Photo Credit: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery

BRISTOL, Tenn. (June 9, 2024) – Funny Car rookie Austin Prock continued to perform at a level unfamiliar to most of his peers Sunday, driving the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS past the Toyota of J.R. Todd to win the 23rd Super Grip Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway and extend his Funny Car point lead over boss and teammate John Force.

It was the fifth final round in eight races for the 28-year-old phenom whose dad, Jimmy, makes the tuning decisions on the high-profile Camaro formerly driven by three-time World Champion Robert Hight, who has been sidelined this year with health issues.

“I’ve been working towards this my whole life,” Prock said of his thus far remarkable season.  “I’m so blessed to have this opportunity.  I mean, John Force taking a risk with me, and all these partners, great partners of ours that believed in me, that gave me a shot to (realize) my dream.  

“This is surreal,” he gushed.  “Winning these Wallys (NHRA winners’ trophies, named for the organization’s founder, Wally Parks) is the best feeling in the world.  I hope we get many more, and man, this has been a great year.  We’ve got a bad ass hot rod and and I’m so proud of this Cornwell Tools Chevy team.”

It was a wire-to-wire win for Prock who qualified No. 1 for the sixth time this season and then posted quick time of eliminations (3.924 seconds) in a first round conquest of John Smith.  He dispatched Cruz Pedregon in round two in his first meeting with the two-time former champion and then ousted reigning series champion Matt Hagan in the semifinals.

Although Todd broke up the possibility of a second straight Prock-Force final round by beating drag racing’s all-time biggest winner in the other semi, it still was a banner day for John Force Racing which advanced all three of its cars to the semifinals for the first time this season while securing Chevy’s first Funny Car victory at Bristol since 2001.

In fact, for Brittany Force, the two-time former World Champion, the trip to the semis Sunday was almost as good as winning the race because it validated the work a Monster Energy team anchored by crew chiefs David Grubnic and John Collins has been doing to put her back on track to another title.

“We really needed this,” said the 16-time tour winner after beating Justin Ashley in round one and knocking him out of the point lead.  “We came out in qualifying and couldn’t get the car down the racetrack (so) to be able to come out and run a 3.73(3) (followed by a 3.820 in round two) is outstanding for our team.  

“The car dropped cylinders and it was moving all over the place (in the first round),” she said.  “It felt like I drove it through the finish line sideways, but we got there and turned the win light on.  Great job by the Monster Energy team.  David Grubnic.  John Collins.  I’m happy to be here.”

Her performance Sunday included a couple of significant firsts.  It was the first time in any traditional, two across event that she had won a round after qualifying 15th or worse and it was the first time she ever beat the point leader in a first round race.

Nevertheless, her crew chief was quick to point out that there is work yet to be done. 

“Yeah, look, we’re not going to get (too) excited about anything right now, considering the year that we’ve had,” Grubnic said.   “You know, we owed that to all our sponsors, to the Force family, to Brittany, everybody.  Ultimately, the lack of performance is on me, so we’ve got to get it figured out.  You know, it’s just a matter of when.  We can see the door; we’ve just got to go through it.”

As for Brittany’s dad, he remains engaged in the belief that 11 years after winning his 16th series championship, he has a car good enough to do it one more time.

“Best car I’ve had in a long time,” Force said.  “I want to give credit to my crew chief, Daniel Hood, and (Chris) Cunningham and (Tim Fabrisi).  Just coming off the weekend we had last week, winner and runner-up, the whole world seems perfect. We love Bristol, have had a lot of success here.

“We did our job for all our sponsors, Flav-R-Pac, Cornwell, PEAK, and Monster,” he said, “and we did our job (on the track) but, yet, I lost in the semis and I had a car that, if you look at the numbers, I didn’t get the job done and I’m mad about that.  I beat myself up when things go wrong because I’m going to compete with these kids for a title.  I’ve got to get back in this fight.  

“I love driving and I love winning and I’ve got a car that can compete,” he said, “(but) I’ve got to get myself together.  I got to the semis, should have been to the finals.  All I had to do was be a little bit better on that light.  And I wasn’t.”

Nevertheless, the 157-time tour winner was excited about his daughter’s Sunday success.  

“I’m excited (for her and her team) with Monster Energy, with Flav-R-Pac,,” he said.  “To see her just win a round when (they’ve been struggling), that made my heart good.  I want to thank the fans for all being here.  And all the military and first responders, police, firemen.  God bless you.  If it weren’t for all of you, we wouldn’t have the greatest country in the world.”