MEDLEN HOPES TO PLAY ROLE IN DECIDING POWERADE TITLE Castrol SYNTEC Driver Keeps His Head in the Game RICHMOND, Va. -- Eric Medlen doesn't talk like a driver who's been all but mathematically eliminated from the race for the 2006 NHRA ...
MEDLEN HOPES TO PLAY ROLE
IN DECIDING POWERADE TITLE
Castrol SYNTEC Driver Keeps His Head in the Game
RICHMOND, Va. -- Eric Medlen doesn't talk like a driver who's been all but mathematically eliminated from the race for the 2006 NHRA POWERade championship, but he sure races like one, which is why the 33-year-old driver of the Castrol SYNTEC Ford Mustang may yet play a role in determining who emerges as the 2006 champion.
"We've still got work to do," Medlen said as he prepared for this week's inaugural Torco Race Fuels Nationals at Virginia Motorsports Park. "We're probably not going to win the championship with the SYNTEC car, not unless everybody in front of us eats bad spinach or something, but our team can still win.
"Like I've said before, we've got three cars and three drivers, but we're one team. It doesn't make any difference which one of these Mustangs wins -- as long as one of them does."
That "team first" philosophy, instilled in Medlen during his eight years as a crewman on the Castrol GTX Funny Car driven by his current teammate and mentor, John Force, has produced a record 14 championships over the last 16 years with a 15th clearly within reach.
Entering this week's Virginia race, the 21st of 23 in the POWERade series, Force leads Ron Capps by one point with Robert Hight, driver of the Team Castrol/Automobile Club of Southern California Ford, just 35 points back in third place.
"We're in a good position right now to help John and Robert," Medlen said. "The perfect scenario would be for us to line up against Capps early in the race and take him out. We're kind of like hired guns now. When you're racing for the championship, you have to be conservative sometimes. But for us, the gloves are off. We can take chances if we need to. We can swing for the fences."
As a result, Medlen could be Capps' worst nightmare. Even though he is "only" fifth in the POWERade point standings, the once aspiring rodeo cowboy has a race car that is capable of record-setting performances.
Twice this season, he has started from the No. 1 qualifying position and last week, at Reading, Pa., his was the quickest of the Fords in qualifying and one of the quickest on race day, reaching the semifinals before falling to Hight's Auto Club entry.
"Our goal the rest of the way is to win rounds," Medlen said. "My dad (crew chief John Medlen) has this car running as good as it has all year so we know when we pull to the (starting) line, whether it's against Capps or Tony (Pedregon) or T.J. (Tommy Johnson Jr.) or anyone else, we've got somethin' for them."
A five-time tour winner, Medlen kept alive his streak of having won a race in each of his pro seasons when he prevailed this year in the FRAM/Autolite Nationals at Sonoma, Calif.