Dallas: Eric Medlen preview

Medlen Tries to Rope a Win in First Start at Motorplex Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate Could Shine in Texas ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24-26) – For Eric Medlen, the transition from rodeo to racing wasn't that traumatic. It simply was a matter of ...

Medlen Tries to Rope a Win in First Start at Motorplex

Rookie-of-the-Year Candidate Could Shine in Texas

ENNIS, Texas (Sept. 24-26) – For Eric Medlen, the transition from rodeo to racing wasn't that traumatic. It simply was a matter of trading one Mustang for another; horseflesh for horsepower, if you will.

In fact, had he not followed his father into drag racing, the 31-year-old could have been calf roping this week in the season finale of the 2004 Mesquite Championship Rodeo at Resistol Arena.

Instead, he'll be 40 miles south, at Billy Meyer's Texas Motorplex, riding herd on the 7,000 horsepower Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang he is campaigning this season for 12-time series champion John Force.

A leading candidate for the 2004 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future Award (NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year), Medlen expects to be among the contenders in this week's 19th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals presented by Castrol SYNTEC.

A high school rodeo champion in Oakdale, Calif., Medlen was planning a professional career as the team roping partner of two-time PRCA World Champion Jerold Camarillo when fate intervened in 1996.

"Jerold already had bought a couple trailers and we had everything ready to go," Medlen said. "We were going to run a full schedule of amateur rodeos along with a couple of pro rodeos (in 1996) and then try to qualify (for the National Finals Rodeo) the next year."

As a result, when his dad called to offer him a job working on his crew at John Force Racing, the dynasty that has won the last 11 NHRA Funny Car championships, the younger Medlen was understandably conflicted.

For advice, Medlen went to Camarillo.

"Jerold said, 'well you know 80 per cent of World Champions in roping are 30 and older, so you can always come back and do this. If I was you, I think you oughta go. If it doesn't work out, you can come back and this will always be here. But if you pass it up, it might not ever come around again, so you've got to take your chance.'

"That meant a lot because he wanted me to stay, too," Medlen said. "That brought us even closer together."

In fact, Medlen at Camarillo remain in close contact, talking on the phone at least once a week. Moreover, when the NHRA POWERade tour makes a stop in Northern California each year, Medlen takes advantage of the proximity to polish his roping skills.

"I usually go home once a year," Medlen said, "and every year I call Jerold and say, 'get some horses ready, I want to come rope.' Every year, you know it's been a year since you roped but you go out there and it's just like you never left."

Meanwhile, Medlen is becoming equally adept at manhandling one of the world's most powerful race cars. Although he had no previous competitive driving experience, he has advanced to two final rounds this season, qualified the SYNTEC Mustang No. 1 (at Englishtown, N.J.), set a couple of track speed records and earned a breakthrough first victory at Brainerd, Minn.

The upshot is that he rolls into the Motorplex in sixth place in POWERade points but just 114 points behind second place Gary Scelzi.

"I think if I do my job down the stretch, we have a good shot at a Top 5 finish," Medlen said, "plus I think we have a car that can win one of these last five races. I know everybody says that, but my dad (crew chief John Medlen) really has this car running."

-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Gary Scelzi , Eric Medlen , John Medlen