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Bob Tasca seeks drag-race success at Sonoma

Bob Tasca III has come a long way from racing his first car, a 1992 Ford Mustang GT, at local tracks in his native New England to racing an 11,000-horsepower nitro-fueled behemoth.

Although he's not technically a newcomer to the National Hot Rod Association’s nitro divisions, Tasca has made his mark this year, winning a four-wide final in Las Vegas — one of the marquee venues on the circuit — and becoming the man to beat.

“I’ve always wanted to win a four-wide and I’ve always wanted to win in Vegas,” Tasca said. “We got it all done with one shot. It’s the hardest race, in my opinion, to win, because you got to beat three cars, not one. Certainly, Vegas is a big stage.”

NHRA SONOMA NATIONALS

Sunday’s finals

Time: 1 p.m.

TV: FS1

Ahead of Sunday’s NHRA Sonoma Nationals at Sonoma Raceway, Tasca is leading the Funny Car points standings.

“You got a big target on your back,” he said. “It’s what we come out here to do. We don’t come out here to get a suntan; we want to win. We want to win the championship, compete for the championship.”

Tasca followed up his big Vegas win with another victory at the next event two weeks later in Atlanta and lost a close finals at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals in Norwalk, Ohio, in late June.

He points to the Vegas victory as pivotal for his season thus far.

“Early in the season, it kind of set the tone,” Tasca said. “It was a real pivot point for us to get off to a fast track and maintain the points lead.”

He missed the Sonoma stop when it was canceled amid the pandemic last year but has enjoyed being back this weekend, taking in the weather and staking out the local fruit stands: “It’s the best peaches and cherries I ever had in my life,” he said.

Through two rounds of qualifying, Tasca hasn’t seen the speeds he’d like, but was primed for his third and final qualifying run.

“If you’re a betting man, you’re going to bet we’re going to make a great run this next run,” he stated confidently.

And indeed, Tasca scored the eighth-fastest pass of qualifying in the third round, running the quarter-mile drag strip in 4.001 seconds at 324.75 mph. He’ll face Paul Lee from Orange in round one on Sunday.

Force, Capps top qualifiers

The top qualifiers for Sunday’s eliminations are familiar faces: Brittany Force in Top Fuel and Ron Capps in Funny Car.

Both drivers recorded their fast runs on Friday night under the lights: a 3.694 second sprint at 329.42 mph for Force and a 3.897-second run at 328.78 mph for Capps.

Capps is happy with the qualifying runs, but knows they only mean so much.

“Qualifying like that, that’s all car. That’s all team … The driver, I don’t feel, does a whole lot,” Capps said. “Tomorrow’s when you got to be on your game with the (starting lights) tree, being in the groove and doing everything right.”

Force believes the good runs so far this weekend will lead to a great finish Sunday.

“Just the fact that we had three solid passes down the racetrack, that gives our team, me as a driver, all of us confidence going into the race day tomorrow,” Force said. “Especially with these runs being early in the day (Saturday) to get us prepared for tomorrow.”

Force will face Pleasanton’s Ron August in the first round and Capps will face Pleasanton’s Tony Jurado.

Drag racing legend John Force needed his final qualifying run to get into Sunday’s eliminations. His 3.965-second pass at 324.67 mph sets up a matchup against JR Todd in round one.

Smith breaks record

Matt Smith broke the Pro Stock Motorcycle national speed record with a qualifying lap of 205.04 mph in the second round on Saturday.

Despite the speed record, he will not hold the top spot on the ladder for the finals Sunday. His wife, Angie Smith, completed a 6.736-second pass at 203.06 mph. She earns a bye for the first round.

Anderson leads pro stock

Greg Anderson will have the top spot on the Pro Stock ladder with a pass of 6.513 seconds at 210.57 mph and will face South San Francisco’s Steve Graham in the first round.

The Sonoma Raceway gates will open for spectators at 8 a.m. Sunday. The nitro finals for Top Fuel and Funny Car start at 11 a.m. For full results from this weekend’s events, visit nhra.com.

For more information on Sonoma Raceway and to buy tickets, visit sonomaraceway.com or call 800-870-RACE.

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