Courtesy NHRA  Images: Phil Hutchison Drag Racing Action Online

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 10, 2023) – Bob Tasca III powered to his first win of the season on Saturday at Bristol Dragway, knocking off legendary Funny Car driver John Force in the final round of the NHRA New England Nationals, which was completed as part of a doubleheader weekend in Bristol.

Top Fuel’s Justin Ashley also claimed the victory at the seventh of 21 races during the 2023 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season. The winning runs from Tasca and Ashley also gave each driver a victory in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge bonus race.

Due to weather, eliminations from the Epping, N.H. race were postponed to this weekend as part of the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals, with Tasca earning the victory at what is considered his home race. In the championship round against Force, Tasca went 4.032-seconds at 322.96 mph in his 11,000-horsepower PPG Ford Mustang. It is Tasca’s first victory of the season and 13th of his career.

Tasca knocked off Ron Capps in the opening round of eliminations, which took place on Friday in Thunder Valley, and then recorded three round wins on Saturday, including victories over Robert Hight and No. 1 qualifier Chad Green to reach the final round. Tasca, who knocked off Force in a final round at Sonoma last year, quickly chased down the 16-time world champion, picking up the win and the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge victory in the process. But to win his home race – even if it came in Bristol – meant a great deal to Tasca

“I would have gone to Alaska to get this trophy. It’s a win that I’ve always dreamed about winning at a racetrack I grew up at,” Tasca said. “It’s the first track I ever went down. But we just felt like this whole season was building for us. I’m just so impressed with Todd Okuhara, Aaron Brooks, and the team.

“I went up to Force before I got in the car and I said, ‘Force, I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for you.’ To race John Force in the finals, at his age to do what he does out here, it’ll never be done by anybody. I have so much respect for John. There’s no one I get up for like that. If I have to win a race in the final round and have John Force alongside me for the New England Nationals trophy, it’s going to be a long time before I forget that win.”

Force reached the finals for the first time this season and 265th thanks to round wins against Tim Wilkerson, Alex Laughlin and J.R. Todd.

Top Fuel’s Ashley enjoyed a terrific day on Saturday in Bristol, racing to his third victory this season and third win in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge as well, knocking off Tony Schumacher on a holeshot in a thrilling final round. Ashley went 3.846 at 324.12 in his 11,000-horsepower Phillips Connect/Toyota dragster to hold off Schumacher’s 3.835 at 323.65 on the strength of a .041 reaction time.

It’s also Ashley’s eighth career win and gives him another memorable moment in Thunder Valley after he won the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals a year ago. He doubled up on Saturday, going through an impressive array of challengers that included reigning world champion Brittany Force, four-time world champ Steve Torrence and eight-time champion Schumacher. He’s the only multi-time winner in Top Fuel this season and in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge, and Ashley will have a chance for a clean sweep of the weekend on Sunday.

“This is so special. Every race is special, when you know you go into the weekend having an opportunity to win, but coming here and knowing we have three opportunities to win and then taking care of two of them already just makes it so significant,” Ashley said. “It’s just a testament to the group we have. We have our work cut out for us tomorrow, but for tonight, we’re going to enjoy this one.

“It comes down to the work we put in during the off-season. We knew the competition was going to step up. The guys did what they needed to do, found ways to improve, ways to get better. That consistency was really the result of the work that was put in the off-season.”

Schumacher advanced to his first final this season and 157th in his career thanks to victories over Shawn Langdon and Mike Salinas.

Eliminations for the NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals begin at 10 a.m. ET on Sunday at Bristol Dragway.