the '08 season and another fantastic job for the guys to work out of the trailers the whole year versus all of the other teams having shops to go home to, it's just another piece that is going to make our team stronger for years to come."

HOW DO YOU JUGGLE BEING A BUSINESS OWNER, TEAM OWNER, DRIVER, AND FAMILY MAN? "On the business side, I'm just blessed to have just incredibly talented people around me, both at my family level, my brother, my cousins, my sister, my uncles and a management team that's just second to none. My brother and uncles focus on the front end, the sales side of it, because that really is a day-to-day operation. I could never do that and race without their help. I'm still very involved from the road; you can manage for the short time that I'm in the office with forecasting and initiatives and holding people accountable for the different projects we've got going on. I can be more effective without a service management team that is really, really strong. Then my wife, I just could never do it if she wasn't the type of person she was. She's very understanding of my time away. Certainly, it wasn't easy for her. There are a lot of sacrifices that she makes. She didn't marry a race-car driver, and a lot of people can't make that transition. She's made the transition, although tough at times, she's very supportive of me and the three boys I've got at home. For me, it's when I'm home, getting home earlier to be with them. When I'm on the road, it's having them with me as much as I can. In the summer, we have some great times together out on the road with the family. Then there are huge sacrifices when I'm away for a week at a time and they're not with me. It's a balancing act, but at the end of the day, I think you have to live your life the way you want to live it and you have to love what you do. I love what I do and my wife supports me. She supports that because she knows how much I love it. It has its challenges, but you just need to have some great people around you."

SO 'WIN ON SUNDAY, SELL ON MONDAY' HAS A PERSONAL MEANING TO YOU? "There's no question. Winning on Sunday is why we race. Selling on Monday keeps us racing. If you can't sell on Monday, there's no point of racing on Sunday. We have to win on Sunday and win on Monday. For me, that holds true on both sides because on Monday, I'm in the dealership trying to figure out how to win. It's a pretty neat relationship that I think is going to deliver pretty tremendous results here and years to come."

-credit: ford racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Tim Wilkerson , Bob Tasca III