Photo Credit: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery

DINWIDDIE, Va. (June 19, 2024) – Driving virtually the same Cornwell Quality Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS in which Robert Hight won in 2022, the last time a Mission Foods NHRA tour event was contested at Virginia Motorsports Park, Austin Prock this week tries to become the fifth different John Force Racing Funny Car driver to raise the trophy in the PlayNHRA Virginia Nationals.

A win would be particularly meaningful for the 28-year-old point leader insomuch as the Virginia Nationals was the last race won by the late Eric Medlen, with whom he had forged a strong bond prior to the 2007 testing accident that claimed the life of one of the sport’s brightest young stars.

“Eric was a great friend of mine, and a mentor to me,” Prock said. “He took me under his wing and took care of me and taught me (a lot). It’d be very cool for me to be able to join him as a Virginia Nationals winner.”

The hottest driver on tour, No. 1 qualifier in six of eight events, a finalist in five and winner of two, Prock is looking forward to a new set of challenges in an event featuring an experimental two-day format.

“Excited to get to Richmond,” he said. “We’ve got a two-day show this weekend with three qualifying passes on Saturday. It will be interesting to see how the fans and competitors take to the new format.  

“Richmond is one of the flattest tracks on the circuit,” he said of the all-concrete surface put down prior to the 2022 event, “which will be much appreciated by the tuners with this weekend’s (unseasonably hot) temperatures. I never like an off weekend (so) I’m excited to get back into this Cornwell Tools Camaro SS and get back in the groove of things. We’re looking for another strong weekend.”

In winning at Bristol, the professionally trained chef not only qualified No. 1 and posted top speed of the meet, he put up the quickest time on race day. It’s a recipe that has his rivals reeling eight races into the regular season. In fact, he’s had quick time and top speed at each of the last three events, a tribute to a Cornwell crew that includes his dad Jimmy and brother Thomas.

“This whole deal is a thrill, getting to race with my dad and my brother,” he 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 (I) loved running the Top Fuel car (in which he won four times for JFR in two full seasons), but Funny Car is where I belong. I always dreamed of driving one like my grandpa (former touring pro Tom Prock), 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.”

Like teammates John Force and Brittany Force, Prock will start his competitive weekend in Saturday’s Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge in which he will be seeking his fourth win of the season.