Prock Attack Rules As NHRA Countdown Begins

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 19 2022

John Force Racing teammates Austin Prock (left) and Robert Hight hoist their trophies in Reading, Pa.

Drag racing’s Prock Family added to its NHRA legacy Sunday, powering John Force Racing to a pair of victories during the opening event of the Countdown to the Championship Playoffs.

Austin Prock posted his second career win in Top Fuel while father/crew chief Jimmy Prock tuned Robert Hight to victory in Funny Car at the 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals. Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa., played host to Round 1 of the six-event postseason that will crown champions of the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series season.

Austin and Jimmy Prock doubled-up for the first time in their careers. Family scion Tom Prock was a street-racer on Detroit’s famed Woodward Avenue before moving on to organized competition in various classes. A pioneer in the Funny Car class, Tom Prock’s career peaked in 1972 driving the Custom Body Enterprises Dodge fielded by brothers Fred and Phil Castronovo. Known as the “Utica Flash,” the car won over 60 percent of its races.

Opening the current postseason from the 12th position, Austin Prock scored his first win of the season with a 1,000-foot run in 3.755-seconds at 329.67 mph to defeat point-leader Justin Ashley. 

Prock also jumped six spots in the standings. His day began with round-wins against Doug Foley, four-time/reigning world champion Steve Torrence and three-time world champ Antron Brown _ outdueling the latter during a pedal-fest in the semifinals. Prock finished his weekend by defeating Ashley in a side-by-side final that was a rematch of the 2022 Winternationals in Pomona, Calif. _ a race won by Ashley.

“It’s awesome and we’re right back in the hunt of this thing,” said Prock, 27. “If you come out and win Reading, you’re right back in it. This is unbelievable and it was just one of those days where everything was going our way. I’m so proud of this team and thank you to (team-owner) John Force for giving me the opportunity. This was exactly what we needed.”

Austin became the ninth different driver to hoist a Wally trophy this season in NHRA’s premier class. 

“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,” said Prock, driver of the Montana Brands/Rocky Mountain Twist dragster. “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; it was the first time in a long time that I’ve been able to do that on Sunday. It’s super-cool that we came out on the good side of a close race.”

Ashley advanced to a final round for the fifth time this season and assumed the point lead by trailering Jeff Chatterson, Doug Kalitta and Mike Salinas. Ashley, who moved ahead of 2016 world champion Brittany Force in the standings, will take a nine-point lead into the Betway NHRA Carolina Nationals at zMAX Dragway in Concord, N.C., on Sept. 23-25.

Erica Enders (Pro Stock) and Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle) also will head to North Carolina after posting timely postseason victories.

Robert Hight took aim at a fourth Funny Car world championship via his 60th victory, a career-best seventh of the season and second at Maple Grove while solidifying his hold on the championship point-lead.

Hight drove to a winning 1,000-foot pass in 3.937-seconds at 328.38 mph in his Auto Club Chevrolet Camaro SS “Prock Rocket” against Tim Wilkerson. As the No. 1 qualifier, Hight earned a first-round bye amid a 15-car field. Crew chiefs Jimmy Prock and Chris Cunningham were impressively consistent throughout Sunday, eliminating two-time world champion Cruz Pedregon and three-time world champ Matt Hagan to reach the final. 

Wilkerson then handed the victory to Hight by red-lighting at the Christmas Tree by 0.220-seconds. Hight’s milestone victory stretched his lead to 81 points over Hagan, of Tony Stewart Racing.

“This is exactly how we scripted it,” said Hight, 53. “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.

“This is just hard to believe, what we’re doing. I would have never guessed somebody would win seven Funny Car races. This is huge, to start out like this, but it’s one down and five to go. We’re going to have fun and then go focus on Charlotte and try to get it done next week. If we can do that, we’ll really be in a good position.”

Wilkerson overcame a fire in the semifinal round to advance to his second final this season and 49th in his career. The popular veteran and Ford Mustang campaigner scored round-wins against Alexis DeJoria, two-time/reigning world champion Ron Capps and 16-time world champ “Brute” Force _ who made his 800th career start after qualifying second.

