PONTIAC NATIONALS A 'HOME GAME' FOR CASTROL SYNTEC DRIVER MEDLEN Third Year Pro Went to School in Fremont; Dad Worked in Fostoria COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Eric Medlen , struggling with mechanical problems the past two races, hopes that familiarity...
PONTIAC NATIONALS A 'HOME GAME'
FOR CASTROL SYNTEC DRIVER MEDLEN
Third Year Pro Went to School in Fremont; Dad Worked in Fostoria
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Eric Medlen , struggling with mechanical problems the past two races, hopes that familiarity breeds "content" this weekend when the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour moves to National Trail Raceway for the 42nd annual Pontiac Performance Nationals.
"It's a home game for us," Medlen said, referring to himself and his father, John Medlen, who serves as crew chief on the 7,000 horsepower Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang. "Hopefully, that'll help us get this thing turned around and back on track."
Although both of them grew up in northern California, the Medlens have strong Ohio roots. John Medlen worked for three years as General Manager of Callies Crankshafts in Fostoria and Eric attended Terra Technical Institute in Fremont where he came within a couple credits of earning a degree in mechanical engineering.
"We've still got lots of friends back here," Eric Medlen said, "so we should have a built-in cheering section."
Unfortunately, cheers alone aren't likely to be enough.
The problem is a mechanical one and it has kept John Medlen awake almost every night since it first manifested itself. Two weeks ago, at Atlanta, the 330 mile-an-hour Mustang suffered three major engine explosions during eliminations and then two more in Monday testing.
The situation got so bad that the team ran itself out of carbon fiber bodies. When Medlen rolled to the starting line for the semifinals, it was with one of teammate John Force's Castrol GTX® bodies mounted on the Murf McKinney chassis.
"We've got a real fast car to about a thousand feet," said the younger Medlen. "After that, you better start hunkering down."
Ironically, despite those problems, Medlen is fourth in POWERade points in a Funny Car category generally perceived as one of the most competitive on the circuit.
A four-time tour winner and the NHRA's top Funny Car rookie in 2004, the 32-year-old bachelor is frustrated but not discouraged."
"My dad will figure it out and we'll be fine," he said. "It's just frustrating because you know how hard everyone is working. (The problems isn't) from lack of effort. It's just something that happens in racing sometimes. All you can do is keep trying."
Medlen isn't talking out of school.
Before he got his chance in the cockpit, he spent eight seasons as a Castrol GTX crewman, serving first as "diver" (the mechanic who does maintenance from beneath the engine) before graduating to supercharger duty and, finally, to responsibility for the clutch.
"These guys work their tails off," Medlen said. "I know. I've been there. You just feel bad for them because this is a championship team (one that won a POWERade title in 2003 with former driver Tony Pedregon at the wheel)."
As for Medlen, he won a tour event (at Brainerd, Minn.) his rookie season and then won three times last year. That success only served to exacerbate his current problems. Nevertheless, there's one thing he won't have to worry about.
"At least the driver and crew chief aren't going to be pointing fingers at each other," he joked. "We've always been able to communicate and even now, when we're having these problems, we still talk. We still have the same goals. We speak the same language.
"This is what I always wanted to do -- to go racing with my dad -- and to be able to do it at John Force Racing, with the best team in drag racing, is still a dream come true."