MEDLEN HOPES MOUNTAIN IS MERELY A MOLE HILL AT MILE-HIGH NATIONALS Castrol SYNTEC Driver Tries to Jump Start Title Bid DENVER, Colo. -- Eric Medlen tries to make a mole hill out of a mountain this week when he sends the Castrol SYNTEC Ford...
MEDLEN HOPES MOUNTAIN IS MERELY A MOLE HILL AT MILE-HIGH NATIONALS
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Tries to Jump Start Title Bid
DENVER, Colo. -- Eric Medlen tries to make a mole hill out of a mountain this week when he sends the Castrol SYNTEC Ford after the Funny Car Championship in the 26th annual Mopar Mile-High Nationals at Bandimere Speedway.
"The goal," said the second year pro, "is to cut the mountain down to size.
"This is the only race we run in these conditions," he continued. "We're at more than 5,200 feet (altitude), so it's hard for these 8,000 horsepower engines to breathe. Heck, it's hard enough for the drivers to breathe."
"But there are some things you can do to make it better. Guys like my dad (crew chief John Medlen), who've been racing up here for so long, they've managed to take a lot of the mystery out of the mountain, so to speak."
"They'll run higher compression, for one thing, and turn the blower (supercharger) a little faster so we can make more of our own air."
As a result, the Funny Cars and Top Fuel dragsters don't lose as much performance at altitude as, say, the naturally-aspirated Pro Stock cars.
Nevertheless, the 4.842 second track record at Bandimere is pedestrian when compared to the 4.665 seconds it took 13-time series champion John Force and the Castrol GTX Start Up Ford to cover the quarter mile distance in setting the official NHRA national record last October at Joliet, Ill.
"It's all relative," Medlen said. "You have to just take what the track and the conditions give you and up here, if you can run consistent(ly) in the 4.90s, that's good."
Last year's top Funny Car rookie, Medlen struggled in the first half of the current season through no fault of his own. He hopes to see the pendulum swing the other way in the second half, which traditionally begins at Bandimere.
"It was a challenging first half," Medlen said. "I got a lot of experience, but it
However, the lessons he learned were those that can't be taught at driving school.
First, he had to keep his car upright and steer it away from a potential impact with his boss's Castrol Mustang after the tread separated on a 18-inch wide rear tire during a qualifying run at Phoenix, Ariz.
That incident beat the carbon fiber body apart and broke the chassis in four places.
Then, in the race that officially ended the first half of the season (the Sears Craftsman Nationals at Madison, Ill.), the former high school rodeo champion found himself engulfed in flames after a catastrophic engine explosion resulting from a burned piston and an internal fuel leak.
"It happens," Medlen said. "You just have to learn from it. But that's all in the past. Denver is the start of a new season. That's how everybody on this team looks at it. The first half wasn't bad, but it wasn't good, either. We made some mistakes and missed some chances, but you can't dwell on it. We're just going to go out and try to do better. We know we have the talent and the race car. It's just getting it done."
Indeed, Medlen set a Mile-High speed record a year ago when he pushed the SYNTEC Ford through the quarter mile timers at 318.24 miles per hour.
"That gives us a lot of confidence," said the 31-year-old native of Oakdale, Calif. "We know we can perform in the conditions, plus my dad and Jason (assistant crew chief Jason Morton) won here before with Tony (former driver Tony Pedregon, who won back-to-back titles in 1998 and 1999)."
"We still don't think we're out of the (championship) hunt," Medlen continued. "It's not going to be easy, but it's not impossible. The key is the Western Swing (this week's race followed immediately by events in Seattle, Wash., and Sonoma, Calif.). If we can get on a roll, I think we'll be right in it."
Did You Know? Eric is a former high school rodeo champion who, before becoming a crewman on the car he now drives (in 1996), was contemplating a pro career as team roping partner to two-time PRCA World Champion Jerold Camarillo....Denver native Zak Seedroff, 27, a current resident of Centennial, is in his fifth season as a crewman on the SYNTEC Ford with primary responsibility for cylinder head maintenance.