“Not a bad weekend to start the Countdown,” said Force, 73. “Everyone (at JFR) is in the hunt. Robert may just run away with it, but this PEAK Chevy _ we’re still in the mix, still five races to go. Keep on trying to get the job done.”

Erica Enders’ enjoyable weekend in Pro Stock saw her avenge a loss to Troy Coughlin in the final at Pacific Raceways in Kent, Wash., via a stellar quarter-mile pass in 6.582-seconds at 209.72 mph at “The Grove.”

Enders opened the Countdown by collecting her seventh win this season and 40th in her career. Her trip to the final featured round-wins against Alan Prusiensky, Matt Hartford and Kyle Koretsky _wrapping up eliminations with her first victory at the Pennsylvania facility. Erica’s lead stands at 81 points over archrival and five-time/reigning world champion Greg Anderson.

“It was an amazing day, but really, ever since we set foot on the property it’s been great,” said Enders, driver of the Melling Performance/Elite Motorsports Chevrolet Camaro SS. “Bo Butner went to No. 1 and we were No. 2, but after that, we were low every time we went down the track. This Countdown is going to be a dog-fight, as it is every single year. We have to capitalize on every moment and execute perfectly from here.

“This is definitely special. A goal that I wrote down on January 1st was that I wanted to win at the tracks we haven’t won before, and we started off on the right foot in Pomona. We won the 900th Pro Stock race and Sonoma (Raceway in California) has been on my list every year. We got it done, then we came here to Reading and got it done as well.” 

Coughlin reached a final for the fourth time this season by defeating Cristian Cuadra, No. 1 qualifier and 2017 world champion Butner and Anderson.

Joey Gladstone retook the point lead in Pro Stock Motorcycle, capping a memorable day at the track where he grew up. Gladstone was handed the victory when Angie Smith went red at the Christmas Tree. Gladstone posted a quarter-mile pass in 6.835-seconds at 196.93 mph to earn his third win this season _ all coming during the last four national events aboard his Reed Motorsports Suzuki Hayabusa.

Five-time/reigning world champion Matt Smith took the point lead after his U.S. Nationals win over Labor Day weekend. Gladstone grabbed it in the Countdown opener aboard his Suzuki after defeating Hector Arana Jr., Matt Smith in a pivotal second-round match and then Marc Ingwersen to reach the final. Gladstone exited Maple Grove with a 29-point lead over Matt Smith.

“This is the playoffs, so that win is big,” said Gladstone, a 31-year-old native and resident of Milton, Del. “Matt has been a strong force, so to be able to get a good edge is awesome. We’ll need it because he hauls butt. Everyone in this class is so tough, everybody is a contender. Any day you can beat one Smith is a good day _ but two Smiths? That’s a big deal. I’m proud of my team and proud of my tuner. Today is my daughter, Olivia’s, birthday. It was a really special day, and how memorable is it to do this on her birthday?”

Angie Smith, Matt’s wife, reached her second final this season after victories against Ron Tornow, four-time world champion Eddie Krawiec and defending event winner Steve Johnson.


Final finishing order (1-16) at the 37th annual Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway in Reading, Pa. The race was the 17th of 22 events in the 2022 NHRA Camping World Drag Racing Series and Round 1 of the six-event Countdown to the Championship:

Top Fuel _ 1. Austin Prock; 2. Justin Ashley; 3. Antron Brown; 4. Mike Salinas; 5. Steve Torrence; 6. Brittany Force; 7. Doug Kalitta; 8. Clay Millican; 9. Jeffrey Chatterson; 10. Cameron Ferre; 11. Leah Pruett; 12. Tony Schumacher; 13. Shawn Langdon; 14. Doug Foley; 15. Josh Hart; 16. Joe Morrison.

