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Mike Green happy to be back in Top Fuel, eager to help rookie Prock succeed

The Virginia NHRA Nationals marks a new chapter in crew chief Mike Green's career as he takes over the tuning duties on Austin Prock's Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster after trading place with Jon Shaffer, who took Green's spot on Bob Tasca III's Funny Car.
17 May 2019
Phil Burgess, NHRA National Dragster Editor
Feature
Mike Green

Drag racing isn’t like many other professional sports, where “players” are traded like property from team to team to suit a particular need, but a lot of people drew similar comparisons after the between-races personnel swap between Bob Tasca III and John Force Racing that brought world championship-winning crew chief Mike Green from Tasca to JRF as the tuner of the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster wheeled by rookie sensation Austin Prock and sent Jon Schaffer from JFR to Tasca.

Truth be told, while the idea was brokered by the two team owners, both Green and Shaffer are happy with the moves and, since both were based in the Indianapolis area where both teams also are quartered, it seemed more like a jersey trade than anything else.

“Tasca needed a Funny Car guy and I needed a dragster guy, so it was an opportunity for both of us,” said Force. “We both have sponsors we need to deliver for, so it made sense. Shaffer’s really been good to me but he loves to run Funny Cars; it’s what we’ve taught him all these years. Bobby and I are good friends and talk all the time; we were talking after Atlanta, and the idea just came up and both of the guys seemed happy to make the move.” [Read Tasca's comments]

The move brings Green, whose Top Fuel roots go back to the 1980s when he was a crewman on world champion Gary Ormsby’s entry, back to the dragsters after working on Tasca’s Funny Car at the start of this season, and Shaffer, who was weaned on Funny Cars at JFR before being placed in charge of Prock’s dragster, back to the floppers. Neither Tasca nor Prock had been experiencing the kind of season both had hoped for, and the swap should help both parties.

For Green, it’s also a chance for a little redemption after being removed as crew chief on eight-time champion Tony Schumacher’s dragster after disappointing back-to-back eighth-place finishes in 2016 and ’17, and given other shop-based duties at Don Schumacher Racing last year.

‘I’m definitely more comfortable with Top Fuel than Funny Car, even though I’ve got a lot of experience in Funny Car,” said Green, who has tuned for both Cruz Pedregon’s Larry Minor-owned Funny Car and on Tommy Johnson Jr.’s Don Prudhomme-owned flopper. “Obviously I had a lot of success with Tony other than those last two years, which was really a result of us not running well in the Countdown, mostly because of clutch discs. You look at both of those years and we came into the Countdown in fourth and ended up eighth, which didn’t really reflect how well we’d run the rest of the year.”

Green spent most of last year in DSR’s machine and fabrication shops working on quality management and certification, but began helping out on a fly-in basis on Antron Brown’s DSR dragster just before the Western Swing, and was part of Brown’s win in Seattle last year. He joined Tasca and the end of last year to support Tasca’s burgeoning effort with former DSR tuner Eric Lane but is comfortable with the move to JFR and returning to Top Fuel.

“I met with Tasca, and he told me to go talk to John, so I met with John and Robert [Hight] and we all decided it would be a good move for both of us,” Green said. “Force’s stuff is all different, so it’s not like I can come in here and make wholesale changes plus we want to be a good teammate to [Brittany Force]. There are some things I’ve noticed in the dynamic balance of the car that need to be addressed; it’s a little nose-heavy but until we run it and how or why they got there, it’s hard to make a change.

“I’m just looking at what they were doing and how I might do them differently, but I know there’s going to be a bit of a learning curve there. Jimmy [Prock, crew chief on Robert Hight’s] car has been a big help and honestly haven’t yet had a good chance to sit down and talk with [David Grubnic, Brittany’s crew chief], but I’m sure I will.”

Ronnie Thompson, who had worked with Shaffer on Prock’s car, ended up remaining with the team, giving Green another leg up in the familiarization process.

“Having Ronnie back was a big plus for me,” he said. “I haven’t really set any goals for this weekend other than, obviously, making sure we qualify and getting more in tune with the car and with Austin. Austin and I have talked quite a bit and I think his [driving] procedures will work with the way I run a car. Once we get going we may change some stuff. I’m looking forward to what’s ahead.”