Tasca III - Ford interview 2011-02-03

This Week in Ford Racing:
February 3, 2011

John Force calls it the "shot heard around the world." Bob Tasca simply calls it an example of the 'One Ford' concept in action. The fans at Pomona on the final day of the 2010 NHRA Funny Car season would have many adjectives to describe it, but the bottom line is that without Tasca's stunning first round upset of points leader Matt Hagan, John Force wouldn't be holding his 15th NHRA Funny Car championship trophy. Now less than less than three months later Tasca and the Motorcraft / Quick Lane Shelby Mustang are preparing for the 2011 NHRA Full Throttle Funny Car season. It is a season in which Force has consistently declared that one of his chief championship challengers will be the "All Ford kid [Tasca] in his all Ford hot rod." This Week in Ford Racing caught up with Tasca prior to the start of preseason testing to get his outlook on the upcoming campaign.


THE START OF THE SEASON IS LESS THAN A MONTH AWAY. HOW ARE YOU FEELING? "It is time to race and you can see the smile on my face. I can't wait. This is the off season that in all of my years racing that I have been looking the most forward to. This marks the first time that we ended a season (2010) with the combination that we are starting the year with (2011). We have gone through so many evolutions of our program. Literally we started from scratch where we didn't own a race car and didn't have any motors heading into the first year. Then we evolved the tune-up and evolved the tune-up and then last year we spent all off season testing a combination which we were excited about, but then we made the 'One Ford' announcement where we put the BOSS 500 engine in our car, which I couldn't be happier about. So this off season we get to test the motor that we are going to run the whole year. That is very important because I break the season down into three parts, the first three or four races, everything in between in the summer months and then the last three or four races. Those are the conditions that we see the optimal conditions where you need to go out and run the big speed the big ET to qualify number one and win the race. So to have the off season where you get those conditions literally every single day whether we are in Palm Beach or Las Vegas. Then we start the season out going in Pomona and the go to Gainesville and go to Charlotte, some the premier race facilities and some of the premier race conditions. Then you hit the summer months then the championship comes back around and we are back in those optimal conditions. Now is the time to collect that data and to work on our big speed and big ET tune ups and put that in our back pocket for the end of the season when the championship rolls around. That is why I am most excited about this off season because we will have an opportunity with clearly the best parts in the industry with the Ford BOSS 500 engine to accumulate the data we need to be ready for when the championship rolls around at the end of the season."

YOU OPENED THE DOOR FOR JOHN FORCE TO WIN HIS 15TH CHAMPIONSHIP WITH THE UPSET OF MATT HAGAN IN THE OPENING ROUND AT POMONA. THAT SYNERGY IS EXACTLY WHY THE 'ONE FORD' APPROACH WAS FORGED. "There is no question that in the 2010 season the 'One Ford' approach truly paid off. The racing gods had a plan and John is a big believer in destiny. We rolled into that race in Pomona and the Ford teams which had pretty much dominated the entire year, I think we won 15 of the 23 races and were in 18 or 19 of the finals. When you have that kind of dominating season there are going to be pretty high expectations that one of these Ford's is going to win the championship, but we stumbled a little bit when the points reset and we dug ourselves a hole and Force was the only Ford left heading into Pomona that could win the championship. Obviously if you can't win it you certainly want to play a role in helping a teammate win the championship. When we roll into Pomona my Dad says to me "You are going to race Hagan in the first round." I said "I am not going to race Hagan in the first round" and he was "how can you be so sure?" I said "because that means we have qualified pretty lousy because he qualifies well and we usually qualify well so that is not going to happen Dad." Well, we qualified pretty lousy in Pomona, 13th overall, and that put us in the bottom half and sure enough Hagan was paired up with us in Round 1. So hey, it was a Ford car against the points leader with a chance to help our Ford teammate [John] out, that is where we wanted to be. At the end of the day you got to step up and Chris Cunningham, my crew chief, and the guys had to give me a race car that was better than the one I had on Friday and Saturday, and they did. Then it was up to me to do my job. What a feeling. To win that race is one of the greatest moments I have had behind the wheel, even higher than winning races. You knew what was on the line and you knew that there was a championship in play and we fired off as Force calls it the "big shot heard around the world." All the credit has to go to John, because at the end of the day he still had to win two rounds. His team did a tremendous job the whole year and John just defies the test of time as a driver. He has unbelievable experience and he is just tremendous behind the wheel and he won the championship, so hats off to their program. It was a defining moment for the 'One Ford' concept coming together. It was also a defining moment for our team. When our backs were against the wall and the world was watching and we had to step up and deliver that victory to deliver a Ford championship. The 'One Ford' approach paid off in 2010 and if you are a betting man I think it is going to pay off in 2011 too."