Funny Car _1. Robert Hight; 2. Tim Wilkerson; 3. Matt Hagan; 4. John Force; 5. Bob Tasca III; 6. J.R.Todd; 7. Ron Capps; 8. Cruz Pedregon; 9. Alexis DeJoria; 10. Chad Green; 11. Paul Lee; 12. Phil Burkart; 13. Cory Lee; 14. Jim Campbell; 15. Terry Haddock.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders; 2. Troy Coughlin Jr.; 3. Kyle Koretsky; 4. Greg Anderson; 5. Matt Hartford; 6. Bo Butner; 7. Dallas Glenn; 8. Aaron Stanfield; 9. Cristian Cuadra; 10. Camrie Caruso; 11. Fernando Cuadra Jr.; 12. Chris McGaha; 13. Alan Prusiensky; 14. Mason McGaha; 15. Fernando Cuadra; 16. Tanner Gray.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Joey Gladstone; 2. Angie Smith; 3. Marc Ingwersen; 4. Steve Johnson; 5. Eddie Krawiec; 6. Matt Smith; 7. Jerry Savoie; 8. Angelle Sampey; 9. Scotty Pollacheck; 10. Kelly Clontz; 11. Jianna Evaristo; 12. Karen Stoffer; 13. Chris Bostick; 14. Ron Tornow; 15. Ryan Oehler; 16. Hector Arana Jr.

Pro and Sportsman class results from the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway:

Top Fuel _ Austin Prock, 3.755-seconds, 329.67 mph def. Justin Ashley, 3.783-seconds, 326.40 mph.

Funny Car _ Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.937, 328.38 def. Tim Wilkerson, Ford Mustang, Foul/Red Light.

Pro Stock _ Erica Enders, Chevy Camaro, 6.582, 209.72 def. Troy Coughlin Jr., Camaro, 6.601, 209.56.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.835, 196.93 def. Angie Smith, EBR, Foul/Red Light.

Top Alcohol Dragster _ Jeff Veale, 5.455, 265.12 def. Shawn Cowie, 10.517, 82.94.

Top Alcohol Funny Car _ DJ Cox Jr., Chevy Camaro, 5.477, 263.77 def. Sean Bellemeur, Camaro, 5.641, 263.10.

Competition Eliminator _ Ken Voight, Chevy Cobalt, 8.734, 154.69 def. Jay Schonberger, Olds Cutlas, Broke.

Super Stock _ Roger Reese, Chevy Nova, 10.433, 125.69 def. Byron Worner, Chevy Camaro, 9.845, 134.82.

Stock Eliminator _ Katie Sepanek, Chevy Chevelle, 11.598, 108.13 def. Joe Santangelo, Chevy Camaro, 10.418, 118.91.

Super Comp _ Donald Bangs, Dragster, 8.927, 172.23 def. Anthony Barrett, Dragster, 8.885, 179.59.

Super Gas _ Bo Butner, Chevy Corvette, 9.935, 165.05 def. Frank Volpe, Ford Mustang, 9.875, 162.57.

Top Sportsman presented by Vortech Superchargers _ Vonnie Mills, Chevy Camaro, 6.689, 200.14 def. Larry Willard, Chevy Bel Air, 7.382, 180.26.

Factory Stock Showdown _ David Barton, Chevy Camaro, 7.752, 177.44 def. Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 7.824, 175.96.

Junior Dragster Shootout _ Paige Ketterer, 7.987, 81.17 def. Mason Artim, Foul/Red Light.

Final round-by-round results from the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway:


ROUND ONE _ Doug Kalitta, 3.720, 329.58 def. Leah Pruett, 4.458, 224.51; Clay Millican, 3.776, 285.11 def. Tony Schumacher, 4.882, 151.95; Brittany Force, 3.698, 337.66 def. Cameron Ferre, 4.121, 291.32; Justin Ashley, 3.732, 329.83 def. Jeffrey Chatterson, 3.865, 321.58; Mike Salinas, 4.841, 225.18 def. Joe Morrison, 15.215, 31.54; Austin Prock, 3.705, 336.15 def. Doug Foley, 6.531, 93.23; Steve Torrence, 3.740, 324.51 def. Shawn Langdon, 5.901, 131.00; Antron Brown, 3.851, 249.76 def. Josh Hart, 10.983, 73.85;

QUARTERFINALS _ Salinas, 5.868, 282.42 def. Millican, 7.115, 115.65; Brown, 3.730, 323.97 def. Force, 5.389, 123.14; Prock, 3.762, 326.87 def. Torrence, 3.767, 324.36; Ashley, 3.841, 306.12 def. Kalitta, Foul/Red Light;

SEMIFINALS _ Ashley, 3.739, 330.80 def. Salinas, 9.497, 83.15; Prock, 5.732, 293.47 def. Brown, 6.565, 146.54;

FINAL _ Prock, 3.755, 329.67 def. Ashley, 3.783, 326.40.


