Las Vegas II: Eric Medlen preview

COMING OFF RICHMOND WIN, MEDLEN COULD BE A SPOILER Castrol SYNTEC Driver Rides Momentum into LVMS LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Eric Medlen rolls onto The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week as the hottest Funny Car driver not in contention for...

COMING OFF RICHMOND WIN, MEDLEN COULD BE A SPOILER
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Rides Momentum into LVMS

LAS VEGAS, Nevada - Eric Medlen rolls onto The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway this week as the hottest Funny Car driver not in contention for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.

Coming off a wire-to-wire victory in the inaugural Torco Race Fuels Nationals at Richmond, Va., a win that pushed him and the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang into fourth place, 166 points off the lead, Medlen enters the sixth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals considered the man most likely to ruin someone else's day at LVMS.

He hopes it's someone other than Castrol teammates John Force and Robert Hight, who, as the No. 1 and No. 3 drivers in the standings, are battling Ron Capps for the $400,000 championship.

"The ideal scenario would be for us to line up against Capps in one of the early rounds and take him out," Medlen said, "but that's easier said than done.

"You don't want to purposely not run well just on the chance that you might get him first round," he said. "That doesn't usually work out like you want it to. So we'll just go out and do our normal thing and see what happens."

For Medlen, the recent "norm" has been to qualify quick and race even quicker.

A former crewman on Force's Castrol GTX Ford, the 33-year-old was an unlikely choice to succeed Tony Pedregon as driver when he left John Force Racing after the 2003 season.

For one thing, he never before had driven a Funny Car. For another, he hadn't driven competitively in anything other than go-karts and shifter karts and, finally, there was the cowboy thing wherein, before hiring on at John Force Racing as a mechanic, he had seriously contemplated a one-horsepower career in pro rodeo.

What Force saw, though, was a hungry kid with great mechanical skills, a gift for gab and a burning desire to drive. It didn't hurt that the crew chief on the SYNTEC Ford, the crew chief that directed Pedregon to the 2003 points championship, was John Medlen, the driver's father.

The younger Medlen never has given Force a reason to regret that decision.

After earning a breakthrough victory at Brainerd, Minn., in his rookie season, a win that propelled him to a fifth place finish, he won three times last year, earning more points over the last half of the season than any other driver including eventual champion Gary Scelzi.

This year, after again failing to win in the first half of the campaign, he turned his season around with victories at Sonoma, Calif., and Richmond that have him positioned for a third consecutive Top 5 finish in POWERade points.

"Man, if we could do anything in the first half, we'd be world-beaters, wouldn't we?" asked the one-time supercharger specialist. "We can't do anything about it now, but it's something we've gotta work on over the winter. But even though we can't get the No. 1 for ourselves, we can help get it back for John and this team.

"I've said it before. It doesn't make any difference which one of these Fords wins the championship as long as one of them does. I promise you, we'll take as much pride in John winning or Robert winning as we would if we won it ourselves."

-credit: www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Eric Medlen , Robert Hight