This Dealer Really Does Race on Sunday, Sell on Monday

Bob Tasca III is a drag racer and oversees his family dealership group’s extensive fixed operations.

Steve Finlay, Senior Editor

May 23, 2014

10 Min Read
Tasca inspired by grandfather
Tasca inspired by grandfather.

Bob Tasca III is a third-generation dealer who lives life in the fast lane, at least on weekends.

As a vice president at Tasca Automotive Group, he focuses on fixed operations. But he’s also a professional drag racer in the National Hot Rod Assn.

He drives a Ford Mustang Shelby Funny Car sponsored by Ford’s Motorcraft auto-parts division and QuickLane, the automaker’s franchise of automotive service centers. 

His late grandfather, Bob Tasca, a longtime Ford dealer and one-time drag racer, started the family business. In 1943, at age 16, he began working at a Ford dealership in Cranston, RI. Ten years later, he opened Tasca Ford. In 1962, he found Tasca Racing, now based in Concord, NC.

The elder Tasca’s Ford dealership became one of the largest in the country. He became an influential go-to guy for the automaker’s top executives, including the late Henry Ford II.

Tasca Automotive now represents several brands in Massachusetts, Connecticut and its home state of Rhode Island. 

In a Q&A, Bob Tasca III, 38, discusses the differences and similarities between dealership work and racing, lessons his grandfather taught him, growing up in a no-nonsense dealership family and whether he wants his sons to follow in his footsteps.    

WardsAuto: Your grandfather was pretty famous. 

Tasca: He accomplished so much on the drag strip and back at the dealership. He coined the term, “Win on Sunday, sell on Monday.” There is no truer statement when it comes to the sport of drag racing.

The fans who come out to support us are the customers we see at the dealership. They buy our parts and our cars and trucks. My grandfather built a business on that model in the 1960s, and it grew from there.

He got out of racing in the mid-1970s, and focused more of his energies back at the dealerships. He started to grow the business with my father and two uncles.

I got into drag racing through stories of what my grandfather did. I was fascinated. I started driving just to see if I could do it. You can’t fake it. You either can or can’t get behind the wheel of one of these things.

My brothers and cousins are involved at the dealerships, and we’re all car people. We’ve been referred to as an automotive army. But I’m the only racer in the family.

WardsAuto: When did you get into it?

Tasca: At 16. I started professionally in 2007. I set the top Alcohol Funny Car world record in 2008 in Gainesville, FL, and went to Top Fuel Racing in 2009.

Still Involved With Dealership

WardsAuto: And you still work at the dealership?

Tasca: Oh yeah. I’m very involved in our fixed operations, parts and service, our truck center and body-shop operations.

We have one of the largest wholesale parts operations in the country. We do over $42 million a year in parts sales. When I started racing, we were doing $40,000 a month. We’ve really grown that with our Ford Motorcraft parts sales.

My cousins, Carl Tasca Jr. and David Tasca Jr. are extremely active in the company, more so on the front end. They’re unbelievably talented. My brother Michael runs our Dodge store. My sister, Jaime, does business development and customer service for the company. We all have strong suits and work well together.

WardsAuto: The dealership group still skews towards Ford. 

Tasca: We just acquired a third Ford store, our first in Connecticut. Ford is our primary brand, but we represent Nissan, Volvo, Mazda, Lincoln, Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and GMC-Buick. We’ve acquired dealerships in the past 18 months. We’ve got a couple more we’re working on.

WardsAuto: It sounds like a new generation of the family is firmly entrenched in the business.

Tasca: My dad and two uncles took over from my grandfather, and they are still involved. But yes, the third generation essentially runs things. My dad is like the politician of the family. He goes to all the meetings and does PR stuff.   

We have a core management team we’ve built over the years, and we don’t micromanage our managers. That’s how I’m able to do what I do. We have very structured monthly meetings. Managers are on a plan for the month, quarter and year. It’s reported out daily, so there are no surprises. We sell about 1,000 cars a month now. It’s a big business, and we’re disciplined on how we run it.

WardsAuto: How many stores are there altogether?

Tasca: Eight rooftops as well as a separate truck center and the wholesale parts operations run out of a 65,000-sq.-ft. (6,038-sq.-m) building. We’re on base to become the largest dealer Ford has ever had in parts.

The parts business is complicated. It is low-margin and process-driven. You need big volume. It’s difficult for people to break into this market because of the cash it can tie up with inventory and receivables. But it’s a great business for the teams that get it right.

Dealer Consultant to Ford

WardsAuto: Your grandfather was a close consultant to Ford, offering a lot of advice to the automaker. Are you involved like that?

Tasca: I am on some of their dealer committees. The most important is the product committee. Ford doesn’t fall into the trap of only hearing from itself all day. It brings in dealers for very confidential product reviews.

