MEDLEN SENDS CASTROL SYNTEC FORD AFTER FUNNY CAR TITLE AT ROUTE 66 Second Year Driver Trying to Move Up in Points Race JOLIET, Ill. -- Eric Medlen is beginning to wonder what he has to do to win a second race on the NHRA POWERade drag...
MEDLEN SENDS CASTROL SYNTEC FORD AFTER FUNNY CAR TITLE AT ROUTE 66
Second Year Driver Trying to Move Up in Points Race
JOLIET, Ill. -- Eric Medlen is beginning to wonder what he has to do to win a second race on the NHRA POWERade drag racing tour.
After all, the one time aspiring rodeo cowboy has been driving well this season. The Castrol SYNTEC® Ford on which he has pinned his 2005 title hopes has been putting up big performance numbers. And the crew, anchored by his father, John, has performed admirably, especially under duress.
Yet, entering this week's eighth annual CARQUEST Auto Parts Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, last year's top Funny Car rookie is in eighth place in points, well back of teammates John Force and Robert Hight, who presently are 1-2.
"Really, all that's been missing is a little racing luck," Medlen said. "Every time we go out there, we think we'll turn it around and maybe this week we will."
Indeed, Route 66 is a track on which both Medlens have performed well.
John Medlen put former driver Tony Pedregon in the winners' circle at the fall race in 2002 and 2003 and the younger Medlen reached the semifinals in both of last year's events, losing to Force and Del Worsham in the spring and fall, respectively.
"I don't think anything else is missing," Medlen said. "We had a little stumble while my dad was changing over to a new combination (one that more closely approximates those in the Fords driven by Ford and Hight), but that's over. I think we're a win looking for a place to happen."
Medlen actually had a car capable of winning two weeks ago at Topeka, Kan., where he qualified No. 2 (behind Hight) and posted the quickest competitive time of the first round at 4.827 seconds.
In round two, though, he ran up against his boss and even though he had the choice of lanes and improved to 4.818, Force laid down the best run on race day to beat him (4.806 seconds).
"It's been that kind of year," he said, "but we're not discouraged. The goal every race is to make sure one of these Mustangs makes it to the winners' circle. We know our time is coming."
Medlen's problems actually began back in February at Phoenix, Ariz., where a rear tire tread separated from the carcass at 300 miles an hour and beat apart not only the carbon fiber body, but also the chassis.
Confronting serious time constraints, the crew nevertheless was able to assemble a new car, mount a new body, get the car to the starting line and make a representative quarter mile qualifying run without missing a beat. Medlen then drove the new car to the semifinals before again losing to Force.
Ever since, the perception is that things have been slightly out of sync.
"All you can do is keep going up there with your best," Medlen said. "You keep going up there with a good car and you keep doing your job, eventually good things will happen. I really feel bad for the guys, though. They've worked their tails off every week. The thing is you work just as hard on these things when they don't win as when they do, probably harder."
Force's surprise choice to succeed 2003 POWERade champion Tony Pedregon as driver of the SYNTEC Ford, Medlen responded last year by winning at Brainerd, Minn., earning runner-up honors at Topeka, Kan., earning two Skoal Showdown No. 1 qualifier awards and finishing fifth in POWERade points.
It was his success that paved the way for Force to bring on another rookie (Hight) this season to drive the Automobile Club of Southern California Ford.