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Austin Prock eager to add to family’s Gainesville Funny Car success

When Austin Prock stages his Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car for John Force Racing during his first official NHRA Funny Car pass during the opening round of qualifying at the Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, he’ll have lots of Gainesville Raceway memories and thoughts.
15 Feb 2024
Posted by NHRA.com staff
Austin Prock

When Austin Prock stages his Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro Funny Car for John Force Racing during his first official NHRA Funny Car pass during the opening round of qualifying at the 55th Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals on March 7-10, he’ll have lots of Gainesville Raceway memories and thoughts.
After all, his grandfather, Tom Prock, was the Gatornationals Funny Car runner-up at the 1975 event and his father, Jimmy, has won the race four times with Robert Hight, for whom the younger Prock is subbing while Hight addresses some medical concerns. Gainesville Raceway is also the track where Austin made his first pass in any kind of Funny Car, back in 2008 at the Frank Hawley Drag Racing School.
“I’ve always seen the success my dad had there, and, before his, my grandfather, and that place has a special place in my heart,” he said. “It’s also where we lost my good friend Eric Medlen [former John Force driver who died in a testing incident in 2007]. Eric was a great friend of mine, and a mentor to me. He took me under his wing and took care of me and taught me things, like how to paint helmets. It'd be cool to get the job done for that and my family's legacy.”
Last year, Mike Salinas (Top Fuel), Matt Hagan (Funny Car), Troy Coughlin Jr. (Pro Stock), and Gaige Herrera (Pro Stock Motorcycle) all won in Gainesville. This year’s race will air on FS1, including the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday, live coverage on Sunday from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m., and continuing finals coverage at 9 p.m. ET on Sunday.

Austin Prock's father, Jimmy, left, has been to the Gatornationals winner's circle four times with driver Robert Hight.

After licensing in a trio of JFR entries in 2018 – driving the cars of team boss Force, his daughter Courtney, and with his dad tuning Hight’s car – and then saddling up in Team Force’s Top Fueler in 2019, Prock had made just two Funny Car runs heading into 2024. It’s also a move reuniting father and son as a tuning and driving tandem, while Austin’s brother, Thomas, serves as their father’s assistant crew chief.
“This whole deal is a thrill, getting to race with my dad and my brother both up in the lounge making the calls and me in the seat,” Prock said. “I mean, this is storybook stuff, the stuff you write up, and it's actually happening in real life, so it's really special.
“We all know this car will run,” he added. “This thing flew last year with Robert driving, so we're just getting all the bugs worked out, and I gotta keep learning and try not to make any mistakes and give the race car a shot to do what it needs to do. It’s all a learning process.
“I really truly enjoy drag racing and loved running the Top Fuel car, but Funny Car is where I belong. I always dreamed of driving one like my grandpa, and I am having an absolute blast. I’m loving every second of it. I love the challenge of these cars. I love sitting behind the engine. I love the body dropping. And to top it off, I'm doing it with my family.

Prock's grandfather, Tom Prock, scored four Funny Car runner-ups, including at the 1975 Gatornationals
“I’m so blessed to have John Force in my corner. He loves the sport ad has built his empire off of family racing, and he gets to watch that happen with my family too, under the same roof. He's given us an outstanding facility to race out of; we always have the right parts and money. He just wants to see win lights turn on and have fun. He knows the love that I have for this sport and the love I have for Funny Cars, and I'm glad to have him in my corner." 
The fact that he’s jumping into one of the best Funny Cars on the planet and filling in for three-time world champion Hight is not lost on him. Pressure? You bet.
“Plenty of people have come up and said, ‘Man, you got big shoes to fill, but I know you can do it,' but I've been a Nervous Nellie, up in the middle of the night thinking about it and trying to run through all the scenarios and just trying to manifest doing a good job.
“I'm not going into this race season any different than any other one or any race that I've ever gone into, and the team's not either. We want to go there and run low e.t. every round, and we want to win every race. If you're competitive and a racer, that's what you expect. And I believe we can do that. We're hungry. We want to do good for John Force Racing. We want to do good for Robert Hight. And we want to do good for all of our great partners. We don't expect any less than that.”

Prock will deal with a host of Funny Car standouts to kick off the 2024 NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series in Gainesville, including defending world champ and back-to-back race winner Hagan, Ron Capps, Force, Bob Tasca III, and J.R. Todd.

Reigning Top Fuel world champ Doug Kalitta looks to keep rolling after winning his first world title to close out 2023, taking on Brittany Force, Steve Torrence, Antron Brown, Justin Ashley, Tony Schumacher, and class newcomer Tony Stewart.

Six-time Pro Stock world champ Erica Enders will try to win in Gainesville for the first time, facing off against Greg Anderson, Aaron Stanfield, Matt Hartford, and Dallas Glenn. In Pro Stock Motorcycle, Herrera is after a repeat win by knocking off the likes of Matt Smith, Steve Johnson, Hector Arana Jr., and Angie Smith.

The Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout is back to open 2024 as well, pitting eight standouts against each other in a unique, big-money specialty race on Saturday, March 9. Local standout Josh Hart won the Callout last year. Action will also take place in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, the Congruity NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by LearnEV+, and Flexjet NHRA Factory Stock Showdown to open 2024.

Race fans at Gainesville Raceway can enjoy the special pre-race ceremony for drivers racing for the prestigious Wally on Sunday and the fan-favorite SealMaster NHRA Track Walk, which benefits the Darrell Gwynn Foundation in Gainesville, as well as a ring ceremony for the 2023 world champs (Kalitta, Hagan, Enders, and Herrera) and a flyover from the U.S. Air Force. The final can’t-miss experience of any NHRA event is the winner’s circle celebration on Sunday, where fans are invited to congratulate the event winners.
The Nitro Alley Stage is a huge attraction and the main entertainment hub in the pits, hosting Nitro School, the NHRA Insider Podcast, Shirley Muldowney Q&A, and meet and greets. Marching bands will also entertain the crowd each day, including the University of Florida on Sunday. As always, fans get a pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. Fans can see their favorite teams in action and servicing their cars, get autographs from their favorite drivers, and more. They can also visit NHRA’s Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and vendors create an exciting atmosphere of interactive displays, merchandise, food, and fun.
NHRA Mission Foods Drag Racing Series qualifying features two rounds at 2 and 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, March 8, and the final two qualifying rounds on Saturday, March 9 at noon and 3 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 10:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, March 10.
The first round of the Pep Boys Top Fuel All-Star Callout takes place on Saturday at 1 p.m. ET and the semifinals at 2:45 p.m. The finals are slated for 4:25 p.m.

To purchase tickets to the 2024 Amalie Motor Oil NHRA Gatornationals, visit www.NHRA.com/tickets. Children 12 and under are free in general-admission areas with the purchase of an adult ticket. Get your tickets now for the Top Eliminator Club because these will sell out.