We talk about current, future and potential products, what customers are saying and what we think as we try to decipher some of the market research they’re gathering.

Ford tries to ground itself to make right decisions. It doesn’t just do what we dealers say it should do, but it certainly listens. We’ve had an impact on the direction of many products.

You’ve got to give Ford a lot of credit. No one is perfect, but you can see its track record in the past several years. It hasn’t made many mistakes.

WardsAuto: Your grandfather was involved in a similar setup, wasn’t he?

Tasca: He and Bert Boeckmann (of the California-based Galpin dealership group that includes the world’s largest Ford store) started the first dealer product advisory committee years ago with Henry Ford II (the late company chairman).

Today, Bert’s son Beau Boeckmann and I sit on the same committee. We were put on it at the same time. We’re two very vocal members. Hey, we live with the customer day in and day out.

WardsAuto: Have you gotten to know any members of the Ford family?

Tasca: I am impressed with Elena Ford (a vice president and grand-daughter of Henry Ford II). She has a great work ethic and brings a lot to the Ford family.     

WardsAuto: Did Grandpa Bob Tasca pass on any words of wisdom?

Tasca: More than we have time to talk about. I was blessed to be around him as long as I was. He died at age 83 in 2010. He was as much a part of my life as my own father.

One of his classic lines was: “Ask the right people the right questions and remember the answers.” That’s priceless. But he added that if you ask the wrong people the right questions, you can get in trouble. Likewise if you ask the right people the wrong questions.

WardsAuto: Your dealership job and racing seem so diametrically opposed. How do you handle the right-brain, left-brain thing?

Tasca: I think they are almost exactly the same from a standpoint of winning, drive, competitiveness, attitude, confidence, picking yourself up off the ground whether you’ve had a bad month or a bad race.

You’ve got to work a plan and be process-driven in racing, and you have to have an aggressive go-out-and-win attitude at the dealership. You win and you lose. The better teams win more.

Racing is humbling. Much more luck plays into racing than into business. That’s one big difference. The average racing fan doesn’t realize how much luck is involved in winning or losing races, though clearly the harder you work and more organized you are, the luckier you get.

From Working Full-Time to All-Time

WardsAuto: Where did you go to school?

Tasca: I’m a Providence College graduate in business management. I didn’t have much of a college life. I would get to school early so I could park my car near where my last class would be, typically on the other side of the campus. I did that so I could get to work quicker. That was sort of sick.

When I graduated from college, I said to my uncle, “I’ve been working full-time at the dealership since high school. What do I do now?” He said, “Now, you work all-time.”

It’s a work ethic my grandfather instilled. He didn’t care if you were his son or grandson when it came to work. My grandmother would tell him, “You’re too hard on them, they’re going to leave you.” He said, “If they leave, they’ll be smarter than when they came.”

As a family member, you didn’t walk in and get the big job. You started cleaning cars and moved up a job at a time.

WardsAuto: Was it like that for every family member?

Tasca: Oh yeah. My Uncle Carl tells the story that as a kid he was washing cars for two years and he said, “Dad, when can I do something different?” My grandfather said, “When you learn to wash cars the way I want them washed.” You earned what you got. I made minimum wage before I graduated from college. That’s the way he was. He did pay overtime, though.

WardsAuto: Does that early experience help now?

Tasca: Coming up through the business is what it’s all about. When we have a meeting or hire anybody, we know their job, because we’ve done it. We’ve been there. It gives us a lot of credibility with the 600 dedicated men and women who work for this business.

WardsAuto: So you started working at the dealership when you were 16?

Tasca: No, I started popping in and out to work when I was 10 or 11 years old. I became very active at 16.

WardsAuto: Any kids of your own?

Tasca: I have four boys, 11, 9, 7 and 3. I plan to do things a little different with them. I want them to go to college, live at school and get an experience there. I lived at the dealership.

All four of my sons play hockey. They get it from their mom’s side of the family. They’re immersed in it. I had never put on skates until my oldest son started hockey. They have an incredible work ethic on the ice and they’ve learned how to win and how to lose. My 11-year-old will be at the dealership washing cars and stocking shelves this summer.

WardsAuto: Would you like your kids to become professional drag racers?

Tasca: I told them I’d like them to become crew chiefs because they make more money and it’s safer.    

WardsAuto: Will your kids work at Tasca as adults?

Tasca: It’s up to them. If it’s what they have a passion for, they’ll get an opportunity, but no guarantees. I’ll support them in whatever direction they want to go. You might not see all of them in the car business, but I suspect you will see one or two.

My grandfather said, “Find something you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I was born into this business and absolutely love it.

WardsAuto: What’s more fun, racing or working at the dealership?

Tasca: It all depends. You win a race, it’s racing, baby. If we got a killer month going at the dealership, it’s the dealership. Winning is more fun than losing.  

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