Racing Genetics:
The story of how racing lineage is passed through three generations of Procks
by Don Prieto - 1999

 

Tom Prock never knew his dad. In fact it wasn't until he saw his fathers body at the funeral, did he know what he looked like. You see, Jimmy Prock was hurt while driving a midget race car before Tom was born. It was not a fatal accident but the injuries were severe enough that he never fully recovered and he subsequently died of the effects of the injuries some fourteen years later. The Senior Prock family apparently did not approve of racing as did so many of the early generations of this century. So they obviously decided to keep any mention of father Jimmy to son Tom to a minimum.

Tom was raised by his maternal grandparents and because of the decision to keep any information about his dad a secret, he knew very little about his dads racing career. That is until a family friend gave Tom a scrapbook containing all the old photos, some of which you see here.

It turns out that the senior Jim Prock had quite a checkered career in auto racing. Besides being a front runner in midgets, he was also a riding mechanic at Indy with Chester "Chet" Miller in the Fronty Special, the Hudson Special, and the Marr Special. Jimmy and Chet were a team in the early 'thirties and placed as high as tenth at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Jimmy was also a car builder and he produced his first midget, a flathead V8 powered job, while working as a line mechanic for Hogan & Coats Ford in Detroit. It is unfortunate that the crash took away any opportunity for son Tom to get any guidance from his dad, but apparently the "truck" gene was passed on.

Tom started racing on his own, without any real knowledge of his dads involvement, and like so many of his generation, he took to street racing. He quickly progressed to a C/Gas '39 Pontiac Coupe spurred on by his peers on Woodward Avenue in Detroit. With such future notables as George DeLorean, Howard Massales and Al Bergler, and his first partner in a real drag race car, Jay Howell, the course toward serious racing was clear. The streetsmart partnership of Howell and Prock decided to get serious. The class they picked was of course the fastest of the street driven cars, A/Gas Supercharged. That way they could do double duty by running at both the strip and the drive-in.

It wasn't long before the drag strip dominated their focus, and the pair of Howell and Prock were showing the way. Driver Tom convinced Jay that they should have the best of everything and since Jay worked for Logghe Stamping Co. (a noted chassis builder of the era), they proceeded to build a full tubular chassis and incorporate a one-piece fiberglass '33 Willys body.

"It was a state of the art gasser, says Tom, with a one piece flip up Willys body and when we took it to our first NHRA event, they wouldn't let us run. They didn't like the flip up body, so we did match races and ran locally. We won the UDRA Gasser circuit title in '67 and '68."

"We then replaced the big block Chevy with a blown fuel Chrysler and formed a four car fuel coupe circuit. We turned ourselves into touring professionals." reports Tom and the rest...well there's more.

Retiring the Willys in 1969, Tom ushered in the new decade with a brand new Mustang Funny car that was built and sponsored by Logghe Stamping. They kicked ass everywhere they went. When Howell decided to get out of racing as a touring pro, Pete Seaton of Seaton Shaker offered to build another funny car for Prock and new partner Al Bergler. This relationship lasted until the '72 season when Tom took over the driving of his most famous ride, the Fred and Phil Castronovo Brothers Custom Body Enterprises Dodge funny car. Known as the Utica Flash this car won over 60 % of its races. It was a killer car.

After a successful run of 6 years, Tom moved back home to Detroit and formed a new partnership and added a new sponsor. Teamed up with Poncho Rendon and sponsored by Angelo Giampetroni's Gratiot Auto Parts, they raced under the title of the Detroit Tiger. Outfitted with a new Chevy Monza body, the new Logghe chassied funny car successfully toured the East Coast match race circuit and completed a full schedule of NHRA National events.

Prock, having acquired a wife Vickie (whom he met while street racing her brother) and produced two young sons along the way, decided to quit driving and move to California to work for Tom "the Mongoose" McEwen and be crew chief and wrench bender on the Coors Funny Corvette. They won their share including the "Big Bud Shootout" , several NHRA National championships events and one AHRA World title.

It was during the stint with McEwen traveling the circuit, that number one son Jimmy came of age at the drags helping his dad by washing parts, wiping tires and hanging out with some of the biggest names in drag racing for the better part of six years. He learned the entire operation from draining the oil to adjusting the clutch, in short from the bottom up.

Younger brother Jeff was into cars as well, but was side tracked when McEwen got him connected with BMX bicycles and he concentrated on racing bicycle motocross. For employment, Jeff spent his days at the late Bob Mayer's "Pro Crank" company grinding out cranks for top fuel cars. When that folded he moved to the racer desk at Weiand where he answered technical questions and gave advice to real and would be racer for the better part of 3 years.

When Tom packed up his wrenches and decided to stay home, Jimmy continued to travel with McEwen's Corvette funny and help out new crew chief Bill Shultz. In 1985, Prock the father, took friend Lou Baney's advice and went to work for Venolia Pistons where he remains today and still keeps his hand on the pulse of what's happening in the world of fuel racing.

Kenny Bernstein was next to put Jimmy to work on his "Batmobile" Bud funny car as a clean-up kid which kept him at the races, but he was going nowhere. Fellow Detroiter and long time family friend, Dick Lahaie recognized the kids potential and put him on as helper on the Miller Beer /Minor deal of late eighties. There was much to be learned from Lahaie and his daughter Kim as they put together an NHRA championship year in Top Fuel.

When the Miller deal dissolved, Lahaie sold the car to some racers in Finland and he sent Kim and Jimmy to Finland with the car to teach the new owners how to run it. They were quite successful but eventually had to return to the U.S. Jimmy moved back home with dad and mom.

As fate would have it, Cory MacClenathan lived just down the street from the senior Prock and soon Jimmy became fast friends with Cory Mac. Better yet, Cory's dad was putting together a top fuel ride for the kid and it was a natural to give Jimmy a shot at the slot of crew chief. Well, to shorten the story a bit, they came within 92 points of winning the NHRA World Championship with the unsponsored Mac Attack fueler. Not bad. Hold on it gets better.

Four time top fuel champ, Joe Amato had a falling out with his crew chief Tim Richards and was looking around for some help. Jimmy was seeking employment as well, having been out of work since the Mac Attack was retired, and Amato gave the kid a shot at the Key Parts top fuel crew chief job.

Meanwhile, Jeff departs Weiand for the wacky world of nitrous oxide and a job at Mike Thermos' Nitrous Oxide Systems (NOS) where he again directs the more serious racer on how to get down the track at a much more rapid rate.

"Jeff tried going on the road with the Amato operation, says father Tom, but he tired of all the traveling after about six months. He really likes it over at NOS and he is involved with Elvira".

Elvira, for those who don't know, is not some hussy, but a very quick "55 Chevy pro street nitrous warrior that was featured in the July issue of Drag Racer. With Jeff Prock at the wrenches, Elvira hums a 7.50 tune and reaches 185 miles per hour while doing it...and it's street legal.

Joe Amato currently holds both ends of the NHRA record for top fuel and when he tells people that he has the fastest car in the world, he is not kidding. Steve Evans and the NHRA TV crew have taken to calling Amato's fueler the Prock Rocket...a fitting compliment to the man who makes it run the way it does. Father Tom is justifiably proud of his two sons and well he should be. They both have become very adept at making lots of horsepower, albeit in different forms.

And now that Jimmy has two young sons, Thomas and Austin James, Tom the elder gets a chance to train the fourth generation of Procks...and he's lovin' it.

 

Orangeline

 

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