Pomona: Eric Medlen preview

Medlen gets his shot at Pomona in record-holding Syntec Ford. Rookie ready for much-heralded debut in Champ Car. POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 18-22) Eric Medlen has driven this race a million times in his mind. Now he has to do it for real. In the...

Medlen gets his shot at Pomona in record-holding Syntec Ford.
Rookie ready for much-heralded debut in Champ Car.

POMONA, Calif. (Feb. 18-22)   Eric Medlen has driven this race a million
times in his mind.  Now he has to do it for real.

In the same Castrol SYNTEC® Ford Mustang that won the 2003 NHRA POWERade Championship, Medlen will make his competitive Funny Car debut this week in the 44th renewal of the K&N Filters Winternationals at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds.

Rarely has a rookie driver been thrown into a bigger fish bowl.

Not only is he in the car that won eight times en route to the championship, it's the same car that won last year's Winternationals, the same car that last November set the track record at 4.721 seconds.

Nevertheless, Medlen has been grooming himself all his racing career for just such an opportunity.

For the seven years that he was a member of the crew supporting 12-time NHRA Funny Car Champion John Force, the 30-year-old former high school rodeo champion soaked up knowledge like a high performance sponge.

And, in the off-season, after he was chosen from a long list of candidates to be the new driver of the SYNTEC Ford, a car on which his father, John Medlen, has been the Crew Chief for eight seasons, he practiced going down the quarter mile over and over again while he sat in a mock race car at the John Force Racing shops.

"When we first started, my dad said he wanted me to sit in the car a couple hours a day," Medlen said. "Just sit in it and get comfortable with it. 'If there's anything you want changed, now is the time to do it,' he said.

"I'd go down to the shop at midnight, when nobody else was around, with the lights off and the radio on, and just sit in the car," he recalled. "I felt like a six-year-old kid playing with his 'Green Machine.' It was fun like playing in the sandbox."

As a result of those sessions, Medlen customized his new ride, moving shutoff levers, the brake handle and the clutch pedal to the point that, after one trip during pre-season testing, he radio-ed back to the crew that "this thing feels just like an old shoe."

Now, it's time for him to translate that comfort into performance.

Although Force repeatedly has said that Medlen is under no pressure to perform, just to learn, the driver is aware of the tacit expectations.

"There is pressure," Medlen acknowledged, "because everyone knows that this is the car that won the championship. But it seems like soon as the car starts, everything kind of goes away.

"If we can qualify at every race (this season), it's a major success," he continued, "but I'd be lying to you if I said we don't want to win races, that we just want to get some experience. We want to win Pomona. We want to win the next 20 of them. That may not be realistic, but you have to think that way to have half a chance."

Although his seat time has been limited, Medlen feels like his crew experience on Force's Castrol GTX High Mileageâ"' Ford will shorten the learning curve.

"Every time he went up to the starting line," Medlen said of his boss, "I was picturing myself going through everything. When he was warming the car up, I'd watch everything because (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."

-www.johnforceracing.com

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Series NHRA
Drivers John Force , Eric Medlen , John Medlen