Drag racing is one of the purest motorsports out there. Point the car in a straight line, and go as fast as you possibly can. It’s a simple concept, and yet coming out a winner is often anything but. Bob Tasca III knows that better than most, having made his career in the sport. His decades of experience served him well this past weekend when he beat the standing outright speed record for the fastest piston-driven drag racing run in history.
It bears noting that drag racing, like a lot of other motorsports, has had to make changes in the name of safety over the years. Perhaps most striking was the decision made by the NHRA in 20o8, cutting back from quarter-mile races down to 1000 feet for the top classes. This was done, along with a raft of other regulations over the years, in an effort to limit top speeds for safety reasons.
And yet, speeds have marched on regardless. In 2022, the NHRA published a list of the 20 fastest speeds recorded in nitro racing history. Robert Hight had the number 1 spot, hitting 339.87 mph in a pass at Sonoma in 2017. In fact, of the top 20 speeds, only one was from before 2008, recorded in the quarter mile instead of the shorter 1000-foot distance. Tony Schumacher had recorded a speed of 337.57 mph in the quarter mile at Brainerd in 2005.
Those are old numbers, though. On the night of February 9, it was all about the new ones, with Bradenton Motorsports Park hosting the Pro Superstar Shootout. Bob Tasca III lined up in the PPG Mustang Dark Horse Nitro Funny Car, finished in its gorgeous pale blue livery. Lining up in a qualifying run against fellow legend John Force, Tasca committed as his rival shut down early in the run. Blazing past the line, the scoreboard flashed a glorious number, not seen before. 341.68 MPH.
“Today’s record is the result of years of passion, teamwork, and the relentless chase for speed,” said Bob Tasca III in a statement. “This achievement belongs to every member of Tasca Racing, our partners at PPG, and Ford Performance. Their support and Ford’s aerodynamic and engineering expertise were crucial in breaking the 340 mph barrier, a dream I’ve always had.”
There is a caveat to Tasca’s run. The Pro Superstar Shootout was not an official NHRA event, and thus the run will not be an official NHRA record. It appears he still achieved something no other driver has, but it won’t be marked down in the official history books as such.
Indeed, even before the record run, Tasca was already having a great weekend. During an earlier qualifying round, he’d already matched Hight’s 2017 record down to two decimal places, piloting his funny car to a speed of 339.87 mph. Things only got better from there.
It’s also funny to note that while Tasca hit a record speed of 341.68 mph, his elapsed time wasn’t particularly notable. He made a run of 3.840 seconds, which was only good enough for second in qualifying. Ultimately, Austin Prock would take home the crown in the Funny Car class at the Pro Superstar Shootout, pocketing $250,000 in prize money for his trouble.
In any case, though, it’s a great drag racing story. Everything has to come together for a record-breaking run like this. The track has to be perfectly prepared, sticky as all hell. The car needs to be set up just so by an expert crew that’s firing on all cylinders. Oh, and ideally, Mother Nature will contribute plenty of cool, dense air to the equation. Cue all that up, and you’ve got yourself a shot at making some history. All you need then is the right driver in the hot seat, and last weekend, that was Bob Tasca III. A job well done.
Image credits: FloRacing via YouTube screenshot