Rookie Tries to Make It Two Straight in Castrol SYNTEC Ford MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 20-22) -- It might seem ludicrous, but Eric Medlen believes his experience makes him a legitimate Funny Car contender in this week's 17th annual O'Reilly ...
Rookie Tries to Make It Two Straight in Castrol SYNTEC Ford
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (Aug. 20-22) -- It might seem ludicrous, but Eric Medlen believes his experience makes him a legitimate Funny Car contender in this week's 17th annual O'Reilly Mid-South Nationals at Memphis Motorsports Park.
A little presumptuous for a rookie driver, even one who earned a breakthrough victory in last week's Lucas Oil Nationals at Brainerd, Minn? Not really.
In fact, Medlen is the first to admit that he still has a lot to learn about the mental aspects of a sport in which races are won or lost by as little as .001 of a second.
Nevertheless, he does believe that the eight years he spent as a crewman at John Force Racing, especially the seven during which he worked on Force's Castrol GTX® Ford, gave him an advantage in his first year as a driver.
After all, he may have won just once as the wheelman on the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang, but he has 50 career wins as driver AND crewman at Force racing.
"I was comfortable in the car from day one," said the 31-year-old rookie-of-the-year candidate. "I knew I could drive it. I'm not going to say I could drive it as good as anybody, but I knew I could drive it. I knew I could handle it. I knew the car was going to run.
"The only thing I wasn't comfortable with was myself up against the competition," he said. "You think about (Whit) Bazemore or (Ron) Capps or (Del) Worsham or (Gary) Scelzi and you know those guys have a lot of experience on you.
"But that's the thing you've got to put out of your mind. That's the stuff that will eat at you. I think that's what holds you back and (consequently) that's what I've been working on.
"My dad (crew chief John Medlen) told me 'you drive this car. Don't drive everybody else's car. Don't try to out-think it, just get in there and drive it."
Mostly, Medlen credits three people for his early -- and perhaps unexpected -- success on the POWERade tour.
One is his father, who in 1996 supervised the build-up of Force's second race car team. The second is Force himself, the 112-time tour winner whose three-car team has won 13 of the last 14 NHRA Funny Car titles.
And the last is Jerold Camarillo, a two-time former Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association World Champion, who, eight-and-a-half years ago, encouraged the younger Medlen to follow his father to Force Racing even though the two seriously had planned a career as team roping partners in professional rodeo.
"Jerold told me, 'you know, 80 per cent of World Champions in roping are 30 and older, so you can always come back and do this. If I was you, I think you oughta go. If it doesn't work out, you can come back and this will always be here, but if you pass it up, it might not ever come around again. So you've got to take your chance'
"That meant a lot because I know he wanted me to stay, too," Medlen said. "That brought us together pretty close."
Naturally, after last week's victory at Brainerd, after sharing an emotional moment with his father and after thanking Force yet again for the opportunity, Medlen was on the phone to Camarillo.
"Finally roped a win," he said. "It wasn't on Little Rock (the Camarillo-trained horse on which he practices roping whenever he's back home in Oakdale, Calif.), but at least it was on a Mustang."