It’s playoffs time, and we’re spoilers. Let me tell you two things about being in our shoes: No. 1, I’d be lying if I said we aren’t disappointed; and No. 2, people say the pressure’s off for the rest of the season if you don’t make the Countdown. That isn’t true.
To perform is everything to us. When you don’t perform, you just didn’t get the job done. All you can do is get up off the mat time and time again. The champions have all been on the mat and they’ve risen again, and that’s what we’ll do, too.
We went into Indy 10th in points with two hungry teams behind us. One of them was our Ford Shelby teammate Tim Wilkerson and his Levi, Ray & Shoup team. As luck would have it, when the race was rained out and NHRA added two qualifying sessions, we drew Tim first round. Only one of us was going to make it into the Countdown to the Championship, and Tim got the job done.
When you’re up against a teammate like that, it’s tough. As much as you want the best for them, you still want your team to be the team that makes it happen. We’re a determined team, though, and we’re going out to the next few races to win some races.
I can tell you this, through the tough times you find out who you are and what you’re made of. How we perform over these next six races will define our season.
Charlotte is always a race the Motorcraft/Quick Lane team looks forward to. Our shop is near zMAX Dragway in Concord, where a lot of the NASCAR teams are based. My guys get to sleep in their own beds, and since we’re on the road most of the year, that’s a luxury. The staff at the track does a great job, too. They do whatever it takes to promote NHRA Full Throttle Series Drag Racing, and we appreciate that.
Let me tell you – when I get discouraged about things that happen at the track, I try to keep everything in perspective. Fans tell me all the time about struggles they are going through, from dealing with cancer to supporting a loved one who is serving overseas in our military… you name it. We all have struggles, and it is those things that matter most. We do have a job to do, though, and that’s what we’ll focus on at the track.
Our goal is to finish strong. It would mean everything to our team to end on a high note.
There is no such thing in motorsports as a time when the pressure is off. We are always under pressure to perform. This ain’t driving to Church Sunday morning. This is the real deal. There are real consequences. That’s where we live, under pressure, and if you can’t perform under pressure, you can’t perform.
The only reason why I’m racing is to compete for a championship. To not be able to do that is gut-wrenching, but you can take that energy and turn it into negativity or you can take that and be positive.
I’m excited. The day I’m not excited about going to a race, I won’t do it. I’m excited about being in Charlotte. It’s a place where we’ve done well and conditions get better and better as the season unfolds and the temperatures cool down. I’m excited about playing spoiler. We’ll go out and make as much noise as we can and learn as much as we can to put ourselves in position to win.
This is the time we’ll see what my Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has. What I have. This is when we say “here’s what we can do.”
Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has a fight on our hands, and I can tell you one thing — we’re ready for it.
There’s only one race to go until the Countdown to the Championship, and we’re 10th in the NHRA Full Throttle Series Funny Car points, just a half-round out of ninth place.
We rolled the dice with some of the changes we had to make in Brainerd knowing: No. 1, we had two races before the Countdown begins; and No. 2, we are testing in Indy, so we’d have more time to shake down the changes.
We’ve struggled all year to get our car to go down the track consistently. It’s been a problem all season and was just magnified in Sonoma with the clutch failure. In Brainerd, our car was consistent on Friday, but it wasn’t fast enough. At the end of the day, conditions were good and teams were running in the 4.0s. The more we tried to stand on the tune-up the more temperamental the car became.
Now we’ll go straight to a test session in Indy this week.
Mentally, from a peace-of-mind standpoint, I’m thrilled to have this test session. The last thing we wanted to do was go to the race in Indy without making some clean runs.
At the end of the day, there’s no one more disappointed in how we’ve done the last few races than the guys who live and sleep with this race car and that includes me. We just have to get this thing fixed. Fortunately, we have this test session to do that, and trust me we are not far off. When you live on the edge of a razor blade a small move either way makes a big difference!
What we’ve found is the tuning window is too small. Nobody is perfect and right now our Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang isn’t giving us a margin of error. We’re making adjustments to give ourselves a tuning window.
Being in the middle of such a tight points race means we get a lot of attention. We’ll try to think of it positively that way! I’ll tell you one thing, we want to steal as much TV time as we can for our sponsors, and from a drama standpoint, the Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Shelby Mustang will get a whole lot of visibility at the Indy race!
I’m excited about Indy. It’s arguably our biggest race of the year, and I’ve done really well there. I’ve been to three final rounds in Indy, including last year’s runner-up to Mike Neff. I love being parked on that big stage. Our Motorcraft/Quick Lane team has always found a way to step up big when our backs are against the wall. I know we’ll do that again.
Hey, have you heard about this big Traxxas Nitro Shootout? This is a big deal for us! Everyone wants to make it into the big bonus event in Indy, so give us a vote on NHRA’s Facebook page!
