Runner-Up in Most Recent Start Medlen Seeks Breakthrough Win Castrol SYNTEC Ford Among Favorites at National Trail COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 11-13) -- Coming off the first final round appearance of his driving career, rookie Eric Medlen tries...
Runner-Up in Most Recent Start
Medlen Seeks Breakthrough Win
Castrol SYNTEC Ford Among Favorites at National Trail
COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 11-13) -- Coming off the first final round appearance of his driving career, rookie Eric Medlen tries this week to take another big step when he sends the Castrol SYNTEC ® Ford Mustang after the Funny Car championship in the 40th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway.
Medlen, 30, has emerged as one of the most pleasant surprises of the 2004 season.
The one-time high school rodeo champion is presently fourth in NHRA POWERade points, behind boss and teammate John Force but ahead of Tony Pedregon, the man he replaced in the cockpit of the 325 mile-an-hour Ford.
More importantly, while he lost to current points leader Whit Bazemore in the final round of the May 30th O'Reilly Summer Nationals at Topeka, Kan., he proved even in defeat that he has both the car and the talent to go heads-up with the sport's elite drivers.
Furthermore, while this will be just his 10th race, Medlen doesn't appear to be intimidated by National Trail Raceway, considered one of the most challenging tracks in the 23-race series, or by the 7,000 horsepower race car beneath him.
"(Columbus is) neat because it has a lot of history," he said. "It's usually very competitive because of the weather. You don't usually run 4.70s. You're backed off a little bit because it's usually hot."
It's in that heat that Medlen believes he may have an advantage.
"We've tested lately running a hot weather setup," He said. "You've gotta be able to run well in cool weather. Well, this thing runs plenty good when it's cool. But you've really gotta be able to run good when it's hot, because the majority of the races are (run) when it's hot. Columbus is one of them.
"It's aggravating. It's real challenging (and) it's usually the place where guys start going uphill or downhill (in the points)."
Son of John Medlen, the man who turns the wrenches on the SYNTEC Ford, the younger Medlen has trained for the last eight years for this opportunity.
"Every run I've been watching John and Tony and (Gary) Densham," Medlen said. "You're sitting there (and) you can hear the motor change, you know what they're doing inside. You're just in there with them.
"You don't even realize it, but you're programming yourself to do that and when the time comes, it's kinda like this book (The Mental Game Plan, Getting Psyched for Sport by Stephen J. Bull, John G. Albinson and Christopher J. Shambrook) says.
"You go through the run mentally in your head, both perfectly and screwed up, so then when those situations come up, it's no big deal. You're not freaked out saying, 'Oh my god, what am I going to do?'"
It's those mental exercises that have enabled Medlen to shorten the learning curve and put himself into contention for a breakthrough victory few believe is far away.