Austin Prock scored his first NHRA victory in August and stole a sliver of the spotlight that glared on boss John Force for capturing his milestone 150th in a Funny Car.

That afternoon, just 17 days before his 24th birthday, the dragster-driving rookie said, “I’ve wanted this since I was knee high. Ever since I could think, I wanted to drive a Top Fuel car.”

How could that be? By the time he went to work as a crew member for John Force Racing, Prock had earned 27 midget and sprint car racing trophies among his 84 top-five finishes in 139 races. He had been competing in a race car since he was 10 years old and was a winner by his 12th birthday.

“To be honest, I never liked drag racing, unless it was a nitro car. I always said I didn’t want to drive anything else unless it was a nitro car,” Prock said. “And I got the opportunity and I ate it up. I always dreamed of racing a nitro car, but I had no interest in bracket racing or anything like that. I grew up around Top Fuel dragsters and nitro Funny Cars. That’s the baddest drag car on the planet. When you grow up around that, you don’t want to drive anything slower than that.

“I went up and did the circle track route as a young kid,” he continued. “I thought it was awesome that my great-grandfather raced circle track and I could kind of try and go a path that he went, be a little different from the last few generations.”

According to drag-racing historian Don Prieto, Prock’s great-grandfather — named Jimmy, like Austin’s dad (the crew chief at John Force Racing for two-time Funny Car champion Robert Hight) — was a midget racer and riding mechanic at the Indianapolis 500 with Chet Miller.

“But,” Austin Prock said, “it was just inevitable that I was going to end up out here after as much success as my grandfather had, and my dad has had. It was almost meant to be.”

Force, Hight and iconic JFR tuner Austin Coil might not have pictured him driving a dragster and excelling in the sport’s headliner class. Someone told Coil years ago that Austin and brother Thomas Prock were polite youngsters and Coil did a double take, as if he discovered the speaker had three heads.

And on the weekend Austin Prock debuted, during February at the Winternationals in Pomona, Calif., Hight said of the rookie’s dad, “I believe you could set the trailer on fire and Jimmy wouldn’t know it. He is so focused on tuning my race car — I’m not kidding. When his kids used to be little, Austin and Thomas, they would be running around, tearing up s—, and he didn’t notice a thing.”

Austin Prock.

Austin Prock owned up to his rowdiness and dismissed it as “just being a young kid, you know. We were always stirring the pot, that’s for sure. That was 15 years ago — I don’t know exactly what we were doing, but we were always up to no good. We were just young and dumb and having fun.”

He’s still young and having fun, but he’s not doing anything dumb — and he shows the same intensity and confidence his father exhibits.

“I kind of thrive off confidence. That’s how I get by. If I don’t feel confident in something, I’m not going to be very good at it. It’s just how I’m built,” Austin Prock said. “I’ve been oddly comfortable ever since we got to Pomona. I was never nervous going into Pomona as much as I should have been. I haven’t been nervous all year. I’ll roll up against anybody in the Top Fuel category. I feel like if I just go up there and do my job and do the best I can, hopefully, the outcome comes our way.”

Prock knows he has a lot to live up to.

“I’ve got big shoes to fill,” he said. “I’ve got John Force behind me, Don Prudhomme, my dad, my grandpa, my uncle Jeff.”

Through a timely conversation with a buddy during the Barrett-Jackson Auction in Scottsdale, Ariz., just before the start of this season, Prudhomme arranged for Montana Brand and Rocky Mountain Twist to sponsor Prock’s dragster. The drag-racing legend, known simply as “The Snake,” has said all along that “the kid is dynamite.”

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