Bob Tasca III says his goal is “to leave our family’s history a little richer than I found it,” and winning at Indianapolis could help
Two-time Top Fuel champion Brittany Force owns elapsed-time and speed records across the county, but a trophy from Indianapolis is missing from her mantel
A victory at this race, not unlike Indy car driver's quest at the Indianapolis 500 just five miles down the same highway, can be elusive.
The drag-racing community calls it “The Big Go,” this weekend’s Dodge Power Brokers U.S. Nationals at Lucas Oil Indianapolis Raceway Park.
But for Top Fuel’s Brittany Force and Funny Car’s Bob Tasca III, successful nitro veterans, so far it has been a “big no.”
Plenty of racers haven’t won this race, but it might surprise fans to recognize that Force and Tasca, who have two of the hottest cars on the property, haven’t added an Indianapolis victory to their impressive résumés.
And this year, with $80,000-to-win Pep Boys All-Star Call-Out Sunday and the Countdown-seeding implications of points and a half for the standings and the $10,000-to-win Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, Tasca said, “This is an epic race. I might be an all-timer.”
However, he said he’s trying not to get too amped up, although he declared, “My best chance to win it is this year. I got an incredible team, great race car, very consistent.” He said, “We can’t try any harder than we try. If you try to overthink it, you could make it worse for yourself.”
Just the same, Tasca said, “This is the big race, no question. Obviously, all of the greats have won this thing. It's a race you want to win.
“I certainly think that winning Indy is maybe one of the most significant wins you could ever have in your career,” the 14-time winner and No. 4-ranked Funny Car driver said. “We go into every race trying to win, whether it's Indy or not, but this is huge race, huge implications. We're fourth in the points. We could be third or you can end up seventh, depending on points and a half. So there's so much at stake at this race. You just want to give yourself the best chance to win.”
Tasca has come close to winning at Indianapolis. He has reached three final rounds, two in the Top Alcohol Funny Car class and once in the nitro car.
“I think what's going to be cool about this race, you're going to see cool track conditions, hot track conditions... all three of the opportunities to win – the Mission #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, the Pep Boys All-Star Call-Out, and obviously the race. So it's a lot of fun. Got a lot of cars here, trying to qualify, so it's going to be competitive racing. Ultimately, we just want to put ourselves in a position to win come Monday, and we got a lot of runs and opportunities to dial the car in,” Tasca said.
“Imagine, I know John Force DNQd here twice, so it shows you how hard it can be,” he said about the five-time U.S. Nationals victor, 155-time event winner, and 16-time Funny Car champion. “There's no guarantees here. You don't come to Indy and just get an automatic [entry]. You got to come and compete. I just think so much goes into this race. A lot of cars come out for it, and they saved their best for this race. So you're going to need to be at your best to win it.
“You got to qualify and then you got to put yourself in a position to win on Monday – and that's exactly what we're focused on doing. It shows you how difficult it is to win it,” Tasca said. “Truthfully, it's difficult to win any of these races.
“You have such an incredible core group of racers out here that at any given Sunday you can win or lose,” he said, “but we got four No. 1 qualifiers, two wins coming into this race, a lot of momentum, and I like our chances. We're going to just go out there and do the best we can. We're going to try to do our best.”
For Tasca, this Labor Day classic is rooted in history—drag-racing lore, certainly, but also Tasca Family memories.
“I could get emotional just thinking about it,” he said of the 69-year-old event. “It’s what’s so special about this sport: generations. My grandfather [the late Bob Tasca Sr.] goes back to the Wally Parks days. To continue on what he started... My goal from the very beginning was to leave our family’s history a little richer than I found it. You don’t know if you’re going to win championships or what you’re going to do, right? That’s what I’ve been focused on my whole career.”
He said of his grandfather, “I know how proud he’d be, seeing us compete at this level. I wouldn’t have to say anything. You just looked in his eyes.”
Tasca said, “I’ve been fortunate to have incredible people around me. Now I have my kids around me. They love it. They’re passionate about it. They’ve got a lot of work to do before they get in a car, I can tell you that much,” Tasca said. “They’re going to go to school. They’re going to run some dealerships. They’re going to buy some dealerships. I didn’t start racing until I was 32. We’re a family business. We work together at the dealerships, and we race together out here.”
Brittany Force Wants to Check This Box
Brittany Force’s NHRA experience also has been a family affair: “I've been coming here since I was a kid, and back then I remember standing in my dad's winners circle at the Big Bud Shootout, and it just had this presence. You knew it was just a huge race. There was so much built around it. You knew it was something special here at Indy. So that's what we're chasing now. That's what we're going after. We want to win here. Everyone wants to win here. That's why every driver's out here, every team, every crew chief. Everybody wants to win Indy. It's on everyone's bucket list.
“I've stood in many winners circles, my dad's winner circles, since I was a baby,” she said. “It's just one of those bucket list things everyone wants to check off: ‘The Big Go,’ Indianapolis, biggest race of the season. Two events in one. There's nothing like it. There's nothing like this race.”
She owns both ends of the track record here (3.640 seconds on the 1,000-foot course, 337.75 mph) from last year’s performance and has qualified No. 1 here in each of the past three years. At most races, her Dave Grubnic-tuned car looks like the one to beat, setting low E.T. of the event five times and top speed of the meet 11 times already in 2023. (This year she has retained the national records she set last fall: 3.623 seconds in elapsed time in September at Reading, Pa., and a 338.94-mph speed in November at Pomona, Calif.)
Now-retired older sister Ashley Force Hood won here twice, back-to-back, in a Funny Car. (However, younger sister Courtney Force Rahal, who also is retired, didn’t count an Indianapolis victory among her 12.)
What’s more, Force, who’s ranked No. 4 in the standings, hasn’t won a race this season after winning five times in seven final rounds and earning 10 No. 1 starts last year.
Winning at Indianapolis Monday would take care of both items. She knows that, and as much as she would like to shake that monkey from her back, Force said she’ll be trying to earn as many points as she can this weekend for a favorable Countdown seeding. And she’ll have opportunities, with extra qualifying bonus markers, a go in the final Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge, and qualifying-status points.
“Heading into the biggest race of the season, the U.S. Nationals in Indy this weekend and we’re sitting fourth in points. We’ve come very close to winning this event with two runner-up finishes but this team is looking to seal the deal and end up in the winners circle this year,” she said. “It’s the final race before points reset, so our team needs to grab as many points as we can to close the gap as much as possible. It’s points and a half with an extra qualifying session, so we’re going to try and really take advantage. Our goals haven’t changed. We want to qualify [in the] top five and have clean and solid passes every run. We’re looking for a winners circle finish.”
If it’s any consolation for Force, seven of the current top-10-ranked Top Fuel drivers have not won the U.S. Nationals. Justin Ashley, Leah Pruett, Austin Prock, Mike Salinas, Clay Millican, and Josh Hart are in the same boat.