ROUND ONE _ J.R. Todd, Toyota Supra, 3.914, 330.72 def. Chad Green, Ford Mustang, 3.932, 324.59; Robert Hight, Chevy Camaro, 3.878, 333.74 was unopposed; John Force, Camaro, 3.932, 287.66 def. Cory Lee, Mustang, 4.407, 287.84; Ron Capps, Supra, 3.858, 331.53 def. Phil Burkart, Chevy Monte Carlo, 4.282, 243.06; Bob Tasca III, Mustang, 3.895, 333.91 def. Terry Haddock, Mustang, 5.649, 125.62; Matt Hagan, Dodge Charger, 3.909, 334.65 def. Jim Campbell, Charger, 4.445, 207.53; Tim Wilkerson, Mustang, 3.922, 331.36 def. Alexis DeJoria, Supra, 3.924, 330.31; Cruz Pedregon, Charger, 3.918, 326.40 def. Paul Lee, Charger, 3.991, 319.45;

QUARTERFINALS _ Force, 4.000, 324.59 def. Todd, 3.972, 326.95; Hight, 3.901, 332.67 def. Pedregon, 5.567, 135.46; Wilkerson, 3.918, 329.58 def. Capps, 4.420, 201.10; Hagan, 3.935, 329.67 def. Tasca III, 3.941, 330.63;

SEMIFINALS _ Wilkerson, 4.621, 182.62 def. Force, 9.003, 82.09; Hight, 3.908, 331.69 def. Hagan, 4.123, 255.34;

FINAL _ Hight, 3.937, 328.38 def. Wilkerson, Foul/Red Light.


ROUND ONE _ Troy Coughlin Jr., Chevy Camaro, 6.576, 208.65 def. Cristian Cuadra, Ford Mustang, 6.581, 205.63; Matt Hartford, Camaro, 6.569, 209.33 def. Chris McGaha, Camaro, 6.606, 207.75; Aaron Stanfield, Camaro, 6.580, 208.52 def. Camrie Caruso, Camaro, 6.595, 207.98; Greg Anderson, Camaro, 6.572, 207.69 def. Fernando Cuadra Jr., Mustang, 6.602, 207.27; Dallas Glenn, Camaro, 6.598, 208.46 def. Mason McGaha, Camaro, 6.638, 206.73; Kyle Koretsky, Camaro, 6.567, 208.94 def. Tanner Gray, Camaro, 6.663, 206.32; Bo Butner, Camaro, 6.565, 208.84 def. Fernando Cuadra, Mustang, 6.643, 205.51; Erica Enders, Camaro, 6.548, 209.39 def. Alan Prusiensky, Dodge Dart, 6.607, 206.32;

QUARTERFINALS _ Anderson, 6.612, 207.21 def. Glenn, 6.668, 206.67; Koretsky, 6.602, 208.94 def. Stanfield, 7.839, 130.73; Coughlin Jr., 6.605, 209.04 def. Butner, 6.601, 208.07; Enders, 6.569, 209.39 def. Hartford, Foul/Red Light;

SEMIFINALS _ Coughlin Jr., 6.601, 209.46 def. Anderson, 6.714, 188.02; Enders, 6.584, 209.43 def. Koretsky, 6.613, 208.94;

FINAL _ Enders, 6.582, 209.72 def. Coughlin Jr., 6.601, 209.56.


ROUND ONE _  Joey Gladstone, Suzuki, 6.821, 198.52 def. Hector Arana Jr., Buell, Foul/Red Light; Eddie Krawiec, Suzuki, 6.795, 198.44 def. Karen Stoffer, Suzuki, Foul/Red Light; Angie Smith, EBR, 6.796, 199.52 def. Ron Tornow, Victory, 6.982, 191.95; Jerry Savoie, Suzuki, 6.836, 194.66 def. Chris Bostick, Buell, 6.911, 195.28; Marc Ingwersen, EBR, 6.893, 196.99 def. Scotty Pollacheck, EBR, 6.889, 197.36; Steve Johnson, Suzuki, 6.785, 198.32 def. Kelly Clontz, Suzuki, 6.891, 195.65; Angelle Sampey, Suzuki, 6.904, 199.23 def. Jianna Evaristo, Suzuki, 6.903, 194.16; Matt Smith, EBR, 6.761, 201.82 def. Ryan Oehler, EBR, 7.196, 178.24;

