Austin Prock won his first Top Fuel race in his first Top Fuel final, defeating Steve Torrence while piloting his Montana Brand Top Fuel dragster. That win put Prock into a tie with Richie Crampton in ninth place in the Top Fuel standings, but on Sunday at the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals, it was all about the Wally.
Prock’s Top Fuel career is only 18 races old, but he is driving for his second crew chief after starting the season with Ronnie Thompson and Jon Schaffer at the helm of his dragster. The season, which started abruptly before preseason testing in Phoenix, began with first-round wins at back-to-back races. It took 10 races for Prock to reach his first semifinal and, ultimately, 18 for the team to reach its first final.
The most impressive round for the dragster may well have been the first.
Austin Prock (3.761 / .068) vs. Leah Pritchett (3.762 / .086)
Mike Green, who has tuned Prock since the Virginia NHRA Nationals in May, was not thrilled with this pass. It was the fourth quickest in the first-round and more than three-hundredths slower than John Force Racing teammate Brittany Force’s 3.725. It also gave Prock a chance to win; and while I agree with Green’s assessment that the car must get faster to become a week-to-week threat, making it more reliable, and within striking distance is a solid goal for now.
Austin Prock (3.829 / .037) vs. Clay Millican (4.498 /.069)
The parachutes came out of Millican’s Denso dragster and the race was essentially over. This was going to be very tight had Millican made it down the strip in the time intended thanks to Prock’s .032-second starting line advantage. Prock’s lap was the fifth quickest in the second round but making it down the track allowed the Montana Brand dragster to fight another day.
Austin Prock (3.800 / .047) vs. Mike Salinas (3.777 / .094)
It’s a team sport. Prock cut a good enough light to win on a holeshot. Green tuned the car well enough for Prock to be able to win on a holeshot. The Montana Brand dragster picked up nearly three-hundredths of a second from the second round to the semifinals, which is impressive.
Austin Prock (3.875 / .275) vs. Steve Torrence (4.984 / .138)
Is it possible to blame John Force for distracting drivers a round after he drives? This was one of the stranger finals I have seen, but credit to Prock for gathering his car back together and powering past Torrence despite the horrific light.
None of these rounds inherently change what the Montana Brand Top Fuel dragster is. It is not among the quickest in the category and it has struggled with consistency during the 2019 season. It got down the track quicker than 3.9-seconds four times on race day, which is very impressive for any team. Prock has acquitted himself well in the driver’s seat and looks safe as far as an NHRA Countdown battle is concerned.
A win cures a lot, but it doesn’t change the race car. Green knows there’s a lot more work to do, but the foundation for winning in the future is there. The more consistent the John Force Racing dragster becomes, the more dangerous the latest Top Fuel winner will become on race day.