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Prock and Wilkerson Families Strengthen Bonds Racing Together

Tim and Dan Wilkerson compare notes during the NHRA New England Nationals at Epping, New Hampshire.

Dan Wilkerson (right) stepped into the driver’s seat of his father Tim’s (left) Funny Car in 2024, and is off to a great start in his rookie season. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

EPPING, N.H. – Relationships between fathers and sons can be tricky to navigate at times. But when you throw working together into the mix, every success – and every struggle – is amplified. Two of the top Funny Car drivers in the 2024 season know first hand what it’s like to work with their fathers and both Dan Wilkerson and Austin Prock would not want it any other way.

“So far it’s everything I dreamed it would be,” said Dan Wilkerson. “Every once in a while, he has to tell me to shut up, because I talk too much. But I get to go racing with my buddy, so I’m living the dream.”

Wilkerson and Prock are both in their first season competing in Funny Cars, and both have put together strong seasons. Wilkerson’s father Tim, who drove the SCAG Power Equipment Ford last year, and competed for 27 years in the Funny Car ranks, stepped out of the seat this season and handed the reins to Dan.

“It’s been great,” Tim Wilkerson said. “We’re trying to do the right thing for SCAG Power Equipment. I wasn’t available enough last year for them. We’ve always raced together in some form or fashion, but now we get to do it at the optimum level. We’re very excited about it.”

Austin Prock has enjoyed working with father Jimmy as his crew chief in 2024

Austin Prock has had a great 2024 season so far, in large part due to his father Jimmy’s tuning prowess. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

Jimmy and Austin Prock Off to a Hot Start in 2024

Both teams announced the changes in January and started to prepare for the season. It was announced in mid-January that Prock would be stepping into the seat of 3-time Funny Car champion Robert Hight due to health issues Hight was dealing with. He scrambled to prepare for the season, but he knew that with his father as crew chief and his brother Thomas as assistant crew chief, he was in good hands.

“I might be a little biased, but I think my dad is one of the greatest (crew chiefs) ever,” Austin Prock said. “It puts a little bit of pressure on me, because I know how outstanding this car is, and it’s really been the most dominant Funny Car of the last decade.”

It’s hard to argue with the results so far. Austin Prock has already won two Funny Car races this season and he leads the points by a healthy margin over teammate and team owner John Force.

“It’s been great,” said Jimmy Prock. “It’s a good opportunity for us. We’ve dreamed of doing this and finally come to fruition. It’s been good. He’s done a really good job. We raced together with other stuff when they were little, growing up and it evolved into all of this.”

“Getting the opportunity to come out here and drive for him, we’re so excited for it,” Austin Prock said. “We’re having a lot of fun.”

Steady Improvement from Dan and Tim Wilkerson

Dan Wilkerson left Epping, New Hampshire, with his third straight semi-final appearance, and although the team struggled in Bristol last weekend, they are trending in the right direction overall, something that comes as no surprise to the elder Wilkerson, who said the team keeps a good perspective on race days.

“We try to entertain ourselves here,” Tim Wilkerson said. “Life’s hard enough without being too serious all the time. We are thankful to have SCAG Power Equipment and Summit, and Ford as our primary sponsors, but at the end of the day, we’re not curing cancer, we’re drag racing. At the end of the day, we just do the best we can, and if we win, we win, but if we don’t, we get to do it again the next weekend.”

Although Dan Wilkerson has not yet grabbed his first Wally, it would not be at all surprising to see him do so in the near future. He said he looks forward to that day, but in the meantime, he said, just having the opportunity to race with his father is a blessing.

“Getting to drive a race car under my friend (is the best part),” Dan said. “We can beat each other up, and I just go and work on something and come back and we’re fine.”

Dan Wilkerson is off to a good start in his NHRA Funny Car career after taking over driving duties from his father Tim for the 2024 season.

Dan Wilkerson greets fans during this month’s NHRA New England Nationals. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

Racing Together Strengthens the Bonds

Jimmy Prock got his first crew chief job in 1991, four years before Austin was born, and Tim Wilkerson began racing Funny Cars in 1988, when Daniel was just nine years old. With careers on the road, it made both men appreciate their time with family when they were able to get it. Now, as they race with their sons every week, all four men said they have a deep appreciation for the opportunity to work together.

“I was gone a lot when they were little,” said Jimmy Prock. “They’d come to the races, but you’re still gone 25 weekends a year, and they’re not there at all of them. It’s nice now that we’re all together doing it.”

“We’re gone a lot on the road, so if we didn’t all work in the same industry, we’d probably never see each other,” Austin Prock said. “We all live 10 minutes from each other, and we all work out of the same building, and we all go to the racetrack together. It’s definitely cool. We’re very blessed. A lot of people would kill to have an opportunity like this. I’m glad we got the opportunity to do this together.”

Daniel Wilkerson said his father’s racing career actually served to teach him much of what he knows, since he only raced occasionally prior to this season.

“Honestly, you wouldn’t believe this, but I probably watched him make 2000 runs in my life, so I’ve been learning from him since I was eight,” Dan Wilkerson said. “I honestly don’t have that much more to learn from him. We’ve talked about every run he’s made since I was eight years old in Columbus, Ohio. Everything I know about racing in general, whether it’s working on it, treating the guys right, or driving it, I have been learning for a long time. It’s worked out really good.”

As much as Daniel has always looked up to his father, Tim said he has known for a long time that Daniel would be great behind the wheel.

“He’s always been a good racer,” Tim Wilkerson said. “Even as a little boy in a junior dragster. I am not surprised that he is already doing well. I’ve known he could do this for a long time.”

Austin Prock has already won two races in his Cornwell Tools Chevy in 2024.

Austin Prock worked as a crew member in 2021 and he said that driving for his father in 2024 is less nerve-wracking. (Photo: Allen Saucier | The Podium Finish)

Austin Prock, Dan Wilkerson Experience Goes Beyond Driving

Although Dan Wilkerson is in the running for NHRA rookie of the year, and Prock is a rookie behind the wheel of a Funny Car, neither driver came into 2024 with a lack of experience. Wilkerson had close to 40 competitive runs under his belt, and Prock has ample experience behind the wheel of a Top Fuel race car. Their most important experience, however, might have come when they were not in the seats.

“He’s been around the shop forever,” said Tim Wilkerson of Dan. “Even when he was an accounting manager and worked at an accounting firm, he was in the shop a lot, so the guys all know who he is.”

When Prock was sidelined from driving during the 2021 season, he did not go far. He moved over to the mechanic side of the sport, working under his father, an experience he said was very valuable.

“I got a little experience working for dad back in 2021 when I got sidelined from racing,” Austin Prock said. “I was much more nervous back then working with him, but it went really well. We worked outstanding together and made a lot of improvements on the super charger program.”

That ability to work together can sometimes be a challenge for fathers and sons, but both families said that there are no issues when they work together at the racetracks because they are doing something they love, with people they love.

“It’s been great so far. My whole family, we all work very well together. I’ve been working with my brother Thomas (the assistant crew chief) since I was 10 years old. So, we’ve got three Procks over here. It’s a family affair, and it’s been working out so far.”

“I don’t think there’s any challenge with (getting along),” Tim Wilkerson said. “There’s no production in getting upset. Stop. Take a breath. Analyze the problem. Everybody makes mistakes. I make mistakes every day.”

Dan Wilkerson added that, while there is still some disagreement between him and his father about how he got out of the groove in Chicago earlier in the year, there is nobody he would rather be working with than his father.

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