Legendary drag racer John Force is trying to win an unprecedented 17th funny car title with only two races left in the NHRA season, in Las Vegas and Pomona.
But his championship hopes took a hit Wednesday when Force announced that veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock had resigned from Force’s Yorba Linda-based team.
Force, 65, said he learned from Prock on Tuesday that Prock planned to resign after this season. Force said he had no interest in waiting and accepted Prock’s immediate resignation.
“As much as I want [title] No. 17, not even for a championship will I race with somebody that I know is leaving me,” Force said in a statement.
Prock “has done a great job for me and I give him a lot of respect,” Force said, but added that “I am going after [the title] with the people that will stay with me for the long haul.”
The departure of Prock, whose replacement was not immediately named, is a problem for Force both as a driver and team owner.
As a driver, Force is in second place in the funny car standings of the National Hot Rod Assn.'s elite Mello Yello Series. Funny cars, along with top-fuel dragsters, are the two premier classes in drag racing, with the cars reaching speeds above 300 mph.
Force is 36 points behind leader Matt Hagan going into the Las Vegas event Oct. 30-Nov. 2, which is followed by the season finale in Pomona on Nov. 13-16.
As team owner, Force is under pressure to sign new sponsors because two of his current primary backers, Ford and Castrol motor oil, have said they’re pulling their support after this season.
“I have sponsors that I am signing contracts with ... and here I have people not committed to this team long-term,” Force said of Prock.
It wasn’t immediately known why Prock planned to resign, but Force said he heard from another team owner this week that some of Force’s employees were looking for jobs elsewhere.
Force’s team also includes funny cars raced by his daughter Courtney and son-in-law Robert Hight, and a top-fuel dragster driven by Force’s daughter Brittany.
Prock had shifted his crew-chief duties from Hight’s car to John Force’s car in the middle of last season, after which Force won a record 16th championship.
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