Madison: Eric Medlen preview

MEDLEN LOOKING TO FUTURE AS FIRST HALF COMES TO END Castrol SYNTEC Driver a Contender in Midwest Nationals MADISON, Ill. -- It would be wrong to suggest that Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang, is just going through...

MEDLEN LOOKING TO FUTURE AS FIRST HALF COMES TO END
Castrol SYNTEC Driver a Contender in Midwest Nationals

MADISON, Ill. -- It would be wrong to suggest that Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang, is just going through the motions this week during the 10th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Midwest Nationals at Gateway International Raceway.

Nevertheless, the third year pro can't deny that he's looking forward with great anticipation to the end of the first half of the 2006 season and the start of the second.

The Midwest Nationals is the traditional last race before the mid-season break and Medlen's last chance to end three years of first half frustration.

All four of the 32-year-old's victories have come after the break including three wins in a four-race stretch late in the 2005 season.

"It's not like we planned it that way," he said. "We'd like to win every race (in the first half), but it just hasn't worked out. But we've still got a chance (to break through) this week. My dad (crew chief John Medlen) has been working on this new combination and he thinks we'll be pretty good. We'll just have to see."

It wouldn't take much for Medlen to improve at Gateway. In two previous meetings, he hasn't survived beyond round one.

Despite all those problems, Medlen returns to Gateway as the season's highest-ranking non-winner. Last year he was seventh coming out of the Midwest Nationals. This year he's fourth going in. The difference is that last year he was just 206 behind the leader at the mid-season break. This year, if he doesn't make up a lot of ground this week, he'll be more than 300 behind pacesetting Ron Capps.

"We definitely have to gain ground on Capps," Medlen said. "You've got to give those guys a lot of credit. They've been doing the job better than everybody else. But it's not over. We've had a lot of success in the second half and we're coming to a stretch we were really good last season, so we'll have a lot of confidence."

That said, the once aspiring rodeo cowboy knows that to seriously challenge for a championship his boss, John Force, has won 13 times in 16 years, he must start establishing himself in races that don't reward pure horsepower -- like the Midwest Nationals.

"We know we need to get better in the heat," Medlen said, "and I think we are. Only time will tell."

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-www.johnforceracing.com-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Ron Capps , John Force , Eric Medlen , John Medlen