Denver: Robert Hight preview

WITH PROCK, FEAR OF HIGHT COMMON FUNNY CAR PHOBIA Crew Chief Has Been Dominant at Mile-High Nationals DENVER, Colo. -- Drag racing crew chief Jimmy Prock has his share of phobias, but fear of heights isn't among them. On the mountain...

WITH PROCK, FEAR OF HIGHT COMMON FUNNY CAR PHOBIA
Crew Chief Has Been Dominant at Mile-High Nationals

DENVER, Colo. -- Drag racing crew chief Jimmy Prock has his share of phobias, but fear of heights isn't among them.

On the mountain that is Bandimere Speedway, site of this week's 27th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals, Prock rules.

Not only did he saddle last year's Funny Car winner, the Team Castrol/ Automobile Club of Southern California Ford driven by Robert Hight, he also was crew chief on the Top Fuel dragster in which Joe Amato set a track record that stands today as the oldest on the books.

It's been seven years since Amato stopped the Bandimere timers in 4.584 seconds during the 1999 Mile-High Nationals. In fact, it wasn't until last year, when Brandon Bernstein qualified No. 1 at 4.596, that anyone else even broke 4.60 seconds at the highest track (5,300 feet) in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series.

That means that Prock owns the unique distinction of preparing the cars that hold the Bandimere records in each of the top categories, the result of Hight's jaw-dropping, pole-winning 4.796 second effort last year, the first sub-4.80 effort in the Funny Car division.

Hight, who earned the Auto Club's Road to the Future Award as the 2005 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, went on to win the Mile-High Nationals, wire-to-wire, in a strong second half run during which he led the Funny Car points for five races.

That Funny Car victory was Prock's third in the last seven years at Bandimere. He won with Amato in 1998 and 1999 before moving to John Force Racing in 2001 as crew chief on the team's third Ford Mustang.

Prock started going to the races with his father, former Funny Car driver Tom Prock, when he was only 11. Nevertheless, it wasn't until the family moved to California that he decided to make his career in the sport.

Before moving from Michigan, he seriously was into hockey. Unfortunately for those against whom he now competes, 1980s' California didn't offer a lot of opportunities to hone his slap shot.

So, as soon as he graduated high school, he was "gone racing." Working with veteran Ronnie Swearingen, he helped put independent Funny Car driver John Martin in two final rounds before a 1989 bout with diabetes almost ended his career and his life.

     "I didn't know what I had and we just kept going," Prock recalled.  "I just kept
getting sicker and finally I went to the doctor.  We were in Phoenix.  I really couldn't
even function.  When I came home, the doctor looked at me and just put me right in the
hospital.  They put IVs right in me.  They said I was about ready to go into a coma."

Prock, who today manages his condition with diet and medication, studied for one year under master crew chief Dick LaHaie, before getting hooking up with Cory McClenathan in 1992 in a partnership that lost the Top Fuel championship by a mere nine points.

Three years later, he signed on with Amato with whom he won 18 times. That stint ended with Amato's competitive retirement at the end of the 2000 season.

Moving to Force Racing, he earned his first Funny Car victories with driver Gary Densham in 2001. That relationship culminated in a "double-up" victory at Indianapolis in 2004 when Densham won both the Skoal Showdown bonus race and the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

With Hight, a former crewman on John Force's national record-holding Castrol GTX Ford, Prock hasn't missed a beat.

After guiding his 36-year-old driver to two victories last season, he put him in the winners' circle at the season-opening CARQUEST Winternationals at Pomona, Calif. As a result, Hight comes into Bandimere third in POWERade points behind only Force and points leader Ron Capps.

-jfr-

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Joe Amato , Dick LaHaie , Robert Hight , John Martin