CONCORD, N.C. – With a learning curve that’s already been impressive during his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rookie season, Top Fuel driver Austin Prock is eager to show more improvement during this weekend’s 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Prock made his four-wide debut in Las Vegas earlier this month in his 10,000-horsepower Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster, quickly learning what it takes to be successful at drag racing’s biggest spectacle. It’s an atmosphere he enjoyed and, despite a first-round loss in Vegas, Prock is looking forward to competing in four-wide racing at the Bellagio of dragstrips.
“It’s a little different than I expected, but we caught on and we’re pretty confident heading into this weekend,” said Prock, who is 11th in Top Fuel points. “I like the fact that you can beat three guys at once and you can even beat three guys on a holeshot. For a driver, that gets me pumped to try and leave on three people. That’s a cool part of the race, but this is just something that’s different. It’s exciting to switch things up every once in a while and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. It is the sixth of 24 events during the NHRA season and marks a special race, as one of the most unique experiences in motorsports turns 10 years old. It’s the first for Prock in Charlotte, but he’s banking on more improvement.
The team, led by crew chiefs Ronnie Thompson and John Schaffer, came together quickly in the off-season and is filled with newcomers, meaning Prock isn’t the only rookie to John Force Racing’s second-ever Top Fuel car. But Prock has grown right along with them, a process that has made everyone better through the first five races of the season. Of course, learning has never been a problem for Prock, the son of famed JFR crew chief Jimmy Prock. He has leaned on Top Fuel teammate Brittany Force, a former world champion who won the most recent event in Houston, as well as John Force and Robert Hight for advice, listening every step of the way.
“Working with this team, it really just makes the learning process way shorter for me,” Prock said. “All three of my teammates are world champions. They’ve been there, done that, so if I have any questions I can go to them right off the bat. My ears are always open and that definitely helps. Working with my dad, he’s one of the greatest ever and he’s worked with a lot of talented drivers, so anything he tells me, I’m going to make sure and listen.”
Prock isn’t shy about having big goals, either. With the team around him, he wants to be competing for race wins and No. 1 qualifiers. He has posted three round wins thus far, including one in Houston, but Prock is ready for more. He takes a great deal of pride in his reaction times and is after a big performance in Charlotte against the likes of defending world champion Torrence, points leader Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican and Antron Brown.
“Just because I’m a rookie doesn’t mean we can’t win rounds, set low E.T. or win races,” Prock said. “But it’s super competitive out there. You know you have to go up there and leave on the other guy because it’s always going to be a close race. But we’ve put together a great team and everyone keeps showing a lot of promise.”