QUARTERFINALS _ Ingwersen, 6.962, 194.72 def. Sampey, 6.902, 197.19; A. Smith, 6.841, 198.90 def. Krawiec, 6.815, 198.50; Johnson, 6.867, 195.05 def. Savoie, 6.892, 194.13; Gladstone, 6.815, 197.51 def. M. Smith, 6.818, 199.61;

SEMIFINALS _ A. Smith, 6.849, 198.61 def. Johnson, 6.945, 194.69; Gladstone, 6.869, 196.90 def. Ingwersen, 6.927, 195.73;

FINAL _ Gladstone, 6.835, 196.93 def. A. Smith, Foul/Red Light.

Countdown to the Championship point standings (top-10) following the Pep Boys NHRA Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway:

Top Fuel _1. Justin Ashley, 2,170; 2. Brittany Force, 2,161; 3. Mike Salinas, 2,160; 4. Antron Brown, 2,116; 5. Steve Torrence, 2,114; 6. Austin Prock, 2,096; 7. Josh Hart, 2,083; 8. (tie) Doug Kalitta, 2,063; Leah Pruett, 2,063; 10. Shawn Langdon, 2,052.

Funny Car _ 1. Robert Hight, 2,225; 2. Matt Hagan, 2,144; 3. Ron Capps, 2,141; 4. John Force, 2,128; 5. Bob Tasca III, 2,119; 6. Tim Wilkerson, 2,103; 7. J.R. Todd, 2,095; 8. Cruz Pedregon, 2,073; 9. Alexis DeJoria, 2,062; 10. Jim Campbell, 2,022.

Pro Stock _ 1. Erica Enders, 2,225; 2. Greg Anderson, 2,144; 3. Kyle Koretsky, 2,137; 4. Troy Coughlin Jr., 2,135; 5. Aaron Stanfield, 2,134; 6. Dallas Glenn, 2,107; 7. Matt Hartford, 2,063; 8. Mason McGaha, 2,061; 9. Bo Butner, 2,053; 10. Camrie Caruso, 2,052.

Pro Stock Motorcycle _ 1. Joey Gladstone, 2,193; 2. Matt Smith, 2,164; 3. Steve Johnson, 2,151; 4. Angie Smith, 2,144; 5. Angelle Sampey, 2,115; 6. Marc Ingwersen, 2,104; 7. Eddie Krawiec, 2,103; 8. Jerry Savoie, 2,089; 9. Karen Stoffer, 2,077; 10. Ryan Oehler, 2,056.


Sept. 15-18 _ Pep Boys NHRA Nationals, Maple Grove Raceway, Reading, Pa: Austin Prock (Top Fuel), Robert Hight (Funny Car), Erica Enders (Pro Stock) Joey Gladstone (Pro Stock Motorcycle).

Sept. 23-25 _ Charlotte NHRA Nationals, zMAX Dragway, Concord, N.C.

Sept. 30-Oct. 2 _ NHRA Midwest Nationals, World Wide Technology Raceway, Madison, Ill.

Oct. 13-16 _ Texas NHRA FallNationals, Texas Motorplex, Ennis.

Oct. 27-30 _ NHRA Nevada Nationals, The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Nov. 10-13 _ Auto Club NHRA Finals, Auto Club Raceway at Pomona, Calif.

Editor’s Note: John Sturbin is a Texas-based journalist specializing in motorsports. During a near 30-year career with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, he won the Bloys Britt Award for top motorsports story of the year (1991) as judged by The Associated Press; received the National Hot Rod Association’s Media Award (1995) and several in-house Star-Telegram honors. He also was inaugural recipient of the Texas Motor Speedway Excellence in Journalism Award (2009). His list of freelance clients includes Texas Motor Speedway, the Dallas Morning News, New York Newsday, Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, Corpus Christi (Texas) Caller Times, NASCAR Wire Service, Ford Racing and Used Car Dealer magazine).


| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 19 2022
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