Newly-minted NMCA Factory Super Cars champion Geoff Turk, fresh removed from an historic season of competition in which he garnered the first-ever seven-second run by a Stock Eliminator car, will launch his title defense next season with a clean slate as he will team up with friend Carl Tasca and the iconic Tasca Ford conglomerate to campaign a brand new 2018 Ford Mustang Cobra Jet in the NMCA and NHRA Factory Stock Showdown.
Turk, a lifelong racer who has campaigned an assortment of Chrysler-branded vehicles during his lengthy career, has spent the last two seasons perfecting his Mopar Drag Pak Dodge Challenger program, propelling his Blackbird machine into the history books in March of this year when he recorded a 7.99 at the NMCA season opener in Bradenton, Florida. The first of the Mopar racers to hit the ground with newly-approved aluminum engine block and cylinder heads last summer, Turk quickly did what many said couldn’t be done — first qualifying, then going rounds, and later setting the class on its ear with a national record run and later the historic seven. He then parlayed his strong performance into the aforementioned title in come-from-behind fashion at the NMCA’s World Street Finals, capping a career-defining year for he and wife, Sandy.
But from racing to the corporate boardroom, Turk has calculated his moves in life on the personal and professional challenge that opportunities present, and his new Ford program and partnership with Tasca offer, among other objectives that he lays out, a fresh new challenge — to take a program that’s lagged behind his own in the performance department and push it to the head of the class, just as he did with the long-beleaguered Hemi-powered Drag Pak.
“A lot of people are going to want to know why I would ever walk away from Mopar, given the success that I’ve had running their cars and decades of time spent running their cars; and number one, I enjoy new challenges and doing something that people haven’t been able to do, or figure it out in a way they haven’t figured out. It’s a new challenge, a new hill to climb, a new obstacle that others haven’t done; no one has run a seven in these cars yet and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen this year. And so my goal is to try to help make that happen and try to solve the puzzle. A lot of people are complaining that the Ford is down on cubic-inches and has all of these disadvantages, and I look at it and see all these advantages and think ‘why couldn’t we take those advantages and do even better than we did with the Mopar?’
A lot of people are complaining that the Ford is down on cubic-inches and has all of these disadvantages, and I look at it and see all these advantages and think ‘why couldn’t we take those advantages and do even better than we did with the Mopar? – Geoff Turk
The second objective, one he puts on equal footing to tackling new challenges, is aligning himself with quality individuals whose hearts and minds are unified with his.
“The new challenges, a new hill to climb, that’s always intriguing to me, but right up there with that is racing with great people. The great people in this starts with the Tasca crew. Long before we partnered on this Ford program, these guys were helping me at races, bringing me food because they knew I was racing by myself. The Tasca team, all the way back to last year, every time I needed help or support they were right there with me and they’re just a great group of people. That starts with Carl, but his Uncle Bert, Greg, Donny, and everyone there, they’re a great group of guys. And you want to race with great people.
“I have the utmost respect for Geoff and Sandy —they’re wonderful people,” Tasca shares. “He’s been extremely successful with the Mopar’s and I admire him and what he’s done. After he beat me three or four times, I told Uncle Bert, ‘maybe we can convince this fella’ to run a Cobra Jet. And it wasn’t easy, it took some time. I’m just thrilled that we’re going to partner up and both drive Ford’s next year. And between Tony Bischoff’s knowledge and Geoff and my team (which includes Bert Maher, Greg Grimes, Don Belanger, Don Barry, and Dennis Gomes) working together, I think we’re going to give those Mopars a run for their money next year.”
Turk continues, “And then you move into the Ford Motor Company; you have Mike Delahanty [Ford Performance Drag Racing Program Manager], who understands drag racers and is a drag racer and supports the racers. You have Mark Wilson, who is a Ford executive, that wants the Cobra Jet program to be successful. He obviously knows how to make a sustainable business case for the program and the guy loves cars, gets car-people and gets cars. And then you have Dave Born, the chief engineer of the program who actually came to to find me — I didn’t go find him, he came and found me — at the U.S. Nationals, who knows his stuff. He’s on top of the program, got what he wanted as far as a budget, and engineered a really well-put-together product, and is another great guy. The transparency and candid nature of these guys — you ask them a point-blank question and you get a point-blank answer. They have their act together and they’re aligned.”
I don’t want to go to the racetrack every Sunday and beat a Ford, I want a Ford to beat a Chevy and a Mopar. I don’t care if it’s my Ford, Turk’s Ford, Gardner Stone, or Chuck Watson. – Carl Tasca
Turk doesn’t pull any punches that what he faces is an uphill battle, as the Ford contingent has been honing and refining its combination for a number of years, making performance gains in the future harder to expose than perhaps what he’d experience on the Mopar side.
“None of this to take away from the fact that there are great people racing this product; you have guys like [Chuck] Watson, who is a very good man with a very good team, and guys like [Chris] Holbrook, a talented engine builder and experienced racer. So it’s not like nobody is racing these cars that doesn’t know what they’re doing, so in a way it makes the challenge more difficult than the Mopar challenge, because when I started racing the Mopar, I was the lone ranger. There are some really smart people trying to make these cars run, who have also done well with them, and I’m entering the fray running these cars with Tasca, who has done pretty well with his, as well.”
The last point Turk makes is the great product that Ford offers in their Cobra Jet and supercharged Coyote engine package.
