Photo Source: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery

NORWALK, Ohio (June 28, 2024) – Racing solo in the absence of teammates John and Brittany Force and facing distractions he never could have anticipated, Funny Car rookie Austin Prock drove the AAA Chevy Camaro SS to the provisional No. 1 starting position Friday in the first day of qualifying for the 17th Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

After a best of the session 3.892 at 329.19 miles per hour in Q1, the 28-year-old point leader, who is after his third straight victory on the NHRA’s Mission Foods tour, stopped the timers in a track record-setting 3.863 seconds at 327.51miles per hour in the evening session in which conditions likely were the best they will be all weekend.

Qualifying continues Saturday at 3:10 and 5 p.m., EDT. Prock will face reigning series champion Matt Hagan at the end of the first session in a semifinal rematch from last week’s Virginia Nationals made possible through the Mission #2Fast2Tasty NHRA Challenge. If Hagan is unable to flip the script, he then will race for his third straight #2Fast2Tasty title (worth cash and Countdown bonus points) at the end of the final session.

Very much on the mind of the one-time sprint car, quarter midget and Top Fuel dragster driver was his boss at John Force Racing who remained hospitalized in the neuro care unit of a Richmond, Va., trauma center following a 300 mile-an-hour crash last Sunday at Virginia Motorsports Park.

The 16-time Funny Car Champion has been heavily sedated since the accident but family members were encouraged when medical staff moved the 75-year-old icon from the intensive care unit to neuro care where doctors can focus on the biggest immediate concern which is a head injury.

Brittany Force, who was to have driven the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet dragster this week, opted instead to remain at the hospital with her mother and sisters in a show of family solidarity.

“I’ve been looking forward to putting my helmet back on and just kinda getting into race mode and turning the entire world off for 90 seconds,” said the Funny Car point leader. “Definitely proud of this team, battling through some tough times representing John Force Racing and all our great partners.

“We’re going to try to do the best job we can for them so, off to a great start,” he said. “Thanks to the fans today for being respectful and just having my back. I appreciate it and hopefully we can do some good for them.”

Prock is trying to become the fourth different JFR Funny Car driver to win at Norwalk after Force himself (2014), JFR president Robert Hight (2022) and Mike Neff. Neff, now the crew chief for Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, won Norwalk in his last two years at the wheel of a JFR Funny Car in 2011 and 2012.

“Two very good runs by this AAA Camaro SS,” Prock said. “You know, we’ve had a long-term partnership with (AAA) and its great to be flying their colors but we’re thinking of Brittany and John and the whole Force family. Miss all you guys out here. It just ain’t the same.”