2019 NHRA Rookie of the Year loses Top Fuel ride with JFR, will stay on in crew member, super-sub role.
The 25-year-old rising star in the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series, was left off the organization’s driver roster for 2021 for financial reasons.
Instead of racing, Prock helps crew chief dad Jimmy Prock work on Robert Hight’s Auto Club Chevy Funny Car.
Prock scored his lone Top Fuel victory on the way to earning his 2019 NHRA rookie-of-the-year status.
Source: Auto Week, BY SUSAN WADE
Featured image: MARC GEWERTZ/NATIONAL DRAGSTER 2019
Austin Prock’s Top Fuel dragster sits idle at the massive John Force Racing shop at Brownsburg, Ind.
Prock, however, won’t be idle.
The 25-year-old rising star in the Camping World NHRA Drag Racing Series, for financial reasons, was left off the organization’s driver roster when it announced Tuesday that the team would return to competition at the March 11-14 season-opening Gatornationals at Gainesville, Fla.
“John Force gave me a great opportunity to be a professional race-car driver, and that’s what I’ve aimed for my entire life,” Prock, an accomplished circle-track racer said just before competing at the recent Chili Bowl Midget Nationals.
His dream will be in neutral until Force can find funding for the team’s second dragster. Prock’s car had been sponsored by Frank Tiegs’ Montana Brand and Rocky Mountain Twist. Tiegs also owns Flav-R-Pac, which is one of two major sponsors of Brittany Force’s Top Fuel entry.
John Force told Autoweek Tuesday, “I’m going to focus on three cars: Brittany’s Monster Energy/Flav-R-Pac Top Fueler, Robert’s Auto Club Chevy Funny Car, and my Peak Chevy Funny Car. I had to park the one car. Austin Prock is still with me. He’ll be working on his dad’s team. He will be testing my car. And I’ll be keeping him in the Top Fuel car. And in the Funny Car. I’m sure he’s had job offers, but he decided to stay with me. And I’m going to try to bring that car back. That’s my plan.”
He declined to give a target date for Prock’s return to the racetrack.
“I don’t even want to talk about it. I told him I couldn’t guarantee a ride,” Force said.
He understood the sport needs young racers such as Prock, 25. “Without a doubt,” Force, 71, said. Hight, a three-time Funny Car champion, is 51, and 2017 Top Fuel champion Brittany Force is 34.
“I’ve got Robert. I’ve got Brittany. But it’d be nice to have the kid (he typically refers to his youngest driver as ‘the Prock kid’) if I stepped out of the seat. But I can’t sit here and promise him what I can’t guarantee. I told him that I’m going to continue to find a sponsor. I’ve got Joe Barlam to run the car. I’ve kept some of the people [from] that team.
“But I had to look at the world different,” Force said.
“The one thing I told my sponsors is if I’m going to go back—I’ve made cuts everywhere to make it work—but if I have to cut the shot at winning, then I’m not going to go back,” he said.
“I kept my leads. Lost a few people along the way, but we’re going to go back and focus on these three teams. And I’m going to find a fourth team. That team sits right there in Indy. I don’t know—Montana Brand could come back. Frank Tiegs owns Flav-R-Pac, and Frank Tiegs owns Montana Brand. We made a decision—the company and us—to park that car for now and to focus on these three. And I’m lucky to have the Prock kid still with me, and I hope I can put him back in [a race car]. But I can’t put a timetable on that. I’d be lyin’ if I did that.”
Prock scored his lone Top Fuel victory on the way to earning his 2019 NHRA rookie-of-the-year status. It came that August, at Seattle, the day Force claimed his milestone 150th victory.
On his Facebook page, Prock posted Tuesday, “It was fun while it lasted, but unfortunately I have been released of my driving duties at JFR and will not be competing in the 2021 NHRA season. Thank you Montana Brand Tools #Rocky Mountain Twist for allowing me to live my dream. TIME TO HUSTLE.”