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Return Road: Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals

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It was a top-end promo that even the best professional wrestler would be envious of, as Bob Tasca III delivered an epic summation of what his past two weeks have been like after winning the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals.

From going 100 Funny Car races without a win to the first back-to-back victories of his career thanks to his win on Sunday in Norwalk, Tasca was incredible in describing his emotions over the past two weeks.

“7 years to 7 days and I like 7 days better,” Tasca told Fox Sports 1. “I told the boys leaving Bristol, ‘Don’t even clean it.’ I’ve been beat up, kicked, and had my heart torn out, but I’ve had people who have believed in me.”

You couldn’t help but smile or get excited as Tasca delivered his impassioned victory speech on national television.

But he wasn’t through yet. The New England-area native delivered the perfect mic drop to finish his day, looking ahead to the NHRA stop next week at his home track, New England Dragway.

“New England, here we come! Break out the Lobstahs,” Tasca excitedly shouted into the microphone.

If you need passion or someone to lead the charge to show how special this sport is, we may have found it (or perhaps re-discovered it) in Tasca. He’s been bold in his expectations with his team, not afraid to make sweeping changes after a slow start to the year. He brought on Jon Schaffer and Mike Neff in recent weeks, and that braintrust – along with Eric Lane – has proven deadly.

They rolled to the win in Bristol, denying John Force his 150th career win, and then were just as impressive in Norwalk, knocking off Jack Beckman in the final round. He was in the 3.90s for the first three rounds of eliminations, emerging as a bonafide championship contender in the Funny Car class.

As for faces of the class, you can’t do much better than Tasca, who isn’t afraid to show emotion, isn’t afraid to speak his mind and is an emphatic Ford backer. In short, you know where he stands and it’s a beautiful thing for the sport.

“I worked a lot of years to get to this place and there were days I never thought I would get back here, but I never gave up and I thank the people that never gave up on me,” Tasca said. “I always knew if I could get the right car under me we could do great things. I woke up this morning and was as confident as I ever was, and when you make four runs in the 3.00s in very challenging conditions, there was no reason why we couldn’t have won. I’m glad we got it done.”

CAN’T MISS NEWS

SHOCKER! TORRENCE WINS IN TOP FUEL: Yes, that was sarcasm. Torrence continued his dominance in Top Fuel with his SEVENTH straight final round and sixth win in that span, beating Pat Dakin in the final round.

Torrence went 3.832 at 323.27 to beat Dakin, who gave the defending champ and points leader a fight with his 3.909 at 301.40, fully admitting he probably wasn’t the fan favorite for that round.

It was Dakin’s first final round since 1998, and the Ohio native was looking for his FIRST victory since 1973 – 10 years before Torrence was even born. It summed up a wild Sunday in Top Fuel, and even Torrence admitted he was pulling a little bit for Dakin.

“I was rooting for Pat Dakin,” Torrence said. “Man, I’ll tell you what, that guy is just a cool dude. We are good buddies with Dakin and most of the guys that work on his team also work on my old man’s car. It was pretty cool to race him in the final round at his home-state race. We needed the points, but he probably wanted the win just to kick my butt. You couldn’t have had a better final round.”

The numbers continue to be out of this world for Torrence, who was deservedly nominated for an ESPY last week as well. He’s won 12 of the past 18 races, bounces back from last week’s final round loss to Mike Salinas and nearly clinched a spot in the Countdown to the Championship – at the halfway mark of the season. It’s unreal what Torrence has done and showcases just how strong the entire organization has been for the last three years.

“Some days you come out here and you just feel really on top of your game and some days you’re a little slower and today was one of those slow days,” said Torrence, who won for the second time in Norwalk. “But my guys had my back and we went down the track four laps in a row. This is completely a team sport and without those guys working on the car, it’s nothing. I’m just proud to drive it.”

ALSO NOT SHOCKING – HINES WINS IN PSM: A year ago, Andrew Hines didn’t win a race, which was double-take worthy in its own right.

This year, he’s already a win away from tying the most single-season wins he’s ever had in a season – and the class still has nine races left this season.

Hines and Eddie Krawiec – who fell to Hines’ 6.895 at 196.99 in the final round at Norwalk – have been major steps ahead of everyone else, as it seems like 2019 is turning into one of those years when the Harley-Davidson bikes rule the class. Hines has already done that so far, winning five of the seven races, putting him on a potentially incredible path.

“We had different conditions today than the rest of the week, but for some reason my bike tends to work well on a greasy track,” said Hines, who won for the fifth time in Norwalk. “The competition is tough and you have to earn it each round. Our guys do a great job making sure we have phenomenal motorcycles. (Racing Krawiec) has brought out the best in both of us. That’s probably why we have as many wins as we have. We push each other to be that much better.”

