Bob Tasca III of Cranston, RI grabbed the spotlight from John Force in the Funny Car final round at Atlanta Dragway, extending his points lead and winning the 40th and final Lucas Oil NHRA Southern Nationals on Sunday.
With Force going for his eighth victory at the storied facility, it was Tasca who came through in the clutch in an exhilarating side-by-side championship round, topping Force with a run of 4.004-seconds at 326.48 mph in his Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang. Tasca won by less than two feet against Force’s 4.015 at 321.81, winning for the second straight race.
He enjoyed a memorable winner’s circle celebration in taking a victory for the first time at Atlanta in his final opportunity, with the back-to-back wins cementing his status as the hottest driver in the class.
“There’s nobody who has done it better than Force over the years and it’s an honor to roll up next to him, but there’s nobody I get up for more and to beat him in the final, it’s great,” Tasca said. “I want to thank all the Atlanta fans. It’s so special to be here and see this place sold out. There’s so many great memories and it’s so great to leave with the trophy. For all those Ford fans and all the Ford family members that called me (after the last race) after winning Vegas, we did it again.”
Tasca, who qualified No. 2 with a 3.999 at 320.81, stayed around that for most of the day, minus a challenging first round against Paul Lee. He had to pedal in that first-round race, but regained traction and went 4.224 at 309.13.
From there, Tasca and the team, led by crew chief Mike Neff, were strong. He beat Blake Alexander a round later with a 4.014 at 326.32, advancing to the final round by knocking off defending world champ with a 3.981 at 327.82.
It was Tasca’s best run of the weekend and his final-round performance maintained his status as a bona fide championship contender this year.
Force’s performance was his best of 2021, as the legendary driver advanced to his 257th final round, much to the delight of the huge crowd on hand at Atlanta Dragway.
He picked up wins against an impressive list of talent, beating Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps and J.R. Todd, going 3.984 at 325.22 in the semifinals. That run brought the crowd to their feet on Sunday, but Tasca was simply too much at the finish line, overtaking Force right before the stripe to claim his eighth career victory, and likely the most memorable one in the process.