Phoenix: Eric Medlen preview

Medlen Ready For Another Lesson as Tour Moves To Firebird Raceway Rookie Hopes to Apply Lessons Learned in Pre-Season Testing CHANDLER, Ariz. (March 5-7) -- Rookie sensation Eric Medlen successfully passed his first Drag Racing 101 lab test last...

Medlen Ready For Another Lesson as Tour Moves To Firebird Raceway
Rookie Hopes to Apply Lessons Learned in Pre-Season Testing

CHANDLER, Ariz. (March 5-7) -- Rookie sensation Eric Medlen successfully passed his first Drag Racing 101 lab test last week when he started the Castrol SYNTEC0 Ford Mustang from the No. 2 qualifying position (4.786 seconds) at the season-opening K&N Filters Winternationals at Pomona, Calif.

This week, when the NHRA POWERade tour moves to Firebird International Raceway for the 20th annual Checker/Schuck's/Kragen Nationals, it'll be time for Lesson #2: Winning a Racing Round.

Victimized last week by tire shake in a first round match with eventual race winner Jerry Toliver, Medlen nevertheless is anxious to resume his high speed education as driver of the car that last year won the NHRA POWERade Championship.

Although he is in his first full season driving a drag racing vehicle of any kind, Medlen already has learned a lesson he will try to apply this week.

"The first run (in testing last month at Firebird), I never gave the car a chance," Medlen recalled. "We were the fourth car, I think, and the first three cars all had (traction) problems. I didn't see them, but I heard them, and I remember thinking, 'man, they're not even moving.'

"So when I went up there, on the burnout, I already had convicted my own car off what everyone else's was doing. I said, 'man, it feels like ice out here.' So now, two times you've already told your mind that it's not going to be any good. So as soon as I stepped on the gas and (the tires) started to shudder, I just (aborted the run).

"As soon as I did it, I knew I'd made a mistake. So I was pretty upset, but I talked to my dad (Crew Chief John Medlen) and he said, 'well, don't beat yourself up about it (but) you drive this car. Don't drive everybody else's car.' Basically, he told me, 'don't try to anticipate what the car's going to do. Give it a chance.'

"So now, if it shakes, like it did last week, I'll drive it out there for a little ways and give it a chance to come out of it. Unless there's tire smoke (indicating a complete loss of traction), you don't really know if it's going to make it or not."

Unfortunately, the SYNTEC Ford didn't recover from its shake problems last week and Medlen was forced to abort the run. But he learned nevertheless.

"You just have to drive it until it shakes hard enough to where it's smoking the tires and then get out of it," he said. "It seems like the farther out there it gets, the time it takes from shaking until it's loose is way shorter."

Despite his lack of seat time, Medlen already has impressed many veteran observers including his own father.

"All I can say is the kid can drive," beamed the elder Medlen, whose credits include tour victories in both Top Fuel and Funny Car and stints with some of the sport's top teams including those owned by Kenny Bernstein and Don Prudhomme.

"He came back after the very first run (in testing at The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway) after he shut it off at haltrack," the Crew Chief recalled, "and I asked him, 'why'd you shut it off?' 'I think it dropped a cylinder,' he said. I told him I didn't think so, but he said it sounded funny and it made a move like it dropped a cylinder.

"Mind you, he had only been in one of these cars half a dozen times or so. So, I came back, looked at the data and, sure enough, it dropped a cylinder."

He may still be in school, but the rookie is proving to be a very fast learner.

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Bernstein , Don Prudhomme , Jerry Toliver , Eric Medlen , John Medlen