It is safe to say Austin Prock is in a zone right now.

Prock, driving for John Force Racing, took home the title at the PlayNHRA Virginia Nationals in Richmond, Va., on  Sunday.

Prock clocked a 3.921-second elapsed time at 327.90 mph to defeat Bob Tasca III, who coasted across the line in 7.145 seconds after smoking the tires.

Prock's third career win nitro Funny Car win, and seventh overall, was one filled with emotions.

He was waiting at the top end of the track when his boss and NHRA legend John Force had a fiery, wall-smashing, high-speed crash during the first round of the racer. Force was able to climb from his car and was taken to an area hospital, where he was to stay overnight.

“It was definitely one for the memories. A lot of different emotions this weekend,” Prock said. “Long day at the track, man. You typically don't get days like this where you run the final round at night like this. And had rain, had heat, had humidity, a bunch of different track conditions all weekend long. Battled through a lot of adversity on the tuning side of things, and the mental side of things with what happened this morning with John. So, this trophy's definitely going back to him.

"I'm just glad he's OK. I haven't heard from him yet and I hope I get a phone call from him when I get out of here, so that would be the highlight of the day for sure. But super proud of this team, and to get it done with everything that went on, keeping my head together. I was obviously very emotional after seeing that this morning. I haven't even watched the crash, and personally, I don't ever want to see it. ... This day started out sucking and ended up pretty cool.”

Prock, who never raced a Funny Car full-time until this season, was thrust into this role when three-time world champion driver Robert Hight was sidelined by a medical condition.

Prock been a quick study, to say the least. He has qualified No. 1 six times in addition to the three victories. On Sunday, he defeated Cruz Pedregon, Ron Capps, Matt Hagan, and Tasca.

“We wanted to get it done for him (Force), but I almost felt like I was feeling the pressure early on in the day,” Prock said. “I drove terrible second round and third round. And just tried to tell myself, ‘Pull your sh*t together, dude. Come on, let's go get it done. This team's busting their tail out in this heat, and I don't want to be the weak link.' I wanted to get it done for John and we all did.

"I got my stuff together in the final round there. We made a really nice run and I finally hit the tree. That was definitely a good feeling and good way to roll out of here, for sure. I wanted to make John proud, and I hope he is. I'm looking forward to seeing him.”
Prock’s other wins this season came in Phoenix, and Bristol, Tenn., and he has three runner-up finishes. He’s also been the No. 1 qualifier in Gainesville, Fla., Phoenix, Las Vegas, Chicago, Epping, N.H., and Bristol.

“I just told (myself) ... ‘Just go up there and do your job. You got one job, man,'" Prock said. “Just be cool, calm, collected. If you got anything on your mind or you're amped up or too down, you just don't drive as well. When you're just in there and cool as a cucumber, the things just seem to fall together, and I wasn't trying to get too amped up.

"I know Tasca can chop the tree down, and I know the way that thing can run. It's a shame that we didn't get to put on a little bit better show because I was expecting both of us to go out there and run high 80s or low 90s, and just be a hell of a drag race. But our stuff got down there, and we ended up getting the win. Really proud of this whole team. It's just unbelievable. I can't even comprehend what's been going on this year. Every time it goes up there, it just flies. The next time it smokes the tires, I'm going to be completely caught off guard. I'm going to have to re-learn how to pedal these things, but they've just been doing such a good job and I hope we can keep it going.”

Prock added to the points lead he had when he arrived in Richmond. He now leads the way with 824 and a significant advantage over Force, who is second with 693.

“I think the first time I've ever had someone crash really hard while I'm still racing or ever, even in or out of the car,” Prock said about Force. “... I told them at the top end as a race car driver, you got to have a switch. You have to have a mental switch. You live your day-to-day life, and when you get in that race car, you have to flip a switch because you become a different human being. A normal human being would never sit in a nitro Funny Car, so you got to flip that switch on and become a race car driver and go do your job because that's what you're getting paid for.

“At the end of the day, you got a job to do, and you got to do it. Whatever it takes mentally, physically, you need to get the job done for your sponsors, your team. Our sponsors, they back us plenty well. All these crew guys bust their tails to make this car go up and down the racetrack, and you got to flip that switch and go do your job.”

From 2019-23, Prock drove a Top Fuel dragster for John Force Racing, and he finished a career-best third in the points standings in 2022. He collected four national-event wins and three No. 1 qualifiers.

Prock, who was the 2019 NHRA Rookie of the Year, has enjoyed his time in Top Fuel and Funny Car. He has a 21-6 elimination round record this season, and a nearly flawless a 12-1 mark in his last 13 rounds.

Prock’s team is led by his father/world championship crew chief Jimmy Prock and his brother, Thomas.

“I listened to them on the radio and they're just so confident and their notebook is just working so well right now,” Austin said. “They have so much data built up in that notebook and so many track conditions and we've got so many opportunities because of that. We've just been going up and down the racetrack and getting another opportunity to gain more data and me more seat time. I'm still a rookie, and they've definitely sped my learning curve up by giving me the opportunity to go up and down the racetrack as much as we have.”

In Richmond, history was made as three pro qualifying sessions were held Saturday, followed by Sunday's eliminations. Although the Richmond race was only two days it didn’t feel that way to Prock.

“Well, first off, as long as both of these days were, it was like a three-day race. I mean these conditions were brutal on us,” He said. “But, yeah, I like the two-day race. I thought that the fans got way more bang for their buck (Saturday). They got three great sessions. And in the qualifying, they get way more cars going up and down the racetrack, especially when we have more than a full field here. Every car runs each session, so that's really cool for the fans. I was mighty impressed with how many people actually came out (Saturday) with the heat, but if you live out here, I guess it's just another day.”