NHRA Legend John Force Clarifies He’s Not Retiring…Yet

auto jun 02 nhra new england nationals
NHRA’s John Force Clarifies He’s Not Retiring…Yet Icon Sportswire - Getty Images

Sixteen-time NHRA Funny Car champion John Force says he isn’t ready to hang up his helmet just yet, but he had a reason for shocking the drag racing community a week ago when he anointed Austin Prock as his successor.

“All I was saying was here is the future of John Force Racing, this kid right here, and I handed him the trophy,” the 75-year-old Force said during preparations for the Super Grip NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals at Bristol Dragway. “There is no reason for me at my age to stay forever. It would not make sense for me to stay in the seat and take a kid with his talent out.

“The fans really react funny, and a driver that takes my seat might make some of them mad, so I’m just telling them early. He’s coming because we want to keep winning and he’s the guy that will be able to do that for me.”


Prock’s family works for John Force Racing, and Force noted he’s known Prock since he was a “little, tiny kid sitting on the tailgate of my truck.”

“I raced his grandpa in Funny Car and his dad Jimmy (Prock) has been with me forever,” said Force, who recorded his 157th Funny Car career victory in the NHRA Mission Foods Series event at Epping, N.H. “So, they’re family and he (Austin Prock) belongs here.”

The 28-year-old Prock, who led the NHRA Funny Car standings heading into the Bristol event, said he was speechless at Force’s comments.

“We’ve been talking about this for a really long time, but it’s never been public,” says Prock, who is in his rookie season in Funny Car. “When he said it, I was like ‘Shit, John! You’re not supposed to say that!’

“All the fans took it so well. You know that can be a double-edged sword. I think our performance this year has really gained a huge fan base in this sport. All of the comments on social media have been positive. I was afraid I was going to get beat to death on there, but it’s all been good.”

Prock said he’d been working towards being a professional race car driver since he was about 10 years old, and he had been “very, very blessed to race under the people that I have.”

“He (Force) took a huge risk on me, hiring me back in 2017,” said Prock, who described his career at JFR as “chaotic.” “I’d never been down a drag strip. All I’d done were circle track stuff, Midgets and Sprint Cars.”

However, Force noted that shortly before the final round at New Hampshire he asked Prock if he was ready, and he said Prock replied, ‘I’m ready to kick your ass.”

Even though Force won the New Hampshire event, he said Prock used his staging technique against him.

“I’ve told John, you know, we’re teammates, but when we put our helmets on, let’s race each other like we want to kick each other’s ass because that’s how it should be and that’s how the fans want to see it,” Prock said. “One of these days, I’m going to try and go in and take the top bulb out on him. I’m not that good yet.

“The day I get to strap into his seat will be a very cool day.”