During Friday’s second nitro qualifying session in Topeka, Austin Prock opened Top Fuel qualifying with a solid 3.783 that was quick enough to earn a qualifying bonus point and finished the day as the third-best run behind Steve and Billy Torrence. If he can hold on or improve, Prock will have the highest starting spot of his career, which now spans ten races. Twice this season Montana Brands driver has been the No. 6 seed, including last weekend’s race at Route 66 Raceway. Given the recent changes that have taken place within the team, including the addition of veteran tuner, Mike Green, Prock interprets that as a positive sign for the overall progress of the first-year team.
“We made a really nice run last night,” said Prock. “It was good but not perfect. We were quickest to 330-feet and had the best 60-to-330 split but we dropped a cylinder, so we lost a little on the back end. We can definitely run better. On the first run, we had a little miscommunication We went up there with the wrong settings on the crank trigger and so we had to recover from that. A lot of times when you lose a run it is a big set-back but we recovered pretty quickly.
“The changes that were made around here lately were not my decision but obviously, [management] felt the need to add a veteran and Mike Green fit the bill,” said Prock. “He hasn’t been here for long and he’s not familiar with the parts we use, but he’s already made a difference.”
Prock’s sudden ascent to the Top Fuel class has been well-documented. He licensed in a Funny Car last season, and then scrambled to get his Top Fuel credentials just days before making his official debut in Pomona. At that event, he recorded the best pass of his career with a 3.699 and has since looked like anything but a rookie. Prock won his first round in Pomona and entered the Topeka event ranked tenth in the Mello Yello standings. Much of the credit for that goes to his background in circle track racing, and the education he’s acquired as a crew member.
While he’s got just four round wins in the first nine events, Prock’s reaction times have been among the best in the class. Once the Montana Brands team gets a better handle on their performance and consistency, it’s fairly obvious that Prock is going to quickly become a feared opponent on race day.
“From the time we first time we dropped the door in Pomona, I felt oddly confident,” said Prock. “The more laps you make the better you’re going to get so I still value all the seat time I can get. I still have a lot to learn, but I feel better at every race. Am I frustrated? No. This is a total team effort and it’s my responsibility to be the best driver I can be. I need to be on my game. I want to be .050 or better on the Tree consistently and be in the top four when it comes to performance. If you look at [world champion] Steve Torrence; he doesn’t always have the quickest car but he’s almost always in the top four, and that goes for his lights. That’s what makes him so tough to beat and that’s what we’re trying to do here.”
To that end, Prock says that new tuner Green has not asked him to change his driving style, only asking for a few slight adjustments to the team’s normal warm-up procedure.
“He’s just told me to keep leaving on everyone and that’s my goal,” said Prock. “I really think things are starting to come together for us now.”