Photo Credit: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 7, 2024) – Point leader Austin Prock continued to set a torrid pace at the wheel of his John Force Racing Cornwell Tools Chevy Camaro, stopping the timers in 3.958 seconds at 317.34 miles per hour Friday night at Bristol Dragway to claim the provisional No. 1 qualifying position for Sunday’s 23rd Super Grip Thunder Valley Nationals.

That performance, in what likely were the best conditions in which drivers and crew chiefs will race all the weekend, put the 28-year-old Funny Car rookie on the cusp of qualifying at the top of the ladder for the sixth time in eight races on the Mission Foods tour in a car prepared by a Cornwell crew anchored by his dad Jimmy and brother Thomas.

“This place is very tough to navigate, for sure,” Prock said. “It’s very bumpy down the track; it’s kind of a driver’s racetrack. You’ve got to be on your game all the way until you’re pulling the parachutes. You typically do that in a Funny Car, but this is just up another level.  

“It’s a really fun racetrack to drive; stressful for the crew chiefs, but if you’re a race car driver, you sure do enjoy a place like this,” he said.  

While this is Prock’s first race at Bristol in a Funny Car, he was a semifinalist last year while driving a John Force Racing Top Fuel dragster, beaten by eventual race winner Justin Ashley.

Two final qualifying sessions Saturday will determine the pairings for Sunday eliminations beginning at 12 noon, Eastern time.  

In conjunction with Saturday qualifying, both Prock and John Force will compete in the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. Force will oppose J.R. Todd while Prock will race Daniel Wilkerson at the conclusion of Saturday’s first session at 2:05 p.m.  The winners will face off at the conclusion of the 4:45 p.m. session.

Force, the most recent winner in the series and one of only two Funny Car drivers to have won multiple events this season, finished Day 1 in the No. 9 position. He appeared to be on a stellar run in his PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS in the Friday night session before it made a hard move toward the center line at half-track, forcing the 16-time series champion off the throttle and slowing his Chevy to 4.163 seconds at 245.09 mph.

Nevertheless, the 157-time tour winner was encouraged by the fact that his car was third quickest (4.048 at 312.86 mph) in the Friday afternoon heat, during which the track temperature was hotter by 24 degrees. 

“Well it was truckin’,” Force said, “and we are trying to put a good number and go low and stay in the hunt for this championship and in the middle of it, it got loose down there. Boy, it turned on me. I saved it, and brought her in, but that is my job. That is what I gotta do.”

Racing at her favorite venue, two-time Top Fuel World Champion Brittany Force experienced a largely throwaway first day. Her best was 4.141 at 220.98 mph before a 6.307 at just 96.62 mph. Both times, her Monster Energy Chevrolet lost traction early in the run.

“It’s a tricky racetrack,” said the 16-time tour winner. “Everyone seems to be struggling with it. So, we pack up tonight and we’ll re-evaluate tomorrow. We get two more (qualifying runs), and we definitely need to move up. We need to be top five going into race day. So, we have a lot of work to do to get us prepared for that.”