Joliet: Eric Medlen preview

Medlen 'Close' To Breakthrough in POWERade Drag Racing Series Rookie Already Adept at Winning by Narrowest Margins JOLIET, Ill. (May 21-23) -- One of the traits shared by champions, regardless of their particular speciality, is the ability...

Medlen 'Close' To Breakthrough in POWERade Drag Racing Series
Rookie Already Adept at Winning by Narrowest Margins

JOLIET, Ill. (May 21-23) -- One of the traits shared by champions, regardless of their particular speciality, is the ability to win "the close ones."

Whether the medium is games, matches or races, experts contend that winning close is one of the best indications of one's mental toughness.

Rookie Eric Medlen, who'll drive the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang this week at the NHRA Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, has yet to win his first Funny Car event, but he already has mastered the art of surviving close calls.

In each of the last three races in the NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series, Medlen has earned the $1,000 "Who Got the Light?" bonus awarded by Motel 6 to the winning driver of the individual race decided by the narrowest margin.

At Houston, Texas, he beat Cruz Pedregon by .0014 of a second. At Bristol, Tenn., he slid past points leader Del Worsham by a narrow .0026 of a second. And last week, in Atlanta, he took out teammate Gary Densham by .0044.

Medlen credits his seven seasons as a crewman on John Force's all-conquering Castrol GTX High Mileage Ford Mustang for that success.

     "What I learned watching John is that 'it's not over until it's over,'" Medlen said.
"You've got to keep your head in the game.  This is only my eighth race as a driver, but
I went down the track a thousand times with John.  Every time he went up to the
starting line, I was picturing myself going through everything.  When he was warming
the car up, I'd watch him.  I watched everything he did.

"When you want to do something so bad, you pay attention to every single detail," Medlen said, "so that if you ever do get your chance, you're less likely to screw it up."

As a result, as surprised as he was when Force named him the new driver of the car that won the 2003 championship, Medlen was at the same time ready for the challenge.

"You can't replace physical driving experience," Medlen acknowledged, "but I think the fact that I worked on the crew for eight years helped speed up the learning curve."

So did his years of driving shifter go-karts, the off-season training vehicle of preference for many IndyCar drivers.

Nevertheless, despite the lessons learned, Medlen credits his recent windfall of Motel 6 checks to nothing more than good fortune.

"I didn't plan for them to be that close," he said. "You never want the other guy to be right there, because anything can happen. But it's a lot better to win (those races) than it is to lose."

Medlen's most recent "Who Got the Light?" success bordered on the bizarre because, as his car neared the finish line, the braking parachute prematurely deployed.

"I didn't know what had happened," he said, "but I knew (the car) really nosed over (and) Gary came flying by me just past the finish."

A semifinalist in three of his seven career starts, Medlen makes his first driving appearance at Route 66 Raceway holding down seventh place in POWERade points, 113 points behind the pacesetting Worsham.

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- www.johnforceracing.com

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Del Worsham , John Force , Gary Densham , Cruz Pedregon , Eric Medlen