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Prock And Force Split In Middle Of Countdown

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 22 2014

John Force will go for Funny Car championship No. 17 without crew chief Jimmy Prock. (File photo courtesy of the Mello Yello NHRA Drag Racing Series)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

NHRA Funny Car icon John Force accepted the resignation of crew chief Jimmy Prock on Wednesday, accelerating an exit process Prock was targeting for the end of the Countdown to the Championship next month.

On Thursday, Don Schumacher Racing announced it had hired Prock for a position yet to be determined, DSR owner Don Schumacher announced Thursday.

The 16-time/reigning Funny Car world champion, Force currently is No. 2 in the Mello Yello title standings, 36 points behind 2011 world champion Matt Hagan of Don Schumacher Racing with two playoff races remaining.

“Yesterday Jimmy Prock told me he was resigning at end of the season and John Force Racing chose to accept his resignation as of today,” Force, the team’s CEO, said during a national teleconference. “I started hearing rumors after the St. Louis race (on Sept. 28). I understand people have to do what they need to for their families.

“I got a call from a team owner this week as a courtesy so I would know that some of my employees were addressing him and looking for jobs now. I told the team owner that I understand this business and they needed to do what they needed to do and I hung up. I was surprised, though, that this was going on during the Countdown – but business is business.”

Force did not immediately name a replacement for Prock heading into Round 5 of the Countdown for the 14th annual NHRA Toyota Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway Oct. 30-Nov. 2. The season will end with the 50th annual Auto Club NHRA Finals at Pomona (Calif.) Raceway Nov. 13-16.

Prock took over tuning duties on Force’s Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang after a midseason 2013 intramural John Force Racing team swap that saw Prock leave the Auto Club Ford of 2009 world champion Robert Hight. Prock went on to tune Force, the winningest driver in NHRA history, to five consecutive final rounds during the 2013 Countdown including three consecutive wins to clinch Force’s 16th Funny Car world title.

“I spoke with Jimmy and he let me know that he was probably leaving JFR at the end of the season for another opportunity,” Force said. “A man has to do what a man has to do but I have sponsors that I’m signing contracts with that look at JFR as a four-team powerhouse and here I have people not committed to this team, long-term. They’re willing to walk away from me. I can’t promise my people what I don’t have.”

Force is losing long-time manufacturer Ford and sponsor Castrol at season’s end. Force, 65, said he was committed to taking $2.5-million from his savings in order to keep his current lineup of three Funny Cars and one Top Fuel dragster running the complete NHRA schedule in 2015. Force fields the Traxxas Ford for daughter Courtney, third in the Countdown standings, in addition to the cars driven by himself and son-in-law Hight. Daughter and second-year pro Brittany Force drives JFR’s Castrol EDGE Top Fuel dragster.

“My No. 1 goal was to keep the people that I have built this machine with over the past three decades,” Force said. ”I’m working with JMI (marketing firm) and we’re making progress to be where we need to be financially. We have a major announcement at the Las Vegas race and possibly some announcements at SEMA as well as into the offseason leading right up to the Winternationals in 2015. When I lay out a plan I stick with it.”

A native of Detroit, Prock is the son of former Funny Car driver Tom Prock, who competed in the NHRA during the 1970s and 1980s. Jimmy Prock first experienced success as a tuner in the Top Fuel ranks as crew chief for Cory McClenathan during his two-win “Cinderella run” as title runnerup in 1992. Cory Mac finished 92 points behind Joe Amato, who clinched his fifth and last world championship. Prock later won 18 national events with Amato.

Prock joined an exclusive fraternity in 2001 when he guided veteran Gary Densham to Funny Car victories at Memphis, Tenn., and Ennis, Texas, to become the 10th crew chief to win races in the sport’s top two categories.

Force said he knew where Prock was headed for his next job but declined to disclose the rival team.

“No one is at fault here and I’m not blaming anyone, but John Force is going to do what he always does; I’m going to make a change,” Force said. “As of today, Jimmy Prock will no longer be employed by John Force Racing. He’s done a great job for me and I give him a lot of respect. I wish him well. I’m not sure if some of my crew members will also be leaving but if they choose to leave I wish them luck. I have to honor my new sponsors and the sponsors that have stood by me as I may possibly have to build a team to finish the Countdown.”

Force has three Funny Car wins, seven runnerup finishes and a victory in the lucrative $100,000 Traxxas Nitro Shootout this season. Force is basically two rounds of racing behind Hagan heading into Vegas.

“As much as I want No. 17, not even for a championship will I race with somebody that I know is leaving me,” Force said. “I’m a big boy and I’m going to put this team back together. I’m going to fight, win or lose. If we get No. 17, great, but if we don’t I know I will have gone down with people that believe in me, that trust in me and that will stand by me, not just in good times but in bad times. I’m not just racing for this championship; I’m racing for the next 10 years.

“When I don’t have it in my heart, then I’m not going to hang around _ not even for a championship. I race from the heart. I’m about principle. I’m about loyalty. I’m about teamwork. I’m going after this championship and I’m going after it with the people that will stay with me for the long haul. That’s what I owe my sponsors and fans.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, October 22 2014
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