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Prock reveling in ‘chaotic’ – but fruitful – career at John Force Racing

‘Chaotic’ is perhaps the most fitting word Austin Prock could have used to describe his career at John Force Racing.

The recap goes like this: Prock earns NHRA Rookie of the Year honors in 2019 and scores his first career win in Top Fuel competition. The pandemic forces the organization to take a step from running the full season in 2020 and when it returns in 2021, Prock is not a part of the lineup due to a lack of funding. He returns to the seat in 2022, wins two races, and adds another in 2023.

And now we get to Prock’s current situation. Prock is no longer a Top Fuel driver for John Force, but his teammate in the Funny Car class. He inherited Robert Hight’s machine when Hight had to take a medical leave of absence.

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The transition has seemingly been flawless. Prock has won two races, leads the point standings (over Force), and has six No. 1 qualifiers in eight races.

If that wasn’t enough, Prock is being paraded around by Force as the 16-time champion’s eventual replacement. A career far from stable now seemingly has a path forward for Prock as a part of the organization’s future.

“My career over here has definitely been chaotic,” said the 28-year-old Prock. “I always seem to get thrown for a loop, but it always ends up working out. John – he busts his tail to make everything happen. There’s always been a lot of uncertainty in the off seasons (about) when I’m going to race, if I’m going to race, what is that year going to look like, but it’s always ended up working out.

“I really fell into a pot of gold this year. It’s unfortunate circumstances having Robert [Hight] step out but to get to drive this Funny Car with my family is really, really fun. We’re having a blast this year; the camaraderie in the pit is unbelievable. I don’t know if I’ll be a face of this company, but hopefully, I’m definitely in the seat for a long time.”

Prock is far too reserved – and well aware of how uncertain racing can be – to feel completely safe. He remains focused on living in the moment, no matter what his boss says.

Force is adamant, though that Prock is the future. After winning at Epping (New Hampshire) two weeks ago, Force made waves by handing Prock the trophy at the top end and publicly acknowledging the succession plan. There is a method to Force’s madness because while he might not be ready to get out of the car, he wants the fans to support Prock.

“I’ve never said it before, but you will be driving,” Force said to Prock. “There’s no reason for me at my age to stay forever. But I’ll find the money. I’ve got great sponsors … But he’ll be in the seat because it would not make sense for me to stay in the seat and take a kid with his talent out.”

All of the comments from Force have left Prock nearly speechless. It’s also validated Prock, proving that the work put in over the last few years is paying off. Prock said Force “took a huge risk” hiring him in 2017 when he’d never made a pass down a dragstrip.

“All I did was circle track stuff, dwarf and sprint cars,” Prock said. “[Force] said, ‘You want to come drive one of these, kid?’ and you’re not going to say no when the G.O.A.T asks you a question like (that). I’ve just been working really hard to try and make him proud.”

Force has had a front row seat to Prock’s ability in a Funny Car multiple times this season. In the season-opening race in Gainesville, Prock beat Force in the second round of Sunday eliminations. Force got one back in the final at Epping before it flipped a week later in Bristol as Prock beat Force in the final round.

At 75 years old, Force is still winning races but knows he’s closer to the end of his career than ever. Force made his 900th career start at Bristol last weekend, whereas Prock, who went to the final round and defeated J.R. Todd, made his 78th career start.

“All the fans took it so well; that can be a double-edged sword for sure, and you can get a lot of heat,” Prock said of Force’s endorsement about his future. “But I think our performance… has really gained a huge fan base in this sport, and people are starting to take a liking to me, and when John says something like that, it’s only going to help.

“All the comments on social media have been positive. I was afraid I was going to beat to death on there, but it’s all been good. So, yeah, I’m still in shock. The day I get to strap into his seat will be a very cool day.”

Story originally appeared on Racer