Remember this slogan: “It’s not a race without a Shelby! Vote Tasca!”
VOTE TASCA NOW: http://www.facebook.com/NHRA
Dad and me suited up and ready to try bobsledding
Sixty-eight mph feels much faster in a bobsled than it does in my Ford.
Let me tell you, I’ve gone pretty fast in my day. I will never forget how it felt to hit the throttle on my Funny Car and actually take it on a full pass for the first time.
A bobsled is a whole other ball game.
I take my family on the Western Swing with me every year. That means three weeks in the motorhome together, but it’s the only time I can race and really spend time with my family at the same time.
This year after Denver we stopped in Park City, Utah. That’s where I met the bobsled.
My dad, crew man Geff Whitt, and the instructor all rode down together. Now, in my Motorcraft/Quick Lane Funny Car, I have a full carbon fiber body around me. In this thing? Just my helmet.
We all agreed that it was good to check this item off of our collective to-do lists, but I don’t think you’ll see us going back for another ride, especially my dad! I don't think he'll ever be the same.
Here are some photos from our Western Swing vacation. As you can see, we all had a lot of fun. It was good for the boys to see the athletes at Park City training for the Winter Olympics. They usually only see hockey! We even met up with Tony Pedregon and his family on the road again this year, at Train Town.
One of my favorite parts of this year’s Swing was my EcoBoost car in Seattle. If you haven’t seen it yet, here’s a photo! What do you think?
We were chosen to participate in Ford Racing’s Global EcoBoost movement – one car from every series Ford races in around the world will compete with the EcoBoost white, black and blue paint scheme during the month of August. This weekend Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Matt Kenseth will race with the paint scheme in the NASCAR Nationwide and Sprint Cup series.
The EcoBoost car, for us, was something totally out-of-the-box. It really told the story about one of the most exciting technologies within Ford Motor Company.
I’ve said it before, but Ford EcoBoost is like having your cake and eating it too. That’s the best way I can describe it. It uses small engines that are turbo charged to give you great performance and great fuel economy. That’s what everyone is looking for now. It’s not just on small vehicles and engines — we’re talking from the Fusion all the way up to the F-150; from four cylinders up to six.
It was fun to be part of a global campaign to create awareness about technology that is really changing the way people think about buying vehicles.
Competition-wise, the Swing wasn’t what we hoped it would be. We had some issues, but as race teams we learn from them and move on. Points are really important now, and I told my guys our Countdown fight starts now. Really, there are three races before the Countdown: Brainerd, testing at Indy and Indy.
We have a seasoned, veteran team with Dickie Venables, Chris Cunningham and Marc Denner. These guys have been down this road many times. We have a talented crew. I'm as confident as I've ever been heading into this part of the season! I wouldn’t bet against us!
Speaking of betting for us — the big vote for the Traxxas Nitro Shootout is coming up! Stay tuned! We’ll show you how to vote us in.
You know that feeling you have when you’re at the top of a roller coaster looking down at the biggest drop of the ride?
We’re at that point of the season, when there’s no turning back and no getting out. It’s time for the Western Swing.
This is about the time when earning points becomes critical. We talk about points all year because every one really is important in the NHRA Full Throttle Series, especially in a category as competitive as Funny Car. You want to qualify and win as much as the next driver and if you’re not having any luck on Sunday, at least not get too far behind. You want to be within striking distance by the time the Countdown to the Championship playoffs come around.
We’re sixth in points right now, up two spots thanks to a semifinal finish in Norwalk. We ran with our “Our Everyday Heroes” JDRF paint scheme there and I think it brought us good luck. Unfortunately we had to race our Shelby teammate in the semis, which we always hate to do. That’s a no-win for us.
An 11-year-old with type 1 diabetes designed our car and wouldn’t you know it, she’s a drag racer! She’s a good one, too. I wouldn’t be surprised to see her in the pros one day. Remember the name – Libby Ledford. It was great to meet Libby, her family and friends. Great people!
Libby even left the track with a Wally. The Motorcraft/Quick Lane team won “Best Appearing Crew” for our uniforms made from Libby’s design.
After the race my family and I went to Cedar Point for an event my best friend Tony Pedregon puts on with his team. Cedar Point is a huge amusement park not far from Norwalk that has a ride called the “Top Thrill Dragster.” I love roller coasters and this is a great one. We signed some autographs and had fun on the rides.
Now it’s time for the Western Swing, which means we’re at the midpoint of our year and nearing the end of the regular season. Five races are left before playoffs begin.
My family and I begin our annual vacation this week. Every year we drive the Western Swing in our motor home. With four boys and three in sports, the schedule during the school year is pretty hectic. It’s important to my wife Terri and me to spend as much time as we can together with the boys and this is a great time to do it. We have a few favorite spots to see along the way but we always see a few new things, too.