SPLIT PERSONALITY' MAKES MEDLEN AN UNKNOWN AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX Castrol SYNTEC Driver a Threat in O'Reilly Fall Nationals ENNIS, Texas -- The Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde personality of Eric Medlen's Castrol SYNTECÂ® Ford Mustang has made it the...
SPLIT PERSONALITY' MAKES MEDLEN
AN UNKNOWN AT TEXAS MOTORPLEX
Castrol SYNTEC Driver a Threat in O'Reilly Fall Nationals
ENNIS, Texas -- The Dr. Jekyll-and-Mr. Hyde personality of Eric Medlen's Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang has made it the most dangerous Funny Car on the grounds this week for both the driver and for those against whom he is competing in the 21st annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Fall Nationals at the Texas Motorplex.
"When you line up against us," Medlen said, "you never know what you're gonna get, at least that's how it's been most of the season. You don't know whether we're gonna be fast or whether my dad (crew chief John Medlen) is gonna be furious. It's been that kind of year."
Indeed, it's been a roller coaster-ride-of-a-season for the 33-year-old Medlen who rolls into Texas in fifth place in the NHRA POWERade driver standings, his hopes of a championship all but mathematically over.
He's started from the No. 1 position twice this season and was No. 3 qualifier for the Skoal Showdown, a Funny Car bonus race involving the top eight qualifiers over a 23-race span.
Two months ago, he earned his fifth tour victory by winning the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif. He's beaten his boss, 13-time series champion John Force. He's beaten current points leader Ron Capps. In fact, he's beaten almost everyone including the man he replaced at the wheel of the SYNTEC Ford, Tony Pedregon.
The only problem is that he hasn't beaten any of them with enough regularity to emerge as a legitimate contender for the $400,000 championship.
"It's been really frustrating because we know we have a car that can win," Medlen said. "It's just been getting everybody on the same page. We've had a big turnover (in personnel) and every time you get a new guy, there's a training period.
"Have some mistakes been made on the maintenance side? Sure, but there's been some mistakes made in the cockpit, too. We win as a team, but we also lose as a team. You just try to learn from what happens and do better the next time."
The upshot is that Medlen has ridden out more than his fair share of fires due to mechanical failures. In fact, over the last 19 races, he twice has sailed off the end of the track and into the sandpit, which serves as the last line of defense for race cars decelerating from speeds near 330 miles per hour.
Nevertheless, he tries to take it all in stride.
"If the thing catches on fire, you don't want to have an oildown (the drag racing term for a parts failure that results in a major track cleanup)," he said, "but then again, it is race day and the only way to win is to keep your foot on the gas. There's a lot of things going through your mind, but the biggest thing is just to win."
That'll be the focus this week for the man who once aspired to a career in professional rodeo.
"What've we got to lose?," he asked. "What you hope is that we catch Capps or Tony (whose one position ahead of Medlen) in the first or second round and take them out. That'd help us, but it also would help John and Robert (Hight, driver of the third of the JFR Mustangs and winner of the Labor Day Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at Indianapolis, Ind.).
"We race three cars, but we're still one team. So if John or Robert wins the championship, well, we win, too. That's the great thing about being at John Force Racing."
Medlen, who worked for eight years on Force's Castrol GTX® Fords, attributes that all-for-one, one-for-all philosophy for the team's 17-year dominance of the Funny Car division, a dominance that has included 14 series championships and 165 NHRA tour victories. Force or Hight could add a 15th title by season's end, which would be just find with the man who likely will play a role in the final outcome.