Las Vegas II: Eric Medlen preview

Medlen Saddles a Fast Horse in 'Road To The Future' Quest ACDelco Nationals is Rookie's National Finals Rodeo LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Oct. 29-31) -- Eric Medlen's bid for the 2004 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award,...

Medlen Saddles a Fast Horse in 'Road To The Future' Quest
ACDelco Nationals is Rookie's National Finals Rodeo

LAS VEGAS, Nevada (Oct. 29-31) -- Eric Medlen's bid for the 2004 Automobile Club of Southern California Road to the Future award, the award that annually identifies the NHRA Rookie-of-the-Year, moves this week to The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway for the fourth annual ACDelco Las Vegas Nationals.

Once a promising rodeo cowboy with National Finals Rodeo aspirations, Medlen learned from mentor Jerold Camarillo, a two-time PRCA World Champion, that a calf roper is only as good as his horse.

It's a lesson that also applies to drag racing. Fortunately for Medlen, his current mount, a 7,000 horsepower Ford Mustang backed by Castrol SYNTEC®, has proven to be a very good horse indeed, one that carried the 31-year-old to a breakthrough victory two months ago at Brainerd, Minn.

"I'm still riding horses," Medlen has said. "It's just a different exhaust system."

One of nine different Funny Car drivers to have reached the winners' circle this year, Medlen also was runner-up at Atlanta, Ga., twice started events from the No. 1 qualifying position and, significantly, claimed Motel 6 "Who Got the Light" bonuses as the pro winner of the closest two-car race at four different POWERade tour events.

Although he is listed at only 8-1 by Las Vegas oddsmakers, behind boss and teammate John Force, among others, it would be ludicrous to discount the first year driver who is behind the wheel of basically the same SYNTEC Ford in which Tony Pedregon swept both races contested at LVMS a year ago.

Pedregon went on to win the NHRA POWERade championship, the team's 11th consecutive title, and Medlen is hoping to use the ACDelco race as a springboard to a post season award of his own.

Not that the Indianapolis resident is obsessed with earning Rookie-of-the-Year honors. However, he can appreciate the historical significance. His predecessor in the SYNTEC Ford was the inaugural winner of the award in 1996. Seven years later, he was the series champion.

     "It would be a huge honor," Medlen said of the rookie award, "but it's not
something I think about every night.  I'm not going to be too disappointed if I don't (win
it).  The important thing is for us to finish the season strong."

Medlen knows better than most the importance of building a foundation for seasons to come. After all, before he was hand-picked by Force to fill the seat vacated by Pedregon, he was for seven seasons a key member of the crew on Force's Castrol GTX® Ford, first as the supercharger technician and, the last two years, as the clutch technician.

During his tenure, Force won 48 tour events and six championships. In fact, Medlen has credited his rapid development as a championship contender to the years he spent preparing cars for his boss.

"Every time he went up to the starting line, I was picturing myself going through everything (with him)," Medlen said of Force. "When he was warming the car up, I'd watch him. (When) you want to do something so bad, you pay attention to every single littlest detail so that if you ever do get your chance, you're less likely to screw it up because, if you screw it up, (you know) they're not going to give you another chance.

"You can't replace physical driving experience," he acknowledged, "but I think the fact that I worked on the crew for eight years (one year on the SYNTEC team before moving over to Force's) and (the fact that I've) done a lot of different things helped to speed up the learning curve. Being around it all my life, you learn when it's right and when it's not."

So far, Medlen has been more right than wrong, something that hasn't been lost on the competition.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Eric Medlen