NHRA Funny Car driver Bob Tasca III, who tested positive for the coronavirus ahead of the E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Nationals in Indianapolis, has been cleared to return to competition for the Lucas Oil NHRA Summernationals starting Saturday.
“I’m excited to be back, and I guess you could say I’m not a very good team owner,” Tasca admitted. “I could hardly watch the race last weekend. Not being there with my team and having to watch it on TV was just gut-wrenching. I’m very, very appreciative of Jonnie Lindberg and what he did for me. Without any hesitation at all, he jumped in, and I thought he did an excellent job. But like anything else, not a car he’s used to and just jumping in cold, it’s not easy to do.”
Lindberg drove his way to a quarter-final finish, scoring points for Tasca per new NHRA rules allowing for substitute drivers because of Covid-19 diagnoses. Tasca enters this weekend eighth in points on the strength of last weekend’s team finish.
“I’m thrilled to be back,” Tasca said. “It’s been a long time since I’ve been in the car, but I’ve got thousands of runs, and multiple national event wins, so I’m not a rookie. It’ll come back to me pretty fast.
“People joke. They say, ‘I hope you didn’t forget how to drive.”
“I laugh because I’m not really worried about driving. I just hope I didn’t forget how to stop. It’ll be great being back out there with the guys and we got a great car. Qualified No. 2 last weekend. Definitely had a car that could have won that race and we’re just going to go out there and try to do it again.”
To prepare for his return, Tasca has been using exercise and other strenuous activities in the July heat to prepare for the challenging conditions of Indianapolis; conditions which can be tougher than usual on coronavirus survivors. Tasca lost 11 pounds in 18 days; pounds he says he couldn’t afford to lose.
“I’ve been walking three, four miles a day in the heat, playing basketball with my kids, exercising,” Tasca explained. “I got a pool and swimming and really pushing myself. Last night was funny. My son, Cameron, calls me out all the time on challenging me on our practice tree, and I got a big setup in my basement.
“So I put the head sock on, put the helmet on, close the visor and I beat him. I think he got me eight times. I got him 11 times. And he’s the quickest. My son, Cameron, is quick. So that was good. That gave me a little bit of confidence. I’m not at peak performance, but it won’t take me long to get there.”
Tasca is clearly on the road to a full recovery, but still, some residual effects exist.
“The only lingering symptom I have is definitely from the pneumonia,” Tasca admitted. “I can feel my lungs; they’re perfectly clear. The doctor wouldn’t have released me if they weren’t. But it’s there. You can just tell you’re not a 100%. I got this little cough that comes and goes throughout the day, but other than that, I haven’t had a fever in 12 days. Knock on wood, I haven’t had those headaches which were absolutely unbearable. I had a terrible rash that has been gone. I feel like I’m in a really good place. I wish my lungs rules stronger, but they say that could be eight to 10 weeks before that comes back fully.”
This is where Tasca is thanking his blessings for the fresh-air system in his car, design to help drivers in the event of a fire.
“That makes a big difference when you got some airflow in the helmet,” Tasca said. “I’m flying my airplane tomorrow, so you got to be pretty with it to do that. I got no apprehensions at all getting in the car. In fact, I can’t wait to do it. I think it’ll help get my blood flowing. Who knows? Maybe a little bit of that nitro mixed with some of that G-Force, it might just blow this pneumonia damage right out of my lungs.”
The best therapy; however, might just be stomping on the loud pedal. The worst symptom of all with the coronavirus might just be the psychological issues it creates.
“I remember those days in the hospital,” Tasca recalled. “You’re saying to yourself, “Oh my God. How do I get back? How do I get back? How does my headaches go away? How do my fevers go away? This isn’t a five-day situation.
“It was 11 hard days for me. The first five to seven weren’t bad, but the next 11 were gut-wrenching days. For me, I had you; I had a couple of people I talked to that said, ‘Okay, you’re not going to die.”
“But then you’re in the freaking hospital. Yeah, this guy dies, and that guy dies. And I couldn’t even watch the news. I just didn’t even want to look at it because they’ve had young people with no underlying conditions die.
“And that’s what makes this so scary. You don’t know how it’s going to affect you. I described it to people that this affects your nervous system from being able to move, to tasting and smelling and extreme headaches, to your heart. My heart raced for days — 110 to 140 resting heart rate. My normal resting heart rate is 65. And pulmonary. I think that’s one of the most serious parts of it. It’s not being able to breathe the way you were. It is what it is, and you just have to get through it. But I’m fortunate that I was able to pull through and never went on a respirator.”
And, as Tasca makes his first hit since last February, he’ll be reminded there’s a lot more he’s fortunate for.
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) July 15, 2020