This Week in Ford Racing August 17, 2004 NHRA Funny Car Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, celebrated his first NHRA Funny Car final round win this past Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. Medlen talked about his ...
This Week in Ford Racing
August 17, 2004
NHRA Funny Car
Eric Medlen, driver of the Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang, celebrated his first NHRA Funny Car final round win this past Sunday at Brainerd International Raceway. Medlen talked about his first win and his relationship with his father/tuner John Medlen and team owner John Force.
Eric Medlen - Castrol Syntec Ford Mustang
IT'S BEEN A COUPLE OF DAYS SINCE YOUR FIRST WIN, HOW DO YOU FEEL?
"Everybody from the team was still out at the track on Monday. You celebrate a thing like that and after all the celebration you kind of put aside everything and then it all comes back to you when you step into that pit area and the trophy is still waiting for you over there."
Where have you put your Wally (TropHY) since you won it on Sunday?
"So far he is just hanging out in the trailer. I'm going to make a special place for that one. The first one is always special. You can say that about any win being special but your first win at an NHRA National event, for John Force Racing and my dad and all of our guys is huge. What makes it extra special is to know that big companies like Castrol, Ford and Triple A took a big chance on a guy like me. And we have proven that we know what we are doing. It's a great feeling to be a part of all that."
DISCRIBE THE DRIVER/TUNER AND SON/FATHER RELATONSHIP THAT YOU HAVE WITH YOUR DAD JOHN?
"I think it's something special and a little bit different than a lot of father-and-son relationships. Because we are both still working for John Force Racing and we are all going towards a common goal. During the run you hit the chutes and go across the finish line it doesn't hit you because you are there to do a job. The job to do is to win for Ford and everyone else. So when you get out of the car you know that the job is not done, you still have an interview. But when you turn around and see all your guys looking at you. You see in their eyes what is in their hearts then and there. And that's when you know you've done something great. Looking at my dad, John (Force), Austin and Bernie, everybody. It just means something extra special because you feel like you've done your part. Everybody has been rooting for you and pulling for you so you feel like you came through. My relationship with my father is great. We don't fight or disagree at all. Most of that is due to my respect for him. He is the world champion tuner right now. And he has worked with so many great drivers. I'm well aware of how smart he is. Not just being a tuner but teaching every one. Just like he taught Tony (Pedregon). Tony is a champion. So the way I look at it, all I have to do is what he says. Between he and John and Austin and Bernie, I've got the best teachers there are and they have proven it. They have raised more than a couple of champions. We'll go into qualifying each day and talk about our strategy and what we want to do for each run. We have a back-up plan going if the car does this then we'll try it. Then on Sunday before each round I will go up to him and ask him how he wants to play the game. He always gives me a straight answer. We play our Sunday game and if for some reason it changes and he wants me to do something different he will tell me. He says, 'The cars in my hands till we get to the water and after you go through the water box its all yours. Just do what you know.'"
Having the mechanical experience that you have with a Funny Car, does that help you a driver?
"I think it gives you an advantage, but only up to a point. Earlier in the season I was real bad about it. If I felt something or knew something in my mind I would be trying to fix it. Even on the burnout or staging the car. You need to put that out of your mind and say, 'I can't fix what I felt.' The hardest part about knowing what's going on with everything is that if there is a little something that feels or sounds different your mind goes from being a driver to being a crew guy or team leader and you can't do that. You have to make your mind up that you are the driver and that's kind of what I have been working on lately. We had a few instances some races back that you have to make yourself say that it doesn't matter. If the motor is still running then it's going to go. Now I only have one job. My old job is over and I leave it in the crew's hands."
With your first win do you feel more credible as a driver?
"It proves to everybody that I'm more than just a rookie driver. There is the simple fact that remains that I'm in the championship-winning Ford Mustang and I can get the job done. I want to be treated as a competitor and not just a rookie. I hope the other teams are thinking, 'He just whipped us,' so maybe it does give me a little more credibility, but more than anything is says, hey, this isn't a fluke. This team and driver and crew chief can get the job done."
After MEMPHIS YOU'll BE Going to Indy for the U.S. Nationals. can you recall your first experience at indy?
"My dad was working for Rudy Topke at the time. Before he had his Top Fuel car he had an alcohol car. I remember every day of that place. It was almost larger than life. Drivers like Muldowney and Kalitta, everybody over there. Its great, I could go on and on about that place. I tell my dad that I can't believe I am here. I remember my dad taking me to watch the movie 'Heart Like a Wheel' about Connie and Shirley. To be around those people now it's really indescribable. Its kind of like you don't belong. You've been watching these guys on TV and now you are one of them. The biggest thing that I have learned from John is that, yeah, we won a race and there is a lot of hype, but that was yesterday. Now it's a whole new deal, there are still seven races out there to win. We can't just relax just because we won one, because no one else is. If we relax they are going to pass us up. We won a race and we are very proud of it, but to win more we need to stay humble. We just are trying just as hard as everyone else."