Story By: SCOTT SMITH / NHRA – CONCORD, NC – With a learning curve that’s already been impressive during his NHRA Mello Yello Drag Racing Series rookie season, Top Fuel driver Austin Prock is eager to show more improvement during his second career four-wide drag racing experience at this weekend’s 10th annual NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway.
Prock made his four-wide debut in Las Vegas earlier this month in his 10,000-horsepower Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster, quickly learning what it takes to be successful at drag racing’s biggest spectacle. It’s an atmosphere he enjoyed and, despite a first-round loss in Vegas, Prock is looking forward to competing in four-wide racing at the Bellagio of dragstrips.
“It’s a little different than I expected, but we caught on and we’re pretty confident heading into this weekend,” said Prock, who is 11th in Top Fuel points. “I like the fact that you can beat three guys at once and you can even beat three guys on a holeshot. For a driver, that gets me pumped to try and leave on three people. That’s a cool part of the race, but this is just something that’s different. It’s exciting to switch things up every once in a while and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Steve Torrence (Top Fuel), Cruz Pedregon (Funny Car), and Jerry Savoie (Pro Stock Motorcycle) were last year’s winners. The race will be televised on FOX Sports 1, including a broadcast of the finals on Sunday, April 28 at 6:00 p.m. (ET). It is the sixth of 24 events during the 2019 NHRA season and marks a special race, as one of the most unique experiences in motorsports turns 10 years old. It’s the first for Prock in Charlotte, but he’s banking on more improvement.
The team, led by crew chiefs Ronnie Thompson and John Schaffer, came together quickly in the off-season and is filled with newcomers, meaning Prock isn’t the only rookie to John Force Racing’s second-ever Top Fuel car. But Prock has grown right along with them, a process that has made everyone better through the first five races of the 2019 season. Of course, learning has never been a problem for Prock, the son of famed JFR crew chief Jimmy Prock. He has leaned on Top Fuel teammate Brittany Force, a former world champion who won the most recent event in Houston, as well as John Force and Robert Hight for advice, listening every step of the way.
“Working with this team, it really just makes the learning process way shorter for me,” Prock said. “All three of my teammates are world champions. They’ve been there, done that, so if I have any questions I can go to them right off the bat. My ears are always open and that definitely helps. Working with my dad, he’s one of the greatest ever and he’s worked with a lot of talented drivers, so anything he tells me, I’m going to make sure and listen.”
Prock isn’t shy about having big goals, either. With the team around him, he wants to be competing for race wins and No. 1 qualifiers. He has posted three round wins thus far in 2019, including one in Houston, but Prock is ready for more. He takes a great deal of pride in his reaction times and is after a big performance in Charlotte against the likes of defending world champion Torrence, points leader Doug Kalitta, Mike Salinas, Leah Pritchett, Clay Millican and Antron Brown.
“Just because I’m a rookie doesn’t mean we can’t win rounds, set low E.T. or win races,” Prock said. “But it’s super competitive out there. You know you have to go up there and leave on the other guy because it’s always going to be a close race. But we’ve put together a great team and everyone keeps showing a lot of promise.”
Pedregon snapped a long winless streak a year ago in Funny Car when he won in Charlotte, and he’ll look for his first win of 2019 against the likes of defending world champ J.R. Todd, points leader Hight, who has three wins this year, and Phoenix winner Ron Capps.
Veteran Savoie, the 2016 Pro Stock Motorcycle world champ, grabbed his first four-wide victory in 2018. He’ll look to repeat against a talented crop of riders that includes five-time champ Andrew Hines, Vegas four-wide winner Hector Arana Jr. and defending world champ Matt Smith.
The E3 Spark Plugs NHRA Pro Mod Drag Racing Series presented by J&A Service makes the third of 12 stops in 2019 with its appearance at zMAX Dragway. Jose Gonzalez grabbed his first career win in the popular class last year at the event, while Todd Tutterow and Stevie “Fast” Jackson have claimed the first two wins of 2019. Fan favorites Erica Enders and Alex Laughlin will be competing in this exciting category as well.
The ultra-competitive SAMTech.edu NHRA Factory Stock Showdown will hit the track for its second appearance of the season. This growing series features production car drag racing at its best. Fans of modern muscle cars will love these quick and unpredictable machines that represent the ultimate in technology and performance.
Back by popular demand, the exciting Mountain Motor Pro Stock class will make its four-wide racing debut in Charlotte this year. With dynamic paint schemes and throwback hood scoops, Mountain Motor Pro Stock cars bring maximum entertainment value when they hit the track, making the second of four appearances in 2019. The event also features thrilling competition in the NHRA Lucas Oil Drag Racing Series, showcasing the future stars of the sport.
The second round of qualifying on Friday night will be a special treat for as the NGK Spark Plugs NHRA Four-Wide Nationals go Prime Time! With pyrotechnics, a live DJ, driver intro music and header flames under the lights, this will be an unforgettable experience for race fans.
As always, fans can interact with their favorite drivers as they’re granted an exclusive pit pass to the most powerful and sensory-filled motorsports attraction on the planet. This unique opportunity gives fans direct access to the teams, allowing them to see firsthand the highly-skilled mechanics service their hot rods between rounds, and get autographs from their favorite NHRA drivers.
Fans also will want to visit NHRA’s popular Nitro Alley and Manufacturers Midway, where sponsors and race vendors create a carnival atmosphere, with interactive displays, simulated competitions, merchandise, food and fun for the entire family.
Mello Yello Drag Racing Series qualifying will feature two rounds at 4:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 26 and the final two rounds of qualifying on Saturday, April 27, at 2:00 and 4:15 p.m. Final eliminations are scheduled for 12 p.m. on Sunday, April 28.