Photo Credit: Gary Nastase / Auto Imagery

NORWALK, Ohio (June 30, 2024) – By an almost imperceivable .0013 of a second, Austin Prock’s bid for a third straight NHRA Mission Foods tour victory came to an end Sunday in the semifinal round of the 17th Summit Racing Equipment Nationals at Summit Motorsports Park.

In the latest chapter of what quickly is becoming Funny Car drag racing’s best rivalry, Bob Tasca III married an .046 of a second reaction time to a 3.929 second track time and 334.73 mile per hour finish line speed to get the nose of his Ford across the line just ahead of the AAA Chevrolet Camaro SS in which Prock had qualified No.1 for the seventh time in 10 races this year.

A Funny Car rookie who had turned on 16 consecutive win lights in Mission Foods tour and #2Fast2Tasty Challenge events, Prock was .049 on the Tree with a time of 3.927 at a speed of 328.06 mph.  

“That was close,” said the man who is driving this year in relief of JFR President Robert Hight, who is on medical leave. “I mean, 13 thousandths (of a second) was a great show for the fans and we just came up on the wrong end of the stick. That’s going to happen, but outstanding weekend for the AAA Camaro. 

“Obviously, (we) wanted to get the job done for all of our partners and for John Force, but (it) just wasn’t our day, you know. We’ll regroup and get ready for the West Coast swing (which includes races in Seattle, Wash., and Sonoma, Calif.).”

The 28-year-old former sprint car and Top Fuel dragster driver will start the NHRA Northwest Nationals, July 19-21, with a 178-point lead over Tasca; 181 over third place Matt Hagan, the reigning series champion.

After a total domination of qualifying during which he directed the AAA Chevy to the quick time of every session, twice setting the SMP track record and earning the maximum number of qualifying bonus points, a first round stumble against unheralded Joe Morrison put his AAA team in catch-up mode.

Although he easily won the round when Morrison was guilty of a foul start, a car that had performed so flawlessly on Friday and Saturday, suffered a loss of traction upon acceleration and slowed to 4.431 seconds, light years away from the four-generation auto racer’s 3.853 track record.

“Yeah, that was a very odd run, for sure,” he said, “but we got a freebie, a lucky round,” Prock recalled. “It left and went straight toward the center line. I brought it back but then it hung a right faster than I could catch it. I haven’t gotten close to the center line very often, but that thing definitely was driving me around.”

That issue placed the point leader in the less favored right lane for round two and, although he negotiated it successfully, his 3.922 second time at 330.39 mph was not quite good enough to give him the lane choice edge against Tasca, who won the honors with an identical time coupled to a speed of 332.92 mph. 

As for John Force, the 16-time World Champion and member of virtually every motorsports Hall of Fame, he remained Sunday in the neuro intensive care unit of a Richmond, Va., trauma hospital with a TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) suffered in the 302 mile an hour crash of his PEAK Chevy last Sunday during the opening round of the Virginia Nationals.