Everyone knew that Austin Prock had a winning pedigree and firesuit worth of skill and ability, and the third-generation racer finally put it all together to score his first career win in his rookie season, defeating tire-smoking points leader Steve Torrence in the final round of the Magic Dry Organic Absorbent NHRA Northwest Nationals.
Not counting the times that his father, crew chief Jimmy Prock, has had a car that he was tuning in a final round, it was the first time in 43 years that a Prock raced for a Wally, dating back to the 1976 event in Montreal, where Austin’s grandfather, Tom, lost in the Funny Car final to Don Prudhomme.
And, serendipitously, it was Prudhomme who played a major role in the young Prock’s career in helping John Force racing secure the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist sponsorship that has sustained them this season.
"This is a dream come true; I’ve wanted this since I was knee-high, ever since I could think that I wanted to drive a Top Fuel car," said Prock, the 108th Top Fuel winner in NHRA history. "To get the win with my dad, who’s one of the best crew chiefs out there, and share a Wally with him is pretty incredible. It’s unbelievable. I just have to thank the Lord above and John Force for giving me this opportunity. I can’t believe we stopped them Capco boys. I told everyone in Pomona that I was coming for him.
"Torrence schooled me in the final round. He wouldn’t pre-stage, so I went in and then he doubled-bulbed me," he said. "He knew I was nervous and maybe trying to play some games. I never let my foot off the clutch pedal in my final stage procedure and ended up having to swap feet and that’s why I was so dang late, but when it’s your day, it’s your day."
Prock, who has excelled on the Christmas Tree all year, showcased those skills throughout the day to reach his first final round. Prock, whose car is tuned by Mike Green, defeated Leah Pritchett in round one on a tight 3.761 to 3.762 battle, then was a blistering .037 on the Tree against national record holder Clay Millican, who was out of the race early when the parachutes deployed from the Denso/Parts Plus dragster just off the starting line.
Prock’s quick trigger won his semifinal race with low qualifier Mike Salinas, getting away from the line with a .047 light and beating Salinas on a holeshot, 3.800 to 3.777.
"I’ve been looking for a holeshot win all year, and thought it would be pretty bad-ass to do it, and do it on the day that I made it to the final," he said. "Any time you can help your team out to get round wins that’s how you win races and championships. It’s a team effort; everyone has to do their job.
Torrence reached his 11th final of the season by defeating Steve Chrisman and the Worsham Family entry in round one with a 3.77 then nearly matched that pace in round two where a 3.78 beat his good friend Antron Brown, ending Brown’s 13-round, three-year win streak at Pacific Raceway.
In the semifinals, a Texas oilfield wars battle, Torrence’s Capco Contractors machine beat local favorite Shawn Reed’s Hughes Oilfield Transportation entry. Reed, who lives just 20 minutes from Pacific Raceways, smoked the tires in his Bob Vandergriff Racing-prepared mount at the green and Torrence escaped to the final with a subpar 3.99 after losing traction downtrack.