Indianapolis: Eric Medlen preview

MEDLEN UPBEAT IN PREPARATION FOR MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS Castrol SYNTEC Driver Hopes to Build on 2005 Success INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In drag racing, no matter what you do, sometimes it just isn't your day. That's how Eric Medlen has ...

MEDLEN UPBEAT IN PREPARATION FOR MAC TOOLS U.S. NATIONALS

Castrol SYNTEC Driver Hopes to Build on 2005 Success

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- In drag racing, no matter what you do, sometimes it just isn't your day. That's how Eric Medlen has characterized his experience at the 2005 Mac Tools U.S. Nationals.

The third year pro believed his Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang was good enough to win but "we just got ambushed by Frankie Pedregon.

"We ran just what we planned to run," Medlen said of his second round loss. "Frankie just ran a little quicker (4.893 to Medlen's 4.919), which is what I keep saying about there being so many good cars out there right now."

However, the fact that his car ran well enough to take him to the final round of the Skoal Showdown and well enough to have won a lot of rounds on Monday sends the former crew member into this week's 52nd running of the world's oldest, largest and most prestigious drag race with a lot of confidence.

"We ran good in qualifying (No. 6 at 4.755 seconds) and we actually ran good on race day," Medlen said, "but we weren't perfect. To win in this field, especially at Indy, which is easily the biggest race of the year, you have to be perfect four times. That's what it takes."

Medlen achieved that perfection little more than a month ago in winning the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., a victory that thrust him prominently back into contention for the POWERade championship,

He comes into ORP in fourth place behind boss and teammate John Force, Ron Capps and Tony Pedregon. Former crewmate Robert Hight, the 2005 winner of the Automobile Club of Southern California's Road to the Future Award (NHRA Rookie of the Year) is fifth.

Although he is almost 200 points behind Force, the once aspiring rodeo cowboy thinks his team still could mount a challenge.

"I don't think we're out of it at all," said the Indianapolis resident. "Last year, we made up 150 points on the leader in four races. Well, we've still got six races this year. If somebody gets hot, it could change everything and if somebody does get hot, we're hoping it's us."

Driving a car prepared and maintained by his father John, the younger Medlen is coming off a semifinal loss to Force two weeks ago at Memphis, one in which an engine failure and resulting oildown culminated in a 10-point penalty.

"That hurt, because points are so hard to come by," said the 33-year-old. "To make up the difference, we're going to have to start winning races and that's really hard because of the quality of the competition right now.

"But it can be done. That's what my day has been trying to impress on the new crew guys (that) winning is a 24-hour-a-day proposition. There's lots of 9-to-5 jobs out there, but drag racing isn't one of them and then, even if you work 20-hour days, there's no guarantee. That's the grim reality of it."

A former high school rodeo champion, Medlen knows about hard work. To develop his calf-roping skills, he had to successful rope a dummy steer 100 consecutive times before he was given an opportunity to get on a horse. When he came to Force Racing, he worked eight years as a mechanic before getting a chance to drive.

Now that he has that chance, he's determined to make the most of it.

The tour's top Funny Car rookie in 2004, he was the top points earner over the last half of the 2005 season en route to a fourth place finish.

-credit: jfr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , John Force , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight