For NHRA Funny Car pilot Bob Tasca III, the June 17-19 Ford NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals presented by the Tri-Cities Area Ford Dealers will be the perfect launch pad to unleash the power of his rocket ship.

Tasca counted Thunder Valley among his favorite places to race and explained that fans coming to Bristol for the first time should be prepared for an experience unlike any others.

“Get ready,” he began, “it is an awesome place. I go to every track across the country and this is definitely one of the tracks you have to see and experience. With the mountains, they don’t call it Thunder Valley for no reason, it really does thunder. It is a whole lot of fun.

“The sound echoes off the mountain, and then you can go up and watch the cars from the hill. People ask me my favorite track. I don’t have a favorite, but I have a top-five and Bristol is definitely in the top five. This track caters to the interaction between the drivers and the fans. I would highly recommend Bristol as a place to go see a race.”

While the drag strip is where Tasca’s heart belongs, he enjoyed having the opportunity to fire up his Ford Mustang flopper during pre-race activities at Bristol Motor Speedway prior to the Jeff Byrd 500 in March.

“I’ve been to only one other Cup race, Charlotte Motor Speedway,” he said. “It (Charlotte) is a huge facility, but Bristol was unbelievable. To be in the heart of it and see the entire race track in one frame of view, the noise, the sounds, the fans, the sheer scope of that race was awesome. To be able to start our car and show the fans and the NASCAR teams what we do was cool.

“I was sitting in there looking across the NASCAR pits and when I hit the throttle there was a bunch of people who jumped a foot off the ground. It is amazing to hear the sheer force of these cars. That was a lot of fun.”

While Tasca’s 8,000-horsepower machine packs a punch, he recently compared performance notes with one of his friends, Space Shuttle Commander Mark Kelly, who recently returned from the final mission for Shuttle Endeavour. While the shuttle can reach speeds in excess of 17,500 mph, Tasca’s Funny Car accelerates to 300 mph much faster.

“Mark is a drag racing fan and so are his daughers,” Tasca explained. “He and his brother were able to stand on the starting line between two of our cars during a race. He was awed by the sheer energy we create.

Tasca was invited by Kelly to visit Kennedy Space Center to see Endeavour launch in late May.

“We have compared time slips. I’ve got the Space Shuttle covered to 300 mph, but they keep on going. Mark said to me, ‘Bob, I’ve been on multiple shuttle launches, but I’ve felt nothing like the energy when you guys hit the throttle.’ That was cool.”

While Tasca’s season has not been what he had hoped for to this point, he looks to turn it around in Thunder Valley.

“It has been an up and down season,” he admitted. “We are taking a different approach to our tuning philosophy, trying to be more aggressive. However, you live by the sword and die by the sword, but it is early in the season and if you’re going to tinker around now is the time to do it.

“Staying in the Top-10 is critical. We have a lot of confidence with the Ford BOSS program. These hot rods run good and have plenty of power, but sometimes you need to have the luck to go with the skill. Unfortunately, we’ve come up on the wrong side of the luck part.

“When you look at the quality of cars in the field, just to make the Top-10 is going to be extremely difficult. I won’t be amazed if a big team doesn’t make it. Clearly, being in the Top-10 is our focus. I don’t care where I am in the Top-10, but when we get to the countdown and the points reset, you better be ready to run for the championship.”

Race fans will be able to see Tasca and all of the NHRA drivers unleash the power of their machines during the Father’s Day weekend Ford Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway.

Gates open at 9 a.m.  Friday, June 17 with the first round of Pro Qualifying slated for 5 p.m. The pro cars will return at 7:30 p.m. for the exciting night qualifying round. Gates open at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, June 18 with Pro Qualifying set for 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m. The Fan Fest autograph session takes place following the final round of qualifying Saturday. Sunday’s action kicks off when gates open at 8:30 a.m. A special track walk, open to fans and led by NHRA legend Kenny Bernstein, begins at 10:30 a.m. All professional drivers have been invited to take part. Final Eliminations begin at 12:00 noon. 

Ticket prices are as follows: Friday -- Sections A - D $30 Adult / $10 Junior; Sections E - U $35 Adult / $10 Junior; Thunder Terrace $35 Adult / $10 Junior, Saturday -- Sections A - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior; Sections E - U $55 Adult / $25 Junior; Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior, Sunday -- Sections A- B $20 Adult / $10 Junior, Sections C - D $45 Adult / $15 Junior, Section E – P $55 Adult/ $25 Junior, Section Q – U $20 Adult/$10 Junior, Thunder Terrace $55 Adult / $25 Junior. Weekend combos are: Sections A - B $79 Adult / $30 Junior, Section C – D $95 Adult/$30 Junior, Sections E - P $120 Adult / $50 Junior, Sections Q – U $95 Adult/$30 Junior and Thunder Terrace $120 Adult / $50 Junior. Thunder Valley Club admission for three days is $300 for adults and $100 for juniors. Three-day Bruton’s Suite admission is $450 for both adults and juniors.

To purchase tickets, please call the Bristol ticket office at 423-BRISTOL or visit www.thundervalleytix.com.