THE ERIC MEDLEN PROJECT TO ADDRESS SAFETY ISSUES Brownsburg Facility Honors Memory of Fallen Funny Car Star BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Drag racing champion John Force formally has announced the creation of The Eric Medlen Project at John Force Racing...
THE ERIC MEDLEN PROJECT
TO ADDRESS SAFETY ISSUES
Brownsburg Facility Honors Memory of Fallen Funny Car Star
BROWNSBURG, Ind. -- Drag racing champion John Force formally has announced the creation of The Eric Medlen Project at John Force Racing and revealed some of the specifics of