After a hectic start, Top Fuel pilot Austin Prock had an impressive inaugural season in 2019 – winning the Road to the Future Award as NHRA’s top rookie.
Prock finished eighth in the points standings, winning the race in Seattle, Aug. 4 and collecting five semifinal performances.
Now, with everything back in place, Prock is excited to get things going in 2020.
“Our whole team is gelling really well,” said Prock, 24. “Everybody is really excited, and everybody has been working hard at the shop and putting a lot of time in to make this race car better and nicer. I think all this hard work is going to pay off and show some dividends here come testing and rolling into Pomona. I’m really looking forward to it. I think we will be capable to compete for a championship again and turn on some win lights more often.”
Prock said his team plans on taking part in the Professional Racers Organization (PRO) preseason testing session, which is set to begin the last week of January and into the first weekend of February at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
The season-opening 2020 NHRA Mello Yello Series Winternationals are Feb. 6-9 in Pomona, Calif.
Prock said his crew is still in place, including crew chief Mike Green, who joined John Force Racing with Prock’s team May 7 of last year.
Green was the wrench boss for eight seasons for the U.S. Army Top Fuel dragster driven by Tony Schumacher. He guided Schumacher to 27 national event wins and world championships in 2009 and 2014.
“When you can finish a season, especially as tough as ours was, bringing people in and trying to find that core group of guys that gels together, it was a promising feeling when you get to the end of the year and everybody is still having a blast,” Prock said. “We go into work everyday and we are all friends and we go to lunch and we eat dinner together, it is one big family. That makes me happy and makes me proud that everybody enjoys each other. We’re just going to concentrate on keep making this thing better. Mike’s not satisfied and I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with.”
Prock said the last year was quite a blur beginning with him doing a crash course test session when he made his first laps in his Top Fuel dragster Feb. 3 at Wild Horse Pass Motorsports Park near Phoenix, Ariz.
“It was definitely crazy,” he said. “We had an opportunity to get me out there and they really had to just throw me to the wolves and make the best of it. I guess as crazy as the start was to get it all finished and put together, it all paid off. We had an excellent rookie season, winning rookie of the year and getting that win in Seattle. It was a dream come true. It’s weird to have an offseason this year where you have time to pick through the race car. We are still finishing up projects that we didn’t have time to finish last year just because everything was so last-minute. To have an offseason and make everything better is a good feeling.
I was joking with the graphics department they are working on wrapping my racecar right now and I told them ‘Do you remember last year when we were doing this? It was 43 degrees outside in the Pomona pits and we were wrapping the car. To see how quick, it had to go together last year and then actually have some time to perfect and make it a true, well-oiled machine (this offseason), it is promising and I’m looking forward to Pomona.”
Prock acknowledged having a year of experience driving the Top Fuel dragster will only benefit him in 2020.
“I’m obviously going into it (the season) a lot more comfortable,” Prock said. “I believe our race car is going to run better, which will make me better. We had a good car last year, but it wasn’t a great car and I drove pretty well. I ended up leading the class off the starting line and I feel like if we get the car where we can compete in the top three every time it runs down the racetrack, we are going to be pretty lethal. People didn’t enjoy racing us last year and if we get any better, they are really not going to like racing us.”
Austin said getting to work with his father/world championship crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tunes reigning nitro Funny Car world champ Robert Hight’s machine, is a bonus.
“It is cool when you get to do something like this at a professional level with your family, and having your whole family out there having your back, cheering you on and coaching you along the way,” Austin said. “I enjoy working with my dad. It is cool to have him at the shop and he and Mike (Green) communicate quite a bit.”
Travel back in time to an era when match racing was king, and race teams barnstormed the country from track to track. Go on the road with the legendary Don “The Snake” Prudhomme and Tom “The Mongoose” McEwen. #ClassicDragRacing – https://t.co/sip7hJkWr2 pic.twitter.com/Ds9ghGecUb
— Competition Plus (@competitionplus) January 15, 2020