POMONA, Calif. – Bob Tasca III wasn't really happy with the way he ended 2011. But he's been all smiles so far in 2012.
Tasca vaulted to the top of the Funny Car chart after two qualifying sessions Friday to hold the provisional No. 1 qualifier for the season-opening O'Reilly Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.
Funny Car was the lone pro category to have a change in No. 1s from Thursday, as Morgan Lucas held on in Top Fuel and Mike Edwards in Pro Stock.
Tasca made a pass of 4.109 seconds at 309.34 mph in Friday's Q2 to vault past Jack Beckman's 4.139 at 308.114 run from Thursday.
"We've got high expectations for our program," Tasca said. "I'm not out here for any other reason than to compete for a championship. This is my fifth year racing, and this is our best shot to do that. We've got to put together a lot of runs, a lot of good races, but it starts right here in Pomona. We're pretty happy so far."
Tasca's team conducted two extended test sessions since the season ended at Pomona last November. He finished second in the Funny Car points standings last year but failed to win a race and had only one No. 1 qualifier. Plus, he finished the season by losing in the first round of the final race.
"It wasn't much of an off-season for us," Tasca said. "We tested a week in December, another week-plus in January. We've got probably 50 runs on that Motorcraft/Quick Lane car. We were disappointed in how we finished the season last year, so we dug deep this off-season. We made some great runs in testing, and it's always nice to translate that into a race-day tuneup."
Two more qualifying sessions are slated for Saturday, where weather conditions should mean for lower elapsed times.
"We're expecting much quicker runs tomorrow," Tasca said. "They're saying 65, 70 degrees. These race cars have plenty of power, so it's all about applying that power. When the track temperature comes down, you can apply more power. No way that .10 holds up, so we're going to have to go quicker to be back here tomorrow."
Defending Funny Car champion Matt Hagan was third with a pass of 4.154 seconds at 310.91 mph.
Lucas figures he'll have to go faster Saturday, too, but he's ready for a banzai run.
"I really like this car right now," Lucas said. "I really like going fast in this car. Any chance we get to go out there and pour the coals on it, I'm on it."
Lucas has been on top of the Top Fuel class for two consecutive qualifying sessions, following up Thursday's 3.832 at 320.28 seconds in Q1 with a 3.835 at 316.38 mph.
That's a far cry from the way he ended 2011, when he failed to qualify for three of the last five races. But new crew chief Aaron Brooks and co-crew chief Rod Centorbi have Lucas' GEICO/Lucas Oil dragster flying.
"I feel as shocked as anybody right now that we're still on top with a 3.83," Lucas said. "They're both great runs. It's such consistent conditions for that we went out there with the same race car. Just this time, it dropped a cylinder down track. It was on pace to run an .82.
"I've got to sing the praises of the guys. They're doing an excellent job making sure the car's consistent right now and put together as perfect as they can make it. We've adopted the motto, 'If it's not perfect, it's not right.' That's the way we have to approach things this year."
Tony Schumacher (3.837 secons/321.42 mph) remains second, with Khalid al-Balooshi (3.845/317.49 mph) third.
Edwards' run of 6.545 at 211.86 mph remained No. 1 in Pro Stock, but he wasn't happy with his pass of 6.571 at 211.53 mph run on Q2.
"You want to see how competitive you really are compared to the other teams," Edwards said of the season-opening race. "I feel like we're still plenty competitive. We're just going to have to make a few adjustments. We're racing the same car we had last year, so we feel real comfortable with our car. We tried some things today that obviously didn't work very good, so we can throw them out the window."
"We absolutely have the ability; we've just to go out there and do it," Edwards said. "I really think tomorrow is going to be our best session of the weekend. These engines, these cars, they love cool temperatures. It should be really good tomorrow."
Ronnie Humphrey (6.548/211.96 mph) is second, with Allen Johnson (6.548/211.39) moving up to third.