Brainerd: Eric Medlen preview

Rookie Still Seeking First Win in Castrol SYNTEC Ford BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13-15) -- Eric Medlen is the hottest driver who never won an NHRA national event. The 30-year-old rookie rolls into Brainerd International Raceway for this week's...

Rookie Still Seeking First Win in Castrol SYNTEC Ford

BRAINERD, Minn. (Aug. 13-15) -- Eric Medlen is the hottest driver who never won an NHRA national event. The 30-year-old rookie rolls into Brainerd International Raceway for this week's 23rd annual Lucas Oil Nationals in fifth place in POWERade points, the highest ranked driver without a season victory.

That speaks volumes about the consistency the former high school rodeo champion has demonstrated in his first year at the wheel of a Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang.

Runner-up last May in the Summit Racing Southern Nationals in Atlanta, Ga., Medlen already has a Skoal No. 1 qualifying award to his credit (at the K&N SuperNationals at Englishtown, N.J.) as well as four Motel 6 "Who Got the Light" bonuses presented at each of the 23 events in the POWERade series to the winning driver of the single race decided by the narrowest margin.

"It's still a little hard to believe," Medlen said. "To be driving for John Force in the car that won the championship last year is awesome. Then to be doing it with my dad (John Medlen) as crew chief, it's a dream come true, really."

A crewman on Force's Castrol GTX® Ford the last seven seasons, Medlen got what arguably is the second best ride in racing largely because of a chance meeting.

     "I saw John at the airport one day," he recalled, "and he asked me where I was
going.  I told him I'd sold my chopper motorcycle and my shifter karts to pay my way to
Frank Hawley's Drag Racing School.  Up until that time, I don't even know if he knew I
wanted to drive.  I didn't expect anything to come from it.  I wasn't going to Hawley's
because it might help get me a driving job.  I was going just to see what it was like."

However, Medlen's commitment to his dream must have struck a responsive chord with Force who, in January, surprised everyone by naming the one-time aspiring cowboy as the new driver of the car that, with Tony Pedregon at the wheel, won the 2003 championship.

However, while his selection was surprising, it was no more unexpected than his quick adaptation to the cockpit.

Although he never before had driven a vehicle of any kind in NHRA national event competition, Medlen was the No. 2 qualifier at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals.

He's gone on to win 18 rounds of racing in the season's first 15 events and credits his work as a crewman (first as a supercharger technician and later as a clutch specialist) for his quick transition.

"Every time (Force) went up to the starting line (for seven years), I was picturing myself going through everything he did," Medlen said.

"The thing is, you want to do something so bad that you pay attention to every single detail so that if you ever do get your chance, you're less likely to screw it up. I'm not going to lie to you. You can't replace physical driving experience and I've definitely made some rookie mistakes, but I think the fact that I worked on the crew helped to speed up the learning curve. Being around it all your life, you learn when it's right and when it's not."

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- www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Eric Medlen , Frank Hawley , John Medlen