YOU HAVE KEPT YOUR CORE GROUP TOGETHER AT TASCA RACING, WHILE YOUR FELLOW FUNNY CAR TEAMS HAVE HAD KEY TEAM MEMBERS COME AND GO. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO BUILD THE CHEMSITRY AND TO MAINTAIN THAT CONTINUITY WITHIN THE TEAM? "Keeping the team together in any sport, and if you look at John's [Force] program over the years he has kept a nucleus of people together, I think it is critical. I don't think you can win championships if you have huge turmoil in your camp. At the end of the day, I may undervalue the driver's position, but the fact is that I give 95-percent of the credit to the team. They have to give me a great race car that can go out and compete and obviously I have to do my job behind the wheel. Keeping the team together is a huge huge advantage. Certainly the core group of Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner and Tom Leskovan, my car leader, and then to have everyone else come along, that is a real bonus. I think it is a tribute to the environment that we create and I think it is a tribute to the environment that Ford creates. My team is proud to race for Ford Motor Company and the support we get, not just financially, but engineering wise and emotionally from the executives at Ford, really really adds to the special part of racing for Ford and Motorcraft and Quick Lane. My guys are excited; they believe we can win a championship. My guys dedicate their lives, as all crew guys do in this sport, and they want to do it because they believe they can win. It is no fun when you roll into a race and you don't think you have a chance. With the program we have built and the resources we have in place, we go to every race expecting to qualify number one and to win the race. That is our expectation rolling in. I think it puts pressure on us, but at the end of the day that is the only reason I race. My grandfather said a long time ago, "Win on Sunday. Sell on Monday." Winning is a very important part of our program."

YOU ARE IN A UNIQUE POSITION BECAUSE YOU REPRESENT FORD MOTOR COMPANY, MOTORCRAFT AND QUICK LANE, NOT ONLY AS A DRIVER IN NHRAL, BUT AS A FORD DEALER, PARTS DEALER AND AS A QUICK LANE OPORATOR. THERE ARE DRIVERS WHO ARE ASSOCIATED WITH BRANDS, BUT I AM NOT SURE THERE ARE MANY OTHERS WHO CAN CLAIM THE TIES TO A SPONSOR THAT YOU CAN. "Hey I am living the dream and some mornings I wake up and I want to pinch myself. At the end of the day I was literally born and raised in a Ford dealership. Our dealership in Providence, Rhode Island has been Ford exclusive for over 65 years. I have said it may times popping out of that race car, "I am an all Ford kid driving an all Ford hot rod," and there are no truer words spoken. I just think that I am able to transcend a credibility level that is unparalleled in the sport. We have joked about it with the executives that put this program together with us, that [relationship] is our unfair competitive advantage. When I get out of the Mustang and talk about Ford it isn't a pitch, it comes from the heart. When I am done racing I am back at a Ford dealership helping sell and service Fords. I feel an ultimate responsibility, not just representing Ford Motor Company, but representing the dealers. At the end of the day a big part of our job is to drive traffic back to the dealers around the country and get people excited about Ford and share that story and to make sure we are giving the dealers a great return on Ford's investment by driving traffic to their dealerships. It is a real real honor for me to do what I do behind the wheel of that race car, but also to spread that message around the country to the fans but also to Motorcraft's customers and their WD's and to Quick Lane and their customers and their dealers and advisors. When I am talking about Quick Lane's and I am talking about Motorcraft parts and the benefits it isn't something I am reading off a piece of paper. I go back to the dealership and I live what I say. I hope it comes across very genuine and it is. This is just fun, I am having a blast."

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR YOU TO GET OFF TO A FAST START IN 2011? "It is important to get out of the gate fast. We go to every race to win the race so we expect to do well at every race. As I have raced more and matured in the class I find you have to manage the highs and the lows in our sport. The highs are unbelievably high and the lows are unbelievably low. At the end of the day you have to get into the Top 10, period. Robert [Hight] has kind of proved both ends of the scale. He went in at number two and ended up number nine and he went in at number 10 and won the championship. You have got to be in the championship to win the championship. You don't necessarily have to be number one going in to the Countdown; it would be great to have that cushion because it would give you the freedom to do a little testing during the season. The biggest advantage to getting out of the gate early is you know you have a combination that is working and once you get in that box you want to stay in that box. The margin of success or failure is an eyelash. A lot of this preseason testing is to help us get out of the box strong. We have been very consistent during the summer months in my three years in Funny Car. Our challenge has been in the cool weather conditions, which is what we are really going to focus on in testing. We are very very optimistic on our team's chances to win a championship this year." Back to Top

-source: ford racing

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Matt Hagan