“As much as I love Mopar, and I’ve raced them for 40 years, the first race engine I ever helped build was a 302 Ford for my buddy’s ’66 Falcon. The second engine I ever built was a 289 Ford for a friend’s ’65 Mustang. My good, lifelong friend races Fords, my brother runs Pontiacs. I’m an American muscle guy, always have been, it just so happens I picked Mopars and stayed with them. But I’ve owned all kinds of vehicles on the street, including Fords and lots of Chevrolets, lots of Pontiacs and Chrysler products. But my interest has always been in making cars go fast, and so the Cobra Jets and COPO’s have always interested me. So for the people who really know me, choosing to run a Cobra Jet isn’t a big, crazy thing. And they’re great products.”
Turk adds, “Despite some of their disadvantages — less cubic-inches is one — aerodynamically they’re much better, and I’m very interested in working with [engine builder] Tony Bischoff in making the Coyote engine as good as it can be. Cylinder head-wise, basic engine architecture-wise, it’s a very modern, super-capable platform, and I’m anxious to see what we can do with it.”
For Tasca, getting the Ford program back to the head of the class is as much about competition as it is about defending his legendary father’s legacy — the late Bob Tasca, Sr., who played a pivotal role in launching the original Cobra Jet program in 1968. A championship for the Ford brigade in 2019 would mark an extra special accomplishment — and a nod to the legacy of Tasca, Sr. — as the Cobra Jet program celebrates its 50th anniversary.
“I don’t want to go to the racetrack every Sunday and beat a Ford, I want a Ford to beat a Chevy and a Mopar. I don’t care if it’s my Ford, Turk’s Ford, Gardner Stone, or Chuck Watson.”
Statistically speaking, jumping camps from Mopar — a brand which has recorded all but one of the handful of seven-second runs in the history of the class — to Ford, takes Turk from frontrunner to underdog status; a position he relishes and thrives in.
“I want to be on the side of the David’s, not the Goliath’s. There’s no fun in me winning when I’m part of the Goliath organization. I want to be the underdog, I want to be part of the team that no one thinks can win. The things we’re choosing to do are things most people would say are crazy, you can’t do that. You can’t create a 1.3 million pound, 3,900 horsepower mining truck from thin air in 19 months and beat Komatsu because they tried to threaten your domain. But we did. You can’t create the world’s first hybrid hydraulic excavator that burns half as much fuel and digs twice as much dirt. You can’t do that. You can’t save the steel industry, it’s done and it has no future and all those jobs are going away and it’s time to get on with it. You shouldn’t go waste your life trying to save that dying dinosaur of an industry or company. But we did. I like doing those kinds of things, they draw me in.”
I want to be on the side of the David’s, not the Goliath’s. There’s no fun in me winning when I’m part of the Goliath organization. I want to be the underdog, I want to be part of the team that no one thinks can win. – Geoff Turk
While the badge on the grille will change, what will not are the chief supporters behind Turk’s efforts in the Factory Stock ranks: Tony Bischoff and the team at BES Racing Engines, Mike Roth at MR2 Performance and JR1 Racing Oil, and Jason Coan and company at Coan Racing.
“That group of people wants to do this with me, with Tasca, and they’re bought into this. Tony is up for a new challenge every day just like I am — we thrive on this,” he says.
As a key piece in their partnership, Tasca and Turk will co-develop engines with Bischoff, Turk noting, “this is a huge thing, because engine development is where the big money is at.” The duo will also work in unison with Coan to develop the driveline components for their Cobra Jets that will make their cars easier to drive and better-performing, and Roth, a revered Stock and Super Stock chassis guru and the builder of many of the fastest Factory Showdown entries, will play a role in optimizing the team’s Cobra Jet to do the same.
Turk, who has had a lifelong fascination with the aeronautical and space industry — evidenced by the SR-71 Blackbird theme on his Drag Pak — will carry on that tradition by emblazoning his Tasca & Turk Cobra Jet with the colors of the famed X-15 hypersonic experimental rocket plane operated by the U.S. Air Force in the mid-1960s.
“The SR-71 was the baddest manned aircraft known to man, as they started pushing the envelope in a whole new technology, they went into the rocket plane era to explore the edge of space and manned flight. They created the X-15 and it flew twice as fast the SR-71, so that’s why we’re calling this new car the X-15. Whether we get to the destination or not, the journey will have been worth it.”
Turk intends to keep his beloved Blackbird Challenger, noting, “it’s a piece of history, and it has a piece of me and Sandy in it, and it’s done something for both of us that’s beyond anything any racecar has ever done for anybody in my family. It isn’t because I have any intent to retreat,” he says with a laugh,” adding, “like a good explorer learned, when you land, you burn the ship. We’re burning the ships, we’re not going to go racing a Mopar again in the foreseeable future.”
Turk expects to take delivery of his new Cobra Jet early next year, and will kick off his title defense in Bradenton, Florida March 7-10. Turk and Tasca are intent on running the full slate of NMCA and NHRA events — Tasca’s resources and manpower making it possible for the duo to campaign both cars at all of the races. For the two highly-successful businessmen and racers, 2019 is all about returning the blue oval brand to Factory Stock superiority, while simply enjoying the camaraderie and the challenge of it all along their path.
“This move is about new challenges that I can engage with with great people and a great team of people, and run great products,” Turk says in closing, as Tasca adds, “I always say if you can’t beat them, join them. I couldn’t beat Geoff, so he joined us. I guess that’s close enough.”