Joliet II: Eric Medlen preview

MEDLEN FOCUSES ON 'OTHER JOB' TO RELIEVE STRESS OF TITLE CHASE Castrol SYNTEC Driver Also Is Team's 'Aesthetic Director' JOLIET, Ill. -- The five drivers still in contention for the 2005 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship deal in ...


Castrol SYNTEC Driver Also Is Team's 'Aesthetic Director'

JOLIET, Ill. -- The five drivers still in contention for the 2005 NHRA POWERade Funny Car championship deal in different ways with the mental pressures and mind games that are a major part of the closest points race in history.

That's why, at this week's fifth annual Ameriquest Nationals at Route 66 Raceway, Eric Medlen, second year driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang, will try to immerse himself in his "other job" at John Force Racing, Inc., and try not to dwell on his proximity to the $400,000 bonus -- 76 points back with four races remaining.

Medlen has been the hottest driver on the circuit since the mid-season break, winning three times, earning runner-up honors in the Skoal Showdown Funny Car bonus race and thrusting himself prominently into contention for a title Force Racing has won for 12 consecutive seasons.

To be within four rounds of the lead in the company of Force, his boss, mentor and teammate; current points leader Gary Scelzi, who is trying to become only the second driver to win NHRA titles in each of the top two pro categories; Ron Capps, who twice has finished second in points; and Robert "Top Gun" Hight, the runaway leader in the 2005 NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year balloting, is pretty lofty status for a former crewman who until last year never before had driven competitively.

Medlen doesn't even want to think about the possibilities, which is why, between his 4.7 second, 325 mile-an-hour rides in the SYNTEC Ford, the native of Oakdale, Calif., will be seeking diversions.

He won't have to look far.

After all, in addition to his driving duties, the 32-year-old is responsible for overseeing paint and decal application not just on the team's Funny Cars, but also on Ashley Force's Castrol/Hot Wheels dragster, on the Brand Source Super Comp cars driven by Force's youngest daughters, Ashley and Brittany, and on the 18-wheel transporters that carry all those vehicles from racetrack-to-racetrack.

It's an often daunting task made more difficult by Force's hands-on involvement.

"John is very particular," Medlen said. "He wants every decal perfect. He wants the paint color exact. We've done entire cars and had to go back and do them all over again because he didn't think a particular logo was big enough or straight enough or green enough or red enough.

"But that's part of the deal. That's why he's been with most of these sponsors for so long. He takes care of them, whether it's in his interviews or whatever, and that includes the paint and decals. Tony (former driver Tony Pedregon) had that job and now I have it."

By focusing on decal placement, Medlen has been able to get away from the pressures that naturally come with driving one of the most powerful race cars on the planet.

"You don't need to think about driving these cars," Medlen said. "It needs to be something you do reactively. The more time you have to think, the more chance there is you'll over-think something and screw it up."

That's not just a personal opinion. It is one shared by many of the sports psychologists whose books are strewn around the lounge in Medlen's transporter.

So, Medlen applies and re-applies decals for Castrol, the Automobile Club of Southern California, Mac Tools, Ford, Fadal (an international machine tool manufacturer with whom Force is aligned) and dozens of others. And, if he still has too much time on his hands, he focuses on painting new helmets for his teammates, another role Pedregon filled before he left the team at the end of the 2003 season.

In fact, there's only one more of Pedregon's roles for Medlen to assume. Champion. He just doesn't want to think about.

* * * *

Did You Know? Last year, after qualifying third, Eric reached the semifinals of the Ameriquest Nationals before losing to boss and teammate John Force...before he came to work at John Force Racing as a mechanic in 1996, Eric was contemplating a career in pro rodeo as partner to two-time PRCA champion Jerold Camarillo....Eric's father, John Medlen, won the Ameriquest Nationals as crew chief to former driver Tony Pedregon in 2002 and 2003. In fact, the SYNTEC Ford has gone to the semifinals or beyond in every appearance in the Ameriquest Nationals.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tony Pedregon , Ron Capps , John Force , Gary Scelzi , Ashley Force , Eric Medlen , John Medlen