MEDLEN GOES FOR THE WIN IN POMONA SEASON-ENDER Castrol SYNTEC Driver Could Help Decide Championship POMONA, Calif. -- At this week's season-ending, 42nd annual Auto Club Finals, the best of the Team Castrol Ford Mustangs may be the only one...
MEDLEN GOES FOR THE WIN IN POMONA SEASON-ENDER
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Could Help Decide Championship
POMONA, Calif. -- At this week's season-ending, 42nd annual Auto Club Finals, the best of the Team Castrol Ford Mustangs may be the only one that's NOT in contention for the NHRA POWERade Funny Car Championship.
Eric Medlen's Castrol SYNTEC® Ford may not figure in the championship equation, but it certainly is capable of winning at Auto Club Raceway and, in the process, helping determine who does reach the summit.
The 33-year-old Medlen knows that if he can win the race, one he probably should have won a year ago when he was runner-up to Tony Pedregon, it would secure a 14th championship for boss and mentor John Force.
So that's what he plans to do.
"John and Robert (Hight, driver of the Auto Club Ford) and (Ron) Capps have all the pressure," Medlen said. "We're just gonna be out there having fun.
"We're in fourth place so we'll have a great view of what goes on ahead of us. If everything happens right, we could get the third. If not, well it's been a good season anyway. We overcame a lot to get to where we are and we know we've got a good car.
"My dad (crew chief John Medlen) has really done a job with this car, making it consistent and making it so it'll run whether it's hot or cold on good tracks and bad ones. Since mid-season, it's been good everywhere we've gone."
Indeed, Medlen has followed a familiar script. After a so-so first half in which he failed even to advance to a final round, he has closed with a rush, winning at Sonoma, Calif., and Richmond, Va., and earning more second half points than anyone but Hight.
Last year, he also was winless in the first half of the season but won three times thereafter to secure a fourth place finish. His lone victory as a rookie in 2004 came in August at Brainerd, Minn.
"I guess if this was football, we'd be the ultimate second half team," he said. We've just gotten off to a slow start. Every year that I've been driving, we started out with a new combination and it took half the season for my dad to figure everything out, the fuel curve, the clutch, the blower. There are a lot of components that go into this deal and they all have to work together."
Medlen's components have been working just fine, thank you.
A former crewman on Force's Castrol GTX® entry, the California native has taken the SYNTEC Ford to the semifinals or beyond in six of the last nine races including the ACDelco Nationals at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway where, two weeks ago, he lost a semifinal decision by just .002 of a second.
"Pretty close," he dead-panned, "but it's that way every week. You can't do things half right and win in this league not any more. If you make one little mistake, (the competition will) make you pay for it."
Last year, Medlen began the Finals as the highest-qualified Ford (No. 4) and then ran 4.748, 4.745 and 4.740 to reach the money round. Unfortunately, the parachutes failed to properly deploy at the end of his semifinal run and the once aspiring rodeo cowboy went sailing into the sand pit at the end of the asphalt at high speed.
The impact broke the chassis in four places, effectively ending Medlen's day. However, in a Herculean effort documented by ESPN2 television cameras, the team managed to effect repairs necessary to get the car to the starting line where, to almost everyone's amazement, the engine came to life.
Unfortunately for Medlen, there was no storybook ending as he motored slowly downtrack, watching Tony Pedregon claim the victory. This year, he hopes to write an alternative ending, one in which he's more successful and perhaps a bit less spectacular.