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Prock saddles Top Fuel field with first-ever No. 1 qualifier at Texas NHRA FallNationals

by Michael Haag | Posted on Saturday, October 15th, 2022

Austin Prock. Photo courtesy of the NHRA


By Michael Haag

ENNIS, Texas — Before qualifying began on Friday, NHRA’s youngest Top Fuel driver Austin Prock said it would take a run of 3.68 or 3.67 seconds to put himself in a good position at the Texas NHRA FallNationals. The field was competing for $15,000 on Friday, and Prock was no favorite to win it by any means. 

If anything, fellow teammate Brittany Force was in the mix for who would remain on the saddle at the end of the night. Slated as the second-to-last matchup, the ultimate moment came when the John Force Racing teammates Prock and Brittany lined up against each other Friday night. 

Austin Prock. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

A well-executed side-by-side run saw the fastest run of the day, clocked at 3.682 seconds at 334.57 mph, by Prock, not Brittany. The 27-year-old took his seat on the saddle and never came off it, earning his team the $15,000 prize. 

“I’ve dreamt of getting a number one qualifier,” Prock said Friday night. “But the coolest part was doing it right next to my teammate, going one-two. John Force Racing, we won the 15 grand last year in Top Fuel and Funny Car and, to go one-two in dragster again this year, that just says how strong this team is.”

It wasn’t a guarantee that Prock would keep the prize or the top-spot, as the field would get another shot on Saturday to qualify and take the throne. Despite Brittany’s best efforts, the 2019 NHRA Rookie of the Year remained in the lead, allowing him and his team to keep the money in the process.

When JFR took a step back due to the pandemic in 2020, Prock did not get back into the seat until the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing season. It was a long time away from the sport, but it allowed to Prock to truly realize what he was made to do in life. 

Austin Prock. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

“This is my dream to come out and drive these racecars, be a professional race car driver,” Prock said. “Really learned that this is what I’m meant to do and what I want to do for the rest of my life. No better place than John Force Racing.”

Prock was in the process of building a house when the pandemic hit, and once he lost his seat in the racecar he needed to get a job for financial reasons. He got work in construction, and that’s when he realized what the worst thing was about not being in the racecar. 

“That real jobs suck,” Prock said. “Definitely realized that racing is what I’m meant to do.”

Brittany, who was edged out by Prock on Saturday, talked about the benefit to having Prock back on the team following his temporary departure. 

“Yeah, we were excited to have him return,” Brittany said. “It was tough after COVID and we lost a teammate. We want him out here, he’s great for the sport.”

Brittany Force. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

She said it’s all love until the two clash head-to-head on the track. 

“There’s moments where we share information, but when we pull next to each other, it’s may the best man win,” Brittany said. “Happy to have him back, we need him out here.”

16-time Funny Car champion John Force echoed Brittany’s comments, as he said Prock “drives the heck out of it.” 

What John focused on, though, is how the youngster has potential to take over for him one day. The 73-year-old’s days are numbered in this sport, but he’s grateful to have Prock locked and loaded for that day to come. 

“He’s got a future here,” John said. “That’s what we’re building for. We got him back in the seat, so it’s good to have him. And I ain’t going to last forever. I need a replacement.”

John Force Racing. Photo courtesy of the NHRA

Ultimately though, Prock has a task ahead of him this weekend that is larger than just a win. Obviously he’d like to prevail and move up in the standings, but with teammate Brittany in the running for a championship, he’d like to also help a teammate out.

“There’s two of our dragsters at John Force Racing for a reason, and that’s to help each other out when it counts,” Prock said. “We’re going to do our job to try and knock out the people that are right in front of her or on her tail.”

On Sunday, Prock will square off against Alex Laughlin in the opening round of the Top Fuel class at the Texas NHRA FallNationals at Texas Motorplex.

About the Author

Michael Haag is a Journalism student at Baylor University in Waco, TX. He is also Sports Editor for the school's student newspaper, the Baylor Lariat. He has covered the 2022 Allstate Sugar Bowl and multiple Texas Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremonies at the site in Waco. Michael has covered Baylor football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and more for the Baylor Lariat. He plans to finish in the spring of 2025 with a bachelor's degree in news-editorial journalism.