MEDLEN TRIES TO REGAIN MOMENTUM IN RETURN TO BRISTOL DRAGWAY Castrol SYNTEC Mustang Back from 'Lost Weekend' BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off an "everything bad that could happen, did happen" weekend at The Strip at Last Vegas Motor Speedway, Eric...
MEDLEN TRIES TO REGAIN MOMENTUM IN RETURN TO BRISTOL DRAGWAY
Castrol SYNTEC Mustang Back from 'Lost Weekend'
BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Coming off an "everything bad that could happen, did happen" weekend at The Strip at Last Vegas Motor Speedway, Eric Medlen hopes to resurrect his Funny Car Championship hopes this week when the NHRA POWERade tour moves to Bristol Dragway for the fifth renewal of the O'Reilly Thunder Valley Nationals.
A semifinalist last year in his first appearance at "Thunder Valley," Medlen is hoping to improve by one round this time around. However, to do so, he knows he has to put the bitter taste of Las Vegas far behind him.
It was at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, just one week after he had driven the Castrol SYNTEC ® Ford Mustang to a race day Funny Car best quarter mile time of 4.764 seconds at Houston, that Medlen couldn't even break 5.00 seconds.
Not even in the starting lineup as he began his final qualifying attempt, the second year driver nonetheless managed to get the 16th -- and final -- spot by "driving it on fire for a little bit" after the engine expired.
He then was beaten in the first round by Gary Scelzi, a result that dropped him from sixth to ninth in the Funny Car driver standings.
"It was a combination of things, I think," Medlen said of his lost weekend, "but we stayed over and tested some on Monday (following the SummitRacing.com Nationals). (The crew) put some new cylinder heads and a new blower (supercharger) on it and that seemed to help.
"I felt bad for my dad (crew chief John Medlen), but he was a lot better after testing. It looks like we've got our hot rod back. We'll know for sure after that first qualifying run (on Friday)."
Last year's top Funny Car rookie, Medlen has been quick, but inconsistent, this season. He was clocked in 4.780 seconds or better in each of the season's first four races. Moreover, at each of those events, he recorded at least one run with a finish line speed of 324 miles per hour -- or faster.
That's what made his Las Vegas performance so bizarre. His quickest quarter mile? 5.013 seconds. Fastest speed? 294.37 mph. Those are pedestrian numbers, especially by John Force Racing standards.
"It's been kind of a crazy year," Medlen said. "Obviously, that's not the kind of performance you'd expect out of this race car, but I think it was just a side trip to Bizarro World.
"The thing is, my dad, Jason (team leader Jason Morton) and all the crew guys worked their butts off and then to have that kind of performance, well, it's frustrating," Medlen admitted. "But everybody's still got a good attitude.
"That's the great thing about having a two or a three car team. When you get in a situation like the one we were in at Vegas, you've got some place to go. You've got other people you can bounce some ideas off of and usually you can find your way back at least to where you were."
Once an aspiring rodeo cowboy, Medlen's dream always was to work with his father on a racing team. But to do so at John Force Racing, a true dynasty that has claimed 12 consecutive NHRA Championships, has been a bonus.
"I'm living my dream," Medlen said. "'Course at Vegas is almost turned into a nightmare. We're looking for happier endings this week."