Leading the points in the Countdown to the Championship for the first time in his career, Funny Car standout Bob Tasca III has already enjoyed an incredible season in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Heading into this weekend’s 38th annual Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, which is the main event of the legendary track’s Stampede of Speed, Tasca and his team, led by crew chiefs Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks, also don’t plan on changing an approach that sent them into the lead with three races remaining in the season.
An aggressive mindset has been a rewarding one for the team, as Tasca has picked up three victories and six No. 1 qualifiers in his 11,000-horsepower Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. But in an extremely tight Funny Car field where the top four drivers are separated by just 33 points, Tasca will aim to continue his standout pace in Dallas, where ideal racer and fan conditions could make for a spectacular weekend.
“We feel confident that if we can run our race that we’ve got as good a chance as anyone to win this championship,” Tasca said. “These guys only know how to run hard and run fast, and that’s just fine with me. I saw the forecast (for Dallas) and I had a big smile on my face. These are good conditions for our car and Dallas is a great surface. It’s going to be a throwdown and I love racing there. We’re going to come out swinging and leave it all out on the field, and that’s all you can do.”
Justin Ashley (Top Fuel), Ron Capps (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Hector Arana Jr. (Pro Stock Motorcycle) took home victories last season. This year’s race will be broadcast on Fox Sports 1 (FS1), including eliminations on Sunday, and marks the third of six events in the Countdown to the Championship, and the 19th of 21 races in 2023. The weekend opens with “Friday Night Live,” as the quickest pass under the lights on Friday at the famed Texas Motorplex will net Top Fuel and Funny Car stars $15,000 each in bonus money, with $7,500 going to the top Friday qualifier in Pro Stock and $5,000 in Pro Stock Motorcycle.
Tasca’s 2023 track record indicates he’ll definitely be in that mix on Friday, where he’ll look to put down a stellar blast to open the weekend. But finishing the job is never easy in the loaded Funny Car ranks, especially with the likes of Robert Hight, Matt Hagan and Capps right behind Tasca.
Hight is only six points back, while Hagan’s St. Louis win brought him within 13 points of Tasca. Capps, the defending event winner and reigning back-to-back world champ, is just 33 points out of the lead, setting the stage for an epic final three races. Throw in the likes of J.R. Todd, Tim Wilkerson, John Force and Chad Green and it will be a wild finish in Funny Car, starting this weekend in Dallas.
Tasca, though, believes his team is up for the task, no matter what type of conditions are thrown their way.
“We’ve got a car that can run with the best of the best in any condition and to win a championship, that’s what you need to have,” Tasca said. “I think that’s what makes us a dangerous team in the Countdown. We can run low E.T. no matter what conditions we’re in. When you have that in your repertoire, it puts you in a great position to contend for this championship. We’ve got a veteran group of guys and I’m fortunate to pair up with Todd Okuhara and Aaron Brooks. It’s incredible chemistry and you can see it in our performance all year long.”
Kalitta is after his first Top Fuel world championship, but Leah Pruett is only 47 points back. Texan Steve Torrence is just 51 points out of the lead, while defending event winner Ashley remains in title contention as well. Other top names include defending world champ Brittany Force, Antron Brown, Mike Salinas and Clay Millican.
Enders, a Texas native, wowed fans all throughout 2022 by collecting 10 NHRA titles en route to her fifth Pro Stock world championship. One of those 10 victories was her 2022 Texas NHRA FallNationals win, helping her clinch a championship a race later. She’s the current points leader, but has plenty of competition, including Greg Anderson, who is 25 points behind, and Matt Hartford, who trails Enders by 38 points.
Pro Stock Motorcycle veteran Arana Jr. picked up his first win from Dallas last year, but everyone is chasing points leader Gaige Herrera, who has an incredible eight wins in 2023. He holds a 99-point lead over reigning world champ Matt Smith, with Arana Jr. in third and Eddie Krawiec in fourth, 129 points back of his teammate.
The Texas NHRA FallNationals also will feature thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, which includes some of the sport’s top drivers, as well as the penultimate race of the season in Flexjet Factory Stock Showdown. The weekend will also include the Jr. Dragster Shootout, as well as a jet dragster and wheelstander exhibition after nitro qualifying on Friday.
Fans will also be treated to the JEG’s Allstars event, which pits sportsman racers from across the country against each other for the ultimate drag racing battle. The popular competition will take place at the famed Texas Motorplex for the first time and the unique specialty race is one of most highly-anticipated events of the year.
Race fans at Texas Motorplex can enjoy the special pre-race ceremonies that introduce and celebrate each of the drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and includes the fan favorite SealMaster Track Walk. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday after racing concludes, where fans are invited to congratulate the Texas NHRA FallNationals event winners.
Leading into the race, fans can take part in the NHRA FanFest in downtown Waxahachie (October 12), where fans can meet and get autographs from all the top stars in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series.
Fans are invited to the Nitro Alley Stage all weekend, which will help create a festive atmosphere leading into Nitro Alley. The Nitro Alley Stage will be the main entertainment hub in the pits when the Camping World Drag Racing Series competitors are not on the track, hosting Nitro School, meet and greets and much more. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their hot rods between rounds, get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create an exciting atmosphere that includes interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:00 and 7:00 p.m. CT on Friday, Oct. 13, and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, Oct. 14 at 1:00 and 4:00 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12:00 p.m. CT on Sunday, Oct. 16. Television coverage includes qualifying action on FS1 at 1:00 p.m. ET on Sunday and as well as action from eliminations at 3 p.m.
To purchase tickets to the Texas NHRA FallNationals at the Texas Motorplex, call 800-668-6775 or visit tickets.texasmotorplex.com. Children 12 and under are admitted free in general admissions areas with a paid adult. For more information about NHRA, visit www.nhra.com.