Austin Prock in the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist dragster and Robert Hight in the Automobile Club of Southern California Chevrolet Camaro SS, crew chiefed by Prock’s father, Jimmy Prock, doubled up for the first time in their careers Sunday at the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. John Force and the PEAK Antifreeze and Coolant Chevy Camaro SS had a semifinal finish while Brittany Force with the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy dragster had a quarterfinal appearance.
The win would be Prock’s first of the season, second of his career and propel him from 12th to sixth in the NHRA Countdown to the Championship points. For Hight, it would be his 60th career victory, a career best seventh of the season and second at Maple Grove Raceway while also further solidifying his hold on the championship points lead.
Austin Prock and the Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team started eliminations in the No. 4 spot picking up the win with a 3.705-second pass at his career best 336.15 mph to Foley’s 6.531 at 93.23 after smoking the tires. In the second round, Prock would take on four-time reigning world champion Steve Torrence.
In one of the closest side-by-side races of the day, Prock would have the slight starting line advantage at .067-seconds to Torrence’s .070 and never trail crossing the line at 3.762-seconds and 326.87 mph bettering Torrence’s 3.767 at 324.36 sending Prock to his first semifinal appearance since the New England Nationals in Epping, N.H. in June.
Prock would take down Antron Brown in a thrilling pedalfest. Both hot rods would go up in smoke almost immediately forcing the drivers to put their skills to the test. Both would battle to gain back control with Prock prevailing to a 5.732-second pass at 293.47 mph over Brown’s 6.565 at 146.54.
The finals would be a rematch of the 2022 Winternationals final round with Prock matched up with Justin Ashley. This time around, it would be Prock who would come out victorious with a 3.755-second pass at 329.67 mph over Ashley’s 3.783 at 326.40.
“This is exactly what this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team needed. It’s awesome and we’re right back in the hunt of this thing. We came into the Countdown sitting 12th, and if we wanted to play for the big trophy, we knew we had to win this weekend.,” Prock said. “If you come out and win Reading, you’re right back in the hunt. This is unbelievable and it was just one of those days where everything was going our way, the team did their job, the crew chiefs made good decisions and I did my job. I’m so proud of this team. Everybody kept their heads down and still believed in themselves, and that attitude is how you win a Wally. I was really proud to win four rounds and thank you to John Force and Frank Tiegs for giving me the opportunity.”
As the No. 1 qualifiers, Hight and the Auto Club team earned a bye run in the first round. Crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham took advantage of the opportunity running a 3.878-second pass at 333.74 mph to gain lane choice in the second round against Cruz Pedregon. Hight and the Auto Club Chevy would stay consistent going 3.901-seconds at 332.67 mph to Pedregon’s 5.567 at 135.46 after he smoked the tires.
It would be two juggernauts in the semifinal with Hight facing second in points Matt Hagan. The Auto Club Camaro would continue to be unwavering going 3.908-seconds at 331.69 mph to Hagan’s 4.123 at 255.34. Veteran Tim Wilkerson would be waiting for Hight in the finals.
Hight and the Auto Club team left nothing to chance knowing Wilkerson had run second quickest in two of the rounds. The Camaro would lay down a 3.937-second pass at 328.38 mph but the race was on the starting line after Wilkerson would red-light by -.220-seconds securing victory for Hight.
“This is exactly how we scripted it. The only problem is, it’s really easy to script a weekend and a lot harder to get the job done. We needed to qualify well and get bonus points every run, because at the end of the year, those bonus points can be the difference,” Hight said. “This is just hard to believe, what we’re doing. I would have never guessed somebody would win seven Funny Car races. There was a point I’d never thought I’d get a win or a chance to drive. I’m very fortunate and there’s been one common denominator on all those wins and that’s the Auto Club of Southern California. I’v had the same sponsor for 18 years, 60 wins, without them we wouldn’t be here.
“It’s dog-eat-dog out there, so this is amazing. This is huge, to start out the Countdown to the Championship like this, but it’s one down and five to go,” Hight continued. “We’re going to have fun today and then go focus in Charlotte and try to get it done next week. If we can do that, we’ll really be in a good position.”
John Force and the PEAK Chevy started their race day against Cory Lee after qualifying second for the 16-time champs 800th career race start. Force would go 3.932-seonds at at 287.66 mph after lifting early to defeat lee’s 4.407 at 287.84. In the second round, Todd would square off with J.R. Todd. On a holeshot, Force would pick up the win at 4.000-seconds and 324.59 mph with a .051-second reaction time while Todd would have a 3.972 at 326.95 and a .089 reaction time.
Force would run into trouble in the semifinals, coasting to a 9.003-second pass at 82.09 mph after driving into tire smoke against eventual race runner-up Wilkerson who would issues of his own to run 4.621 at 182.62.
“Not a bad weekend to start the Countdown. Everyone is in the hunt, Robert may just runaway with Is but this PEAK Chevy, we’re still in the mix, still five races to go. Brittany will be good, still up in the top. That Montana Brand car, we’ve been working hard to get that car back in the mix, and they’ve got a chance,” Force said. “We head right to Charlotte where we’ll have another shot at it. Keep on trying to get the job done.”
Entering the day as the No. 1 qualifiers, Brittany Force and the Flav-R-Pac / Monster Energy team made waves with their first-round victory over Cameron Ferre. Force would handle the David Grubnic and Mac Savage tuned dragster to a 3.698-second pass at a track speed of 337.66 mph. Ferre’s 4.121 at 291.32 was no match for the second quickest run of the event.
Force would then line the Flav-R-Pac dragster up with Antron Brown in the second round. Much like her Saturday evening run, Force would have an engine explosion but this time, she’d end up on the losing end going only 5.389-seconds at 123.14 mph when her rear tires slipped in her oil. The 2017 world champion managed to keep her dragster in her lane but watched Brown drive away to a 3.730 at 323.97.
“It’s tough, when you come in here in the points lead. It’s unfortunate to get beat that way and watch a car just completely drive around you and you’re stuck, you can’t do anything you have no power, you have to pull your foot out of it. But we’re a team. We’ll pull together these Flav-R-Pac guys. We go to Charlotte next and we’ll set up there and try again.”
The NHRA Countdown to the Championship continues with the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway, September 23-25.