THREE-PEAT THE PERFECT GIFT FOR MEDLEN'S 33RD BIRTHDAY Castrol SYNTEC Driver Tries to Stay Perfect at Brainerd BRAINERD, Minn. -- Will three be a charm this week for Eric Medlen? On Friday, the winner of the most recent event in the NHRA ...
THREE-PEAT THE PERFECT GIFT FOR MEDLEN'S 33RD BIRTHDAY
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Tries to Stay Perfect at Brainerd
BRAINERD, Minn. -- Will three be a charm this week for Eric Medlen?
On Friday, the winner of the most recent event in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series (the July 30th FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.) launches his bid for a three-peat in the Lucas Oil Nationals in this, his third season at the wheel of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang.
If he is successful in eliminations, the once aspiring rodeo cowboy likely will leave Brainerd International Raceway in third place in the NHRA Funny Car standings, making the Sunday celebration of his 33rd birthday all the more festive.
For his part, Medlen is taking it all in stride. Having finally ended a season-long victory drought, the Funny Car division's "King of Summer" is focused squarely on one thing and that is winning as many racing rounds as possible.
"It's a long way to No. 1," he said. "All we can do is go out there and win rounds and then keep winning rounds. We can't worry about what (points leader Ron) Capps does or what John (boss and teammate John Force) does. All we can control is what we do with this SYNTEC car."
Medlen has won six times in his career and all six victories have come in the months of July and August. In fact, he is the defending champion not only at this week's Lucas Nationals, but at next week's O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis, Tenn. Last year, he earned more points over the last half of the season than any other driver, moving from eighth place to fourth in just 11 races.
"We've had a good, fast race car," Medlen said, "but it takes more than that to win one of these (races). There are so many good teams out here right now with Capps and (reigning series champion Gary) Scelzi and Tony (Pedregon) and everybody that it takes four perfect runs plus a little luck to get to the winners circle."
That's the formula that delivered the one-time high school rodeo champion to the podium two weeks ago at Sonoma, Calif.
After qualifying second behind teammate Robert Hight and the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford, he left the starting line first in each of the last three rounds, put up four solid quarter mile times (ranging from a best of 4.854 to a "worst" of 4.922 seconds) and beat Pedregon to the finish in a classic final between the current and former drivers of the SYNTEC Mustang.
"The car is responding to the changes that my dad (crew chief John Medlen) and Jason (assistant crew chief Jason Morton) are making," Medlen said. "It's just taken half the season to figure everything out.
"We've started the last three years with a different combination and it just takes time to develop. You can't just sit there and wait for everybody else to catch up and go around you. You have to constantly be working to stay ahead of the pack and that's what we've been doing.
"We had a new Mustang this year, so we had to adapt to the new body," he said. "But we also changed some motor stuff and clutch stuff and fuel system stuff. We made a lot of changes and now they're starting to pay off."
For John Medlen, considered one of the sport's most innovative thinkers, the Sonoma victory extended a streak that began in 1996 when he came on board as the crew chief on a second John Force Racing Funny Car.
With Team Force, he has won at least one race in every season and in 2003 claimed the POWERade championship with Pedregon at the wheel. However, nothing compares to the thrill of racing with his son. Winning with Eric, he said, is just a bonus.