With Newfound Spring In His Step, Force Eyes Eighth Win At Houston Veteran Feeds Off Rookie Teammate Medlen's Energy HOUSTON, Texas (April 16-18) -- There's a new spring in his step, but John Force insists his competitive rebirth is not ...
With Newfound Spring In His Step, Force Eyes Eighth Win At Houston
Veteran Feeds Off Rookie Teammate Medlen's Energy
HOUSTON, Texas (April 16-18) -- There's a new spring in his step, but John Force insists his competitive rebirth is not connected to the sponsorship he enjoys from Castrol GTX High Mileage™, the motor oil specially-formulated to help "older cars feel young again." At least not directly.
While Force fits the "high mileage" demographic more than 1,500 trips down quarter mile dragstrips from California to the Carolinas, 169 final round appearances in the NHRA POWERade Series, 109 tour victories and 12 series championships the 54-year-old icon insists that he hasn't been secretly quaffing his sponsor's high-powered fountain of youth.
Instead, he attributes his current resurgence and his status as one of the favorites in this week's 17th annual O'Reilly Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway Park to his relationship with new teammate Eric Medlen, rookie driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang.
"Being around Eric has been a wake-up call for me," Force said. "Watching him at the ropes (signing autographs), all the energy, all the excitement.
"I've seen him chase people down to give them an autograph," Force acknowledged. "Really. We were working a Wal-mart in San Antonio (Texas) for Castrol and I couldn't find him. He was going up and down the aisles looking for customers. He told me 'my (autograph) line got a little weak so I went out freelancing.'
"I said, 'well, he'll calm down after awhile,' but his energy just seems to grow. He's really motivated and that's motivated me to go after my 13th championship. It's just a bonus that he seems to have a gift for driving a hot rod. You can teach that. You can't teach the rest of it."
Although he never knew it, Force taught Medlen many of the skills that have enabled him to reach the semifinals in two of his first four starts. A crewman on Force's national record-holding (4.721 seconds) Ford, Medlen watched his boss's every move.
"(Crew Chief Austin) Coil said something that really stuck in my head," Force said. "He said 'that kid's been going down that racetrack for the last eight years in his head. He's driven every run with you as your clutch man.'"
Of course, it's not just rekindled enthusiasm that has propelled Force into second place after the first four races.
The 11-time Auto Racing All-America selection apparently has adjusted to the problems that last year resulted in four foul starts, equaling the total number he had suffered in 25 previous seasons.
"I had to re-educate myself after they changed the lights," Force said, a reference to NHRA's decision to replace conventional bulbs in the Christmas Tree starting system with brighter -- and more durable -- LED bulbs. "I thought I couldn't red light (foul). I found out I could."
"So, I told Coil and Bernie (Co-Crew Chief Bernie Fedderly), 'you fix the car; I'll fix the driver,'" Force recalled. "Over the winter, I worked on my Tree and they worked on the hot rod.
"Bottom line, we're bringing a good hot rod with us to Houston," Force said. "We ran good at Gainesville (runner-up). We ran good at Vegas (semifinals). We expect to run good this week."
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