(Photo courtesy Bryan Herta Autosport Facebook page)

Bryan Herta receives steering wheel from Dan Wheldon 2011 Indy 500 win

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Veteran IndyCar team owner and former driver Bryan Herta received a very touching and emotional Christmas gift during his company’s annual Christmas party on Saturday.

A joint effort from employees at Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA), the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the IMS Museum and the Verizon IndyCar Series saw Herta receive the exact steering wheel that the late Dan Wheldon used in winning the 2011 Indianapolis 500 for BHA.

The wheel was enclosed in a translucent case that also featured bricks from IMS, as well as a photo of Wheldon and Herta taking ceremonial swigs of milk after their inspirational “little engine that could” win.

It was the second time Wheldon won the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, having also taken the checkered flag in 2005 for the former Andretti Green Racing (now Andretti Autosport).

Herta was visibly moved by the gift, tweeting later in the evening:

Sadly, Wheldon, 33, was tragically killed in a crash later that same year during a race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, while driving a car jointly entered by both Sam Schmidt Motorsports and Herta.

But the lives he touched, particularly BHA in the one-off effort that resulted in the Indy 500 victory, will never be forgotten.

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Top Fuel driver Austin Prock earns 2019 NHRA top rookie honors

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Having just completed a promising first year in NHRA Top Fuel competition, Austin Prock is on the road to even greater drag racing success in his career.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Prock was named the winner of the 2019 Auto Club Road to the Future Award during Monday night’s annual NHRA Awards dinner at the Ray Dolby Theater in Hollywood, California.

The Road to the Future Award is NHRA’s version of Rookie of the Year, and Prock was among the brightest young stars on the circuit this past season, including winning his first national event at the Northwest Nationals at Pacific Raceways in suburban Seattle, the 16th race on the 24-race schedule.

What made that first win all the more sweeter is it came at the same event that his boss, legendary 16-time Funny Car champion John Force, captured his milestone 150th career win.

One month ago, Prock set a personal best run of 3.688 seconds at 334.40 mph over veteran driver Doug Kalitta in the first round of eliminations at the AAA Texas NHRA FallNationals three weeks ago in Ennis, Texas (suburban Dallas).

“I am proud of the season this Montana Brand / Rocky Mountain Twist team put together,” Prock said in a media release. “My guys worked their asses off all season long to give me the opportunity to win the Auto Club Road the Future Award. I couldn’t have done it without them.

“I would have never been here without John Force and Robert Hight (president of John Force Racing). They gave me the opportunity to fulfill my dream and I owe the world to them. I hope I made them proud.”

Prock became only the 10th rookie in the history of the NHRA pro ranks to both win a race in their first season and also go on to win the Road to the Future award. He also was the 13th rookie in the sport’s history to qualify for the Countdown to the Championship, NHRA’s six race playoffs.

Prock becomes the sixth John Force Racing driver to earn the Road to the Future Award, joining Tony Pedregon (1996), Hight (2005), Ashley Force-Hood (2007), Mike Neff (2008), Courtney Force (2012) and Brittany Force (2013).

Austin Prock is the son of veteran crew chief Jimmy Prock, who tuned Hight to his third career NHRA Funny Car championship this past Sunday.

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