MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR ERIC MEDLEN SATURDAY IN HIS HOMETOWN Friends, Family Will Remember Rodeo Cowboy Turned Drag Racing Champion OAKDALE, Calif. -- A memorial service that will allow his hometown to grieve the loss of Eric Medlen, one of...
MEMORIAL SERVICE FOR ERIC MEDLEN SATURDAY IN HIS HOMETOWN
Friends, Family Will Remember Rodeo Cowboy Turned Drag Racing Champion
OAKDALE, Calif. -- A memorial service that will allow his hometown to grieve the loss of Eric Medlen, one of professional drag racing's most popular young drivers, will be held at 11 a.m. Saturday at the River Oak Grace Community Church, 7712 Rodden Road in Oakdale.
Medlen, 33, succumbed on March 23 to a severe closed head injury suffered in the crash of his race car during a test session four days earlier at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway
A graduate of Oakdale High School where he was a high school rodeo champion in calf roping and team roping, Medlen was preparing for a pro rodeo career as partner to mentor, Oakdale resident and two-time PRCA world champion Jerold Camarillo when fate intervened.
Instead of a one horsepower career, Medlen opted instead to join his father, John Medlen, at John Force Racing, Inc., in Yorba Linda, Calif., where he worked for eight seasons on the team's 8,000 horsepower Funny Cars.
When 2003 NHRA Funny Car Champion Tony Pedregon left JFR at the end of his championship season to form his own team, Medlen was John Force's hand-picked successor even though he never before had driven professional.
Oakdale's favorite son responded by winning a race in his rookie season and finishing in the Top 5 in driver points. In his three full years as a driver, he won six times, never finished outside the Top 5 and last year earned his most satisfying victory when he prevailed in the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at nearby Infineon Raceway (Sonoma).
Before winning at Infineon, Medlen spent two days in Oakdale honing his roping skills at Camarillo's ranch, visiting family and friends and shooting a roping segment that appeared on the real-life TV series, Driving Force, which airs on A&E network.
"Eric Medlen was the son I never had," Force said. "He was the leader of my next generation of drivers. (His) loss is a huge blow not only to the Medlen family, but to drag racing and to John Force Racing."
One measure of Medlen's popularity is the fact that BP/Castrol, his principal sponsor during his first three professional seasons, collected almost 15,000 personal messages for the family at a special e-mail address it created in the aftermath of his death.
In addition, during last week's NHRA event at Houston, Texas, Castrol and the Automobile Club of Southern California provided posters on which thousands more left personal messages for the Medlen family.
Medlen's mother, Mary "Mimi" Medlen is an Oakdale resident, as is his uncle, Steve Medlen. He also is survived by his father, John, and stepmother, Martha, of Russellville, Ark., and by his sister Eryn Gonzales.