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Prock Takes Provisional No. 1 in First Day of Gatornationals Qualifying

Making his NHRA Funny Car debut, Austin Prock paced John Force Racing earning the provisional No. 1 qualifier after the first day of qualifying for the NHRA season-opening 55th Amalie Oil Gatornationals at Gainesville, Raceway.

Driving the Cornwell Tools Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car in place of the medically sidelined Robert Hight.

Team patriarch John Force piloted the PEAK Antifreeze & Coolant Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car to the No. 9 qualifying position. And Brittany Force, driver of the Monster Energy Chevrolet Top Fuel Dragster, ended the day 12th in the qualifying ladder.

Prock qualified No. 1 in Friday’s first qualifying session with an elapsed time of 3.869 seconds at 329.34 mph. In the second qualifying session, Bob Tasca III (3.829 seconds, 337.75 mph) briefly knocked Prock off the top spot, but Prock roared back with a 3.820-second run at 334.65 mph to regain the No. 1 position.

“I saw him run at 2.9, and I said we’re going to nick him again,” Prock said of Tasca. “I made sure I flickered the bulb and got as much real estate out of the racetrack as I possibly could.

 “This class is so tough right now and has been in the last few years. We got low E.T. of the first session by 0.001 seconds and No. 1 qualifier by nine-thousandths of a second.”

Prock’s second qualifying run set a track E.T. record and was the 10th-quickest run in Funny Car history.

“It’s been obviously an honor to drive this car,” Prock said. “They are big shoes to fill and I’m just trying to do my best for the company and Robert Hight and all of our sponsors.”

Prock, who will remain Hight’s replacement for the time being, previously competed three seasons for John Force Racing in the Top Fuel ranks. Filling in for Hight, Prock is also reunited with his father, Jimmy, who is Hight’s longtime crew chief, and brother, Thomas, who works under his father.

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“It’s really exciting to get to race with my family, my father and brother,” Austin Prock said. “I’m just having a really good time with this Cornwell Tools team. They’re doing an outstanding job, man. And they definitely made me push; my learning curve really accelerated.”

As for John Force, he’s an eight-time winner at Gainesville who is seeking a record 17th NHRA Funny Car championship.

In the first qualifying session, Force laid down a time of 3.966 seconds at 323.12 mph to take the No. 7 spot. Force improved his time to 3.920 seconds at 324.67 mph in Q2.

In Top Fuel, Brittany Force was fifth-quickest in the opening qualifying session, with an elapsed time of 3.787 seconds at 327.51 mph.

But in the second qualifying session, Force lost traction shortly after leaving the starting line, ending with a 7.456-second, 78.52 mph effort to end the day in the 12th position.

She will also be one of eight drivers taking part in Saturday’s Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout. Drivers will make choices to set the first session pairings at 9:30 a.m. ET, followed by the first session of racing at Noon ET, semifinals at 1:45 p.m. ET and the finals at 3:25 p.m. ET.

The weather forecast has prompted NHRA to change Saturday’s schedule. Rain is forecast for later in the afternoon, so in addition to moving up the times for the Pep Boys Callout by an hour, NHRA has also moved up the start times for the final two sessions of Funny Car qualifying to 12:20 p.m. ET and 3:30 p.m. ET.

The Gatornationals will be televised this weekend on FS1, including a special feature on the Pep Boys NHRA Top Fuel All-Star Callout at 7 p.m. ET on Saturday. On Sunday, there will be live coverage of the Gatornationals final eliminations from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. ET, with continuing finals coverage at 9 p.m. ET.

This story was originally published on March 9, 2024. Drag Illustrated

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