MCGAHA GETS IT DONE: It wasn’t pretty at times – including a near-holeshot loss in the first round and a flubbed burnout in the semifinals – but the end product for Chris McGaha was pretty satisfying.

He went 6.620 at 210.11 to beat Alex Laughlin in the finals, winning for the first time in a year. It surely wasn’t conventional, but none of that will be remembered considering McGaha knocked off Greg Anderson and points leader Bo Butner – during the pivotal failed burnout round – to claim the victory.

“We just kept taking the same car up there all four rounds,” McGaha said. “I had a bad light in the first round and in the second round, I was a little better on the tree. I botched the burnout really bad in the semifinals and I’m sure everybody thought we were done, but next thing you now we let it rip and won that round.”

AL-BALOOSHI TOPS GONZALEZ IN PRO MOD FINAL: Things finally seemed to go Khalid alBalooshi’s way on Sunday in Pro Mod, going an impressive 5.765 at 259.01 to beat Jose Gonzalez in the final round.

But the previous two rounds told the day, as he went 7.684 to beat No. 1 qualifier Mike Castellana, who had his share of trouble during the second-round matchup, and then 12.073 to beat Rickie Smith after the three-time champ had an oil leak during his burnout.

In a class like this, you’ll take as much fortune as possible and alBalooshi finally got some on Sunday. It gives Bahrain1 Racing another victory, denying Gonzalez of back-to-back wins. He knocked off points leader Stevie “Fast” Jackson in a thrilling semifinal matchup and might be the only one within striking distance of tracking down Jackson.

He trails Stevie Fast by 133 points with only four races remaining, but Gonzalez may not be able to make all four races. Todd Tutterow is within 151 points and defending champ Mike Janis is 163 points back of Jackson, but both have major work to do starting in Indy if they want to make this points race interesting.
As for alBalooshi, he jumped up to sixth in points after his huge day.

“The big thing for me today was when I won the first round,” alBalooshi said. “When I got to the second round, I thought the door was open for us. We’ve been struggling a lot, but I feel like we’re heading in the right direction now. When I got to the final round, I just kept telling myself I needed to win a race. This was a way different feeling for me, but I’m just happy I got the win.”

FURTHER VIEWING

ENDERS ESCAPES SCARY FIRE: We’re glad to see Erica Enders walk away from this pretty scary fire on the top end after her Pro Mod run during the final qualifying session. Her cockpit filled with smoke and fire, but being the warrior she is, Enders jumped right back in her Pro Stock car and made a run later that way.
To read the full story, click here.

BLAKE GOES BOOM: It was a tough finish to the weekend for Funny Car driver Blake Alexander, who lost a car body at the finish line in his race against Shawn Langdon.

ICE CREAM!!: Summit Racing Equipment Motorsports Park is known for its massive pound of ice cream for $1, and the pros got in on the fun as well.

WES BUCK SHOW: Drag Illustrated Founder and Editorial Director Wes Buck delivers another great episode, this time with the Godfather of Pro Mod, Charles Carpenter! Don’t miss it!

Charles Carpenter on 45-Years in Drag Racing, the Evolution of Pro Mod, Match Racing Coast to Coast & More

NOMEX EFFECT: We’re a little late posting this, but if you haven’t seen the latest episode of the Nomex Effect with J.R. Todd and Shawn Langdon, what are you doing with your life? It’s awesome stuff and they were joined by Funny Car standout Ron Capps.

CONGRATS NORWALK WINNERS!

ESPY TIME FOR TORRENCE
Can this FINALLY be the year someone from drag racing wins an ESPY? Let’s hope. You won’t find a better candidate after what Torrence did a year ago, that’s for sure.

LEADING BY EXAMPLE
You want to know why the Bader family is among the best in drag racing with one of the top tracks in the country? This seems like a good start.

MEMORABLE SOUVENIR

LOVE THE PRE-RACE RITUALS

FINAL WORD
That was exhausting. It’s unreal to think what these teams go through during these epic stretches of four straight race weekends. They’ll go through it again next month on the Western Swing, but it’s definitely a good thing everyone gets a week off to catch their collective breath.

Major kudos to the Bader family for what they did to make it a memorable weekend in Norwalk after the weather pounding that area took over the last several weeks. It’s a major bummer for the sportsman racers, but the Baders made chicken salad out of, well, you know, and the weekend was as good as anyone could have possibly imagined. Again, it’s a tribute to that family and the awesome people at the track.

Time for PDRA this weekend, and it’s off to Lobster-land in Epping after that.

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