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Jimmy Prock ready to write another chapter with old/new boss

Oct 6, 2013; Mohnton, PA, USA; NHRA funny car driver John Force (right) celebrates with crew chief Jimmy Prock after winning the Auto Plus Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Oct 6, 2013; Mohnton, PA, USA; NHRA funny car driver John Force (right) celebrates with crew chief Jimmy Prock after winning the Auto Plus Nationals at Maple Grove Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

The day veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock left John Force Racing back in December 2014 to join Don Schumacher Racing, he figured his days of working with the 16-time champion were behind him forever.

Let the record reflect Prock was wrong.

"I had worked here awhile and obviously I was here for whatever, 14 years and we got to a point where I just felt like it was time to do something different," Prock said of his initial departure.

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Today, the band is back together and headed into 2017, and Prock is intent on winning his third series championship.

"It feels good to be back here," Prock said. "John got with me at the end of the year and we talked things over. We didn't have any differences before. I was fine with everything. Everything was good the last year or so. You know, he just wanted me to come back over here to work with him again and try to help him win. We managed to work out a deal."

Prock was initially joined in his migration by John Medlen, and members of the Infinite Hero Funny Car crew including Chris Cunningham. Medlen returned to Don Schumacher Racing after a week at Force's while Cunningham remains.

There was a sense, Prock added, in his heart he never left the JFR team.

"I spent a lot of time here, obviously," Prock said. "You know, it felt good. You live this stuff when you work on it. There was a lot of time and effort put in, so it wasn't hard to come back."

Prock has climbed back into the fire tuning for the most successful Funny Car driver ever, 16-time champion John Force.

"I've raced with John before and we were fine," Prock said. "We did good, we won the championship in '13. We know how to deal with one another. It's all fine."

Dealing with Force is understanding a tuner has a driver who has raced continuously in the NHRA since 1979 and is regarded as a nitro driver who could successfully navigate a 10,000-horsepower Funny Car down a dirt road.

"John, he's one of a kind," Prock admitted. "He's got the desire to do it. He's a fighter and he's a competitor, and that's all you can ask. We all go out there and try to do the best that we can every time we go out there.

"I mean we know one another. I didn't race with him for very long. But I've been around him, obviously I've worked for him for a long time. So, yeah I know where he's coming from."

In other words, there's no telling Force how to drive to suit your tune-up. Force drives, and the tuner tunes. Prock understands this is like Babe Ruth having a batting coach.

"He didn't adjust how he drove the car when we raced," Prock explained. "He drove it the way he drove it, and if we had to do anything slightly different, we did.

"Anybody that's a crew chief understands, I always listen to what the driver has to say. You take their input, you try to … you can look at data and figure out, you know, what's going on if there's a problem or they feel something. I've been that way with anybody that I've raced with. So, it's not a big deal."

Prock, early in his career, earned a nickname for his tuning style as "Prock Rocket" for his tendency to go aggressive with his tune-up. He admits to taking extra special pleasure in watching Force after a run when the cagey veteran has been planted in the seat.

"He likes to go fast," Prock said. "I mean, it's cool when you run good. That's what we're all out here to do, so everybody gets an enjoyment out of that. It's what we strive to do. You're striving to be quicker and faster than everyone else, and win as many races as you can. It's hard to do nowadays, but that's what we all work for. It's just down to smaller increments now than it used to be. Everybody's much more evenly matched than in years past."

Prock, by nature, is a man of few words and chooses to let his accomplishments do the talking. He's not an overly sentimental person and even though he came within a round of a series championship with Cory McClenathan back in the early 1990s, didn't see a prosperous future as a highly sought after tuner. He was then, as he is now, one of those living for the moment.

"I just enjoy the racing," Prock said. "I enjoy working at it and trying to get better at it and learn all the time, and keep improving. I've been fortunate, obviously you know, I've been, I've worked at a lot of good places with a lot of good people. I just enjoy the challenge of racing the cars and I try to focus on that. I haven't thought too much about the other stuff."

The one exception, Prock agrees, is a future which will likely include son Austin as a future driver for John Force Racing.

Austin, who has earned his stripes as a Midget Car racer, is in Force's future line-up as a Funny Car driver, who will undergo the same training regimen as successful team drivers Eric Medlen, Robert Hight, Ashley Force-Hood as well as Courtney and Brittany Force.

"It might take us a few years to get there, but that's what we're going to try to do," Prock added.

The thought of tuning for Austin in a competitive Funny Car has the usually even-keeled Prock brimming with excitement.

"I'm sure I would enjoy it; you think about that stuff," Prock said. "It would be cool. When you're young and everything, you have a lot of excitement and everything. To race with him if he can get to that point someday where he could do the job, it would be a good thing."

In the Prock family drag racing history, the driving gene skipped a generation from father Tom Prock to Austin, and Prock's fine with it.

"Pretty much I enjoyed the mechanical side of it more," said Prock. "I always felt there weren't that many driving jobs out there, and I either needed to own it, or be able to promote the money to do it. I didn't see myself being very good at either one of those."

Pretty much, Prock agrees, racing has come full circle, first with Force and in the future with Austin.

"I got into drag racing just because I wanted to go with my dad," Prock said. "I spent the summers with him, got started and had a good time."

And as Prock will tell you, more fun is soon to come.

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Bobby Bennett is the Publisher/Editor of CompetitionPlus.com, a leading independent online drag racing magazine, since 1999. For the latest in dragster news worldwide, visit www.competitionplus.com or follow on Twitter @competitionplus