MEDLEN HAS ANSWER FOR THE HEAT IN O'REILLY MID-SOUTH NATIONALS Winning Makes 90 Degree Temperatures Palatable at MMP MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Eric Medlen knows how to keep cool in the suffocating summer heat that this week will test the survival...
MEDLEN HAS ANSWER FOR THE HEAT IN O'REILLY MID-SOUTH NATIONALS
Winning Makes 90 Degree Temperatures Palatable at MMP
MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- Eric Medlen knows how to keep cool in the suffocating summer heat that this week will test the survival skills of both racers and race fans at Memphis Motorsports Park.
"They say a good time slip will cure what ails you," Medlen said as he prepared to drive the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang in defense of the Funny Car championship at the 19th annual O'Reilly Auto Parts Mid-South Nationals. "Well, believe me, it'll keep you cool, too.
"Winning is what makes all the suffering in this heat and humidity worth the effort," said the just-turned-33-year-old. "You aren't really cooler, I guess, but you just don't think about it as much."
Last year, Medlen took out the man he replaced at the controls of the SYNTEC Ford, Tony Pedregon, in round one before beating current teammate and No. 1 qualifier Robert Hight in the semifinals and current NHRA POWERade points leader Ron Capps in the final.
"My dad (crew chief John Medlen) told the guys that if we were going to have to work in the conditions here, we might as well go ahead and win the race. If you're gonna do the work, you might as well get the rewards, right?"
Last year's Memphis victory ended a three-wins-in-four-races run for Medlen that enabled him to finish in the Top 5 (fourth) for the second consecutive year for John Force Racing, the team for which he worked as a mechanic for eight seasons before getting a chance to drive.
This year, he rolls into Memphis in fourth place behind only Capps, Force and Pedregon. After a typically slow start, he suddenly is a factor in the championship race.
"We've got a good car," said the man who once aspired to a career in pro rodeo, "but it's really hard to win one of these things. There's only a couple ways to win and there's thousands of ways to lose. But you can't look at it that way. You just have to go out and do the best you can, every round.
"If you do that, you're gonna put yourself in a position to win. You might not always win, but at least you're gonna at least give yourself a chance. Like my dad says as long as you keep getting to bat, eventually you're gonna hit something."
Medlen has hit the POWERade jackpot five times in his first three seasons, most recently winning last month's FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif., and while he still is 192 points behind the leader, he doesn't believe that the race for the championship is only between Capps and Force.
"I don't think we're out of it," Medlen said. "There are five drivers me, Robert, T.J. (Tommy Johnson Jr.), Tony and (reigning series champion Gary) Scelzi who are close enough to still make a race of it. This could be a make or break race for some of us. You don't want to go into Indy (and the Labor Day Mac Tools U.S. Nationals, the sport's biggest event) 200 points behind, that's for sure."
Winning in the heat and humidity, then, could be the difference.
"I won't say we're looking forward to the conditions we had (here) last year," Medlen said. "But we're not intimidated by them, either. Right now, the car is responding to the changes that my dad and Jason (assistant crew chief Jason Morton) are making.
"This Mustang body was new at the start of the season, but we also changed some motor stuff and clutch stuff and fuel system stuff. We completely changed the combination. It's taken half the year to get everything sorted out but now it's starting to pay off."