Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – DINWIDDIE, VA – When Bob Tasca thinks back to the NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series’ return to Virginia Motorsports Park in 2018, there is nothing but good memories for the Funny Car veteran. Promising big changes to his car and within his team ahead of this year’s second annual Virginia NHRA Nationals on May 17-19, Tasca hopes those memories in 2019 include a trip to the winner’s circle for the first time since 2012.
Tasca called last year’s race in front of a sold-out crowd one of the biggest highlights of the 2018 NHRA season, and he’ll look to make his personal highlight reel at Virginia Motorsports Park in his 10,000-horsepower TrueCar Ford Mustang. The brand new racing surface yielded rave reviews and stellar performances a year ago, and Tasca is eager to enjoy that again in 2019.
“That was a standout race of the year,” Tasca said of the 2018 event at VMP. “The support of the fans was incredible. I just remember how appreciative the fans were, and they were thanking us for coming when we should have been thanking them for coming. Plus, the quality of the racetrack was unbelievably smooth. Whether it’s hot or cold, if there’s an excellent surface these cars can perform and we’re thrilled to come back to Richmond.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Courtney Force (Funny Car), Tanner Gray (Pro Stock) and LE Tonglet (Pro Stock Motorcycle) are the defending winners of a race that will be televised on Fox Sports 1 (FS1) in 2019, including final eliminations coverage starting at 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 19. It is the eighth of 24 events during what has been a topsy-turvy 2019 NHRA season for Tasca.
He’s currently 10th in a loaded Funny Car class, which is an improvement from this point in the 2018, but Tasca is far from satisfied. That means major moves on the car and with personnel following a second-round loss in Atlanta over the weekend. Tasca sees a car and team capable of winning races and competing for a championship, but it hasn’t happened yet. He has just two round wins in his past five races, a number Tasca wants to change immediately.
“I’m not happy with where I’m at and I’m not happy with our performance,” Tasca said. “We haven’t shown consistency and we’re making some really big changes going into Richmond. I’m optimistic that it’s going to change the attitude of the car. We’re hitting the reset button and I’m excited about it. Richmond is a big race for us. We’ll have a different set-up, but we have high expectations of what this team should accomplish. We’re not there yet and we’ll keep working until we get there.”
Tasca is confident he can have a big result in Virginia, but it won’t be easy against a loaded Funny Car lineup that includes Atlanta winner Ron Capps, defending world champion J.R. Todd, John Force, who is seeking his 150th career win, and points leader Robert Hight. But Tasca believes he is more than capable of competing and thriving against the elite in the class. Now, it’s just a matter of proving it on a consistent basic and Tasca is hopeful that will start to take place in Virginia.
“We need to get better and that’s the bottom line, but I feel confident in the changes and Richmond can be an exciting race for me,” said Tasca, who has four career Funny Car wins. “We’ve got the new body from Ford, something we spent the last year working on. We’re still fine-tuning some things, but we have very high expectations. We want to win and compete for a championship, and anything less than that is unacceptable. We’re going to continue to make adjustments and I’m looking forward to seeing it come together.”
The Top Fuel category will be filled with tough competition including reigning champion and points leader Steve Torrence, 2017 world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown and Clay Millican.
Pro Stock veterans Jason Line and Jeg Coughlin Jr. remain the only current winners in the class at Virginia Motorsports Park, and they’ll look to track down points leader Bo Butner.
Looking for their first victory in Richmond in Pro Stock Motorcycle are a number of talented competitors, including defending world champ Matt Smith and points leader Andrew Hines.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the fifth of 12 stops in 2019 at Virginia Motorsports Park. Defending world champion Mike Janis is the also defending Pro Mod winner at the race. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
NHRA fans can take part in the Mello Yello Walking Tour to see the cars and teams hard at work in the pits. Fans can also attend Nitro School to learn more about how the cars operate and reach their thrilling speeds. Virginia Motorsports Park will host a Mello Yello autograph session and allow fans to meet their favorite drivers as well as the Cruising with Castello Sealmaster Track Walk hosted by NHRA announcer Joe Castello. A can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes. NHRA fans are invited to congratulate the winners of the event as they celebrate their NHRA Virginia Nationals victories.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 1:45 and 5:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and the final two rounds of qualifying at 12:45 and 3:45 p.m. on Saturday, May 18. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, May 19.