Not everyone can race a Prock Rocket.
Jimmy Prock is one of the most gifted crew chiefs in NHRA Mello Yello Funny Car competition. He always shoots for the stars – which is why his cars are called Prock Rockets. His racecars are known to earn national records, like the one at Sonoma this summer, where 2017 NHRA Funny Car champion Robert Hight turned a lap of 339.87 on the thousand-foot track. A lot of times his cars just don’t get down the track. Feast or famine.
In 2009, Prock and Robert Hight earned their first championship together. With similar temperaments and Hight’s ability to handle this handful of a Chevrolet Camaro SS Funny Car, Prock’s return, in 2017, to John Force Racing (JFR) and to company president Hight’s team made great sense. It makes even more now that they’ve captured their second title together. Neither one is done with this challenge after edging close to 340mph and being first under 3.8-seconds in a flopper.
It wasn’t easy for them to take this title as they entered the six-race NHRA Countdown to the Championship in second place after winning the Chevrolet Performance U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis. It was particularly tough in the season finale, the Auto Club Finals on Auto Club Raceway at Pomona’s dragstrip. The fact that Hight’s car carries sponsorship from the Auto Club of Southern California and initially wore a California Highway Patrol body wrap for this race made their fight to the finish even more compelling.
Hight wasn’t even in the Auto Club Finals show until the fourth and last opportunity to qualify. The Prock Rocket just wasn’t getting down the track, no matter what the team did to prep it. On the first try, Hight turned a 4.399 to place 17th; the second session proved worse, when he turned 7,801; Hight’s third session try equaled his first, time wise.
Finally, finally they made the cut in 15th place with a lap of 4.132-sec, which meant a first-round match-up against the always-difficult Tim Wilkerson. The duo were first to the line in their class, the Camaro against the Shelby Mustang. Hight prevailed (3.839/332.51) as Wilkerson shuddered down the track after being late at the light. Hight moved forward, racing and beating two-time Don Schumacher Racing champ Matt Hagan with a blazing 3.851/334.32 lap and thereby earning the title, after reigning champ Ron Capps went out in the first round.
In the third round, Hight’s car broke apart with a massive explosion after the win light (3.867/326.48) against sister-in-law Courtney Force, who had difficulties shortly after beating Hight off the line. He rumbled down the racetrack and into the sand trap, forcing the team to bring out a third body for the race and season finale. In the finale against Tommy Johnson Jr – who also made a trip into the kitty litter – the DSR driver beat the new champ. With the deed done, Hight earned his second title and Prock added a third feather in his cap (he also helped John Force to his 16th title in 2013).
It’s one of the great pleasures of NHRA Mello Yello drag racing: seeing who’s got the goods in four rounds of qualifying and four rounds of racing. See who’s reaching for the stars and who’s playing it safe. One thing can’t be debated in the Funny Car paddock, though, and that’s the fact that now, just as they did eight years earlier, Jimmy Prock and Robert Hight will reach for the heights whenever they go to the starting line.
It may not be the easiest 11,000-horsepower car to drive in a straight line, but Prock’s Rocket will always be “setting the world on fire” – just as he’s done since 1991.