MEDLEN BIDS FOR ANOTHER TITLE BY RIDING 'SHOTGUN' FOR FORCE Castrol SYNTEC Driver Could Play Role in Outcome POMONA, Calif. -- The way Eric Medlen sees it, when the POWERade tour returns to Pomona Raceway for this week's 41st running of the...
MEDLEN BIDS FOR ANOTHER TITLE BY RIDING 'SHOTGUN' FOR FORCE
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Could Play Role in Outcome
POMONA, Calif. -- The way Eric Medlen sees it, when the POWERade tour returns to Pomona Raceway for this week's 41st running of the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California Finals, he'll again be racing for the NHRA Funny Car championship.
The only thing different is his job.
Instead of doing supercharger maintenance or clutch preparation in support of 13-time champion John Force, which he did for eight championship seasons, the 32-year-old will support his boss in a much more visible way this week as driver of the Castrol SYNTEC® Ford.
"It's like John's driving the stagecoach and I'm riding shotgun," Medlen joked. "If anybody gets close, I'm supposed to take 'em out."
In fact, Medlen's analogy isn't too far from the truth. With Force trailing both Gary Scelzi and Ron Capps in the POWERade standings, he likely will need some help if he is to secure an unprecedented 13th consecutive Funny Car title for John Force Racing.
"We win as team and we lose as a team," Medlen said. "That's what makes this different than a lot of other places. Whether John wins, Robert (Hight) wins, Ashley (Force) wins or I win, really, in the big picture, everybody wins. That's kinda the philosophy John has instilled in us."
Which is why the last thing on Medlen's mind this week is the fact that he could pass teammate Hight for fourth place in the final driver standings.
"That doesn't mean anything to either one of us," Medlen said. "Every year when we start out, the goal is for one of these Mustangs to win the championship. Robert led for awhile this year, John's been up front.
"We had some problems early, but then we got back in it (winning three times). We had our chances, but now it's come down to John against the Dodges and Robert and I are both in a spot where we could make a difference. That's huge."
Medlen's goal is to qualify well and win rounds.
"We don't have to hold back," said the four-time tour winner. "If we just do our standard program and qualify in the top half (of the 16-car field), there's a pretty good chance we would pair up with those guys (Scelzi and Capps) in the semifinals or maybe even the second round.
"Either way, if we could take one of them out, it would open it up for Force. All he needs is for those guys not to make it to the final round. Then, if he wins the race, he wins the championship."
Although he never drove competitively before climbing into the cockpit of the SYNTEC Ford last season as Force's hand-picked successor to departed 2003 series champion Tony Pedregon, Medlen was not unaccustomed either to pressure or to success.
He was a member of Pedregon's crew in 1996 when Force Racing went 1-2 in the championship chase and was on the Force crew the next seven seasons. Last year, he finished fifth in points as Force returned to the podium as champion for the 13th time in 15 seasons.
Although he started slowly this year while his father (crew chief John Medlen) adapted to a new engine/clutch combination, Medlen rallied in the second half, winning three times in one four-race stretch to virtually assure himself and his team of a second straight Top 5 finish.
He'd give that up, though, to make sure Force gets his 14th championship.
"That's what we're here for," he said. "That's why we have a multi-car team. When one of us wins, we all win."
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Did You Know? In addition to his driving duties, Eric supervises decal and paint applications on all cars in the John Force Racing stable....before he accepted a job at John Force Racing in 1996, Eric was contemplating a career in pro rodeo as the team roping partner of two-time PRCA World Champion Jerold Camarillo....Eric was a mechanic on the SYNTEC Ford for one season before moving over to Force's Castrol GTX Funny Car in 1997....Eric is one of seven Funny Car drivers to have broken the 4.70 second barrier.