The story of how racing
lineage is passed through three generations of Procks
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
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
"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
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
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
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
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
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.