It was good weekend at North Carolina’s zMAX Dragway for several teams in the NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series paddock, but most of all — John Force Racing.
Two of the team’s drivers — Austin Prock (Top Fuel) and Robert Hight (Funny Car) — flipped final-round win lights and brought Wallys back to JFR’s Indianapolis headquarters.
It was a bit of a statement victory for Prock, as the Montana Brand/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster driver continues to prove himself as a contender in the Top Fuel class. This year marks Prock’s third full season in the professional ranks, with his four-wide conquest going down as his fourth career victory.
It’s been a troubling start to the season for the 27-year-old, as he dealt with a series of mechanical issues and quarterfinal finishes during the opening stretch. His best result prior to the zMAX Dragway event was a runner-up performance at the NHRA Winternationals on April 2.
“This category is just brutal right now,” said Prock, who is fourth in points. “It feels really good to get a win early in the season like this. All my wins have come pretty late in the season, even in my rookie year.”
Prock admitted he hasn’t been happy with his performance as a driver this season, but the turnaround at zMAX Dragway feels like it’s set him on the right path.
“To rebound like we did after an awful weekend in Las Vegas really shows how strong this team is,” Prock said, referencing his first-round exit at the Four-Wide Nationals in Las Vegas. “It’s easy to be good one weekend, but to do it over and over and over again to be a champion, that’s what makes it tough.”
It was also the first Top Fuel victory for Prock’s lead crew chief, Chris Cunningham.
While Prock continues to make headway toward his first career NHRA title, the second JFR driver present in the winner’s circle last weekend is busy chasing a fourth Funny Car championship.
Hight suffered a difficult loss in the title fight last year, as Ron Capps’ late-season magic overpowered Hight’s early-season dominance. The Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro driver was three points short of the championship when all was said and done. As a result, the 53-year-old has been racing with a fury this season.
He proved it in the Funny Car finals, clinching a holeshot victory against Capps, Alexis DeJoria and teammate John Force. It was Hight’s second triumph of the season and the 63rd win of his career.
“After two first-round losses in a row, we changed the car around. We stayed and tested after the last event in Vegas,” said Hight, who was defeated in the first round of eliminations in Las Vegas. “So to come in here and make seven respectable runs and get down the track every run, that’s pretty exciting.”
He is now third in the standings — behind points leader Matt Hagan and DeJoria — and three points ahead of Capps, who is fourth.
But that wasn’t the end of the story for the JFR crew at the Circle K NHRA Four-Wide Nationals.
The team’s second Top Fuel entry, piloted by Brittany Force, was responsible for re-setting the quickest run in zMAX Dragway history during Saturday’s qualifying rounds.
Force recorded a 3.651-second lap at 336.32 mph, besting her previous track record of a 3.662-second elapsed time (ET) that she set in 2021.
The strength of her qualifying performance led to a successful climb through Sunday’s elimination ladders to the Top Fuel final, where she fell to Prock. She is fifth in the standings, 56 points behind leader Steve Torrence.
Meanwhile, the fourth JFR driver — John Force himself — also enjoyed a trip to the final round of eliminations. However, his 3.924-second ET at 329.26 mph wasn’t quite enough to lock down the win.
“We didn’t get it down there every run and we got a bit of luck on one of them, but semifinal finish, making it to the final round, that’s good,” Force said. “If it can’t be us winning, I’m glad it’s Robert Hight.”
His run at zMAX marked his second consecutive semifinal finish, boosting his position to eighth in the point standings. The 73-year-old is still searching for his first win of the season.
Ironically, his last trip to the winner’s circle was at the Four-Wide Nationals at zMAX Dragway in 2022.