Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist Chevrolet dragster team earned a runner-up finish at the Lucas Oil NHRA WInternaitonals at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip on Sunday. Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy dragster went to the semifinals while John Force and the PEAK BlueDEF Chevrolet Camaro SS team and Robert Hight in the Automobile Club of Southern California / Cornwell Tools / Flav-R-Pac Chevy had first-round exits.
In the final round, it was a battle of Top Fuel rising starts with Austin Prock, the 2019 rookie of the year, and the Montana Brand / RMT dragster racing against Justin Ashley, the 2020 rookie of the year. Prock would handle his Chris Cunningham and Joe Barlam tuned hot rod to a respectable 3.762-second pass at 327.43 mph, but it wouldn’t be enough for Ashely’s 3.713 at 330.63.
“Really excellent points day for our Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team. Really proud of these guys. It’s race three and they worked like champions today,” Prock said. We knocked out hitters in the first three rounds of eliminations and then we went head-to-head with one of the hottest cars in the class right now. We’re starting to hit our strides and I’m really excited about it.”
To reach the sixth final round of his career, first of the season, fourth at In-N-Out Burger Pomona Dragstrip, and third at the Winternationals, Prock lined up with a slew of top competitors.
In what NHRA dubbed a “marquee matchup”, Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / RMT dragster got the better of Leah Pruett in the first round. Prock would have a solid clean pass of 3.739 seconds and 331.53 mph to defeat Pruett who ran into tire smoke for a 4.208 at 231.60 and set himself up with a match-up against four-time world champion Steve Torrence in the second round.
Austin would have a clean pass at 3.822 seconds and 318.32 while Torrence ran into tire smoke for only a 4.157 at 216.55 allowing Prock to match up with Top Fuel teammate Brittany Force in the semifinals. Prock would have another solid run of 3.734 seconds and 331.36 mph while Force, after having a nearly identical reaction time to Prock (.067 for Force and .068 for Prock), would run into tire smoke to coast to a 7.067 at 80.14.
En route to her semifinal appearance, No. 2 qualifier Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac dragster team had an unexpected solo run in the first round. Ron August Jr. had a fuel lever failure and had to shut off before taking the tree. The David Grubnic tuned hot rod would end up running the quickest and fastest pass of the weekend at 3.690 seconds and 334.98 mph.
In the second round, Force left the starting line first and never trailed against Shawn Langdon. Her 3.729-second pass at 330.55 mph was more than enough for Langdon’s 3.743 at 331.69. The win set her up with a match-up against Top Fuel teammate Austin Prock in the semifinals. Her appearance in the semifinals also qualifies Force for the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty Challenge that will be contested in Chicago where Force and Prock will have a rematch during Saturday qualifying.
“Overall a good weekend for this Flav-R-Pac team qualifying second and making a semifinal appearance. We’re qualified now in the Mission Foods #2Fast2Tasty challenge which is excellent for u because it means bonus points at the end of the regular season,” Force said. “We had this car running, made an awesome lap first round, made it to semis and it was our teammate Austin Prock that got around us. A good weekend and we’re looking forward to going to Vegas.”
Robert Hight and the Auto Club team opened eliminations with a pedalfest against Terry Haddock. Hight would eventually cross the finish line at 4.341 seconds at 303.50 mph but it wouldn’t be enough for Haddock’s 4.015 at 310.55. The first-round loss is Hight’s first in 24 events. The last time he had that early of an exit was 2021 at the NHRA Finals in Pomona, Calif.
“Not the day this Auto Club team was looking for. Really wanted to be in that winner’s circle for Auto Club. It’s how it goes sometimes,” Hight said. “Bit of an unexpected day in Funny Car, but that’s drag racing, any day could be your day. We’ll bounce back, I’m not worried. We’ve already proven we know what we need to do and how to do it. I have all the confidence in my guys. Jimmy Prock with Thomas Prock and Nick Hildahl, they’ll be anxious to get back out again in Vegas. I know I am.”
John Force and the BlueDEF PLATINUM Chevy’s weekend came to a close in the first round after running into tire smoke early against No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon. Force would coast to a 7.280-second pass at 89.47 mph while Pedregon had a clean 3.881 ag 322.19.
“Tough weekend for this BlueDEF Chevy team. Tougher than we’ve had in a while,” Force said. “It will be okay though, it’s early, we’ll get it figured out, we’ll be okay. Robert with Auto Club, Flav-R-Pac, and Cornwell Tools already has a win, Brittany and that Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy team is getting things figured out and Prock going to the finals with Montana Brand. It’s coming together.”
The NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series continues with the NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway April 14-16.