Ace tuner returns to John Force Racing
John Force continues to strengthen his team prior to the start of the 2017 NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series season, with the return of Jimmy Prock.
Sixteen-time Funny Car champion and team owner John Force has tweaked his four teams to attempt to harness the NHRA championships in Funny Car (himself, daughter Courtney Force and his son-in-law Robert Hight) and Top Fuel (daughter Brittany Force).
To this end, Force has reunited with Jimmy Prock, the crew chief/tuner who worked at JFR for 14 years and guided the ageless champion to his 16th title in 2013. Prock, who left the team near the close of the 2014 season took the reins of Jack Beckman’s Dodge Charger R/T Funny Car at Don Schumacher Racing (DSR) over the past two-plus years. Together they set multiple NHRA ET and speed records, and finished second and fifth, respectively in the title hunt.
Now Prock returns to the fold, bringing co-crew chief Chris Cunningham with him. This pair will be responsible for tuning Force’s PEAK Chevrolet Camaro SS.
Prock, who recorded 39 victories while a crew chief with JFR over those 14 years, said: “I’m very excited; I worked here for a long time and we’re excited to be back working with the JFR brain trust. With all of Chevrolet’s support and engineering, this is a whole new adventure.
“We’re working hard to try to get a championship and win as many races as we can.”
Force added: “A good football team builds its strength on many levels, from the head coach to coordinators to players. You need depth at every level. Every one of my crew chiefs and co-crew chiefs can run a successful team, and to have them all under one roof just makes us better as a whole and as individual teams.
“I’m putting the band back together: Jimmy Prock is returning home and Chris Cunningham is coming with him. This is a great opportunity to grow the company as NHRA continues to grow, too. To bring talents like Jimmy and Cunningham will make John Force Racing stronger. And it will make the PEAK Chevrolet an NHRA Mello Yello championship contender.”
Prock says he hopes the knowledge he acquired at Don Schumacher Racing over the past two years can help push JFR to the next level. He said his work at DSR “is a little different than what they’re doing [at JFR], so we’re going to take a little bit of what they had and a little bit of what we were doing [at DSR] and try to blend it all together and see if we can come up with a better car.”
Other crew lineups finalized
Robert Hight, the 2009 NHRA Funny Car champion, will again have the services of tuner/former JFR driver Mike Neff as crew chief on his Auto Club of Southern California (ACSC) Chevy Camaro SS. He’ll be assisted by Jon Schaffer and Jason McCulloch as co-crew chiefs. Schaffer, 28, tuned Force’s Camaro SS the past two seasons. He’s been joined by McCulloch, son of Ed “The Ace” McCulloch, who formerly worked with Alan Johnson Racing.
“We’ve got some talent on that car,” John Force stated. “Jon and McCulloch had four wins last year with me. Each of those three guys can run a championship-caliber car on their own and to have them together on Robert’s car is pretty special.”
Courtney Force’s Advance Auto Parts Funny Car retains the services of Danny Hood as crew chief and Ronnie Thompson as co-crew chief. In 2016, this trio helped Courtney Force to a national event victory at Houston and a win in the Traxxas Shootout for Funny Car.
Following a three-victory 2016 season that netted sixth place in the Top Fuel season standings for Brittany Force, John Force has elected to retain Brian Husen as crew chief and Alan Johnson as tuning consultant.
New face for the future
John Force has continuously looked forward toward his next generation of familial drag racers, with daughters Ashley, Brittany and Courtney all driving and winning. Ashley has semi-retired from racing, handling the company’s technology transfer duties and working on its entertainment aspects as she raises her two sons with husband Hood.
Now the team is welcoming a new future star to its stables as Austin Prock, Jimmy’s son and the grandson of past Funny Car driver Tom Prock, joins the team’s driver development program. Austin Prock, 21, has raced sprint cars and midgets in his young career and won the 2014 STARS national midget championship.
Now a third-generation drag racer, Austin Prock has experience working on JFR racecars and will now attend Frank Hawley’s Drag Racing School as he begins a multi-year program to eventually compete at the sport’s highest level for JFR.
“I’m excited about this young man coming in,” noted the team owner. “I raced his grandpa in the early days and I knew his dad as a small kid. I’ve watched Jimmy’s sons grow up.
“It just fits for John Force Racing. The opportunity to bring him into drag racing is great. Austin is talented, he’s personable, good-looking, lightweight like a jockey and loves auto racing.
“I know he can drive a racecar. It’s in his DNA; it’s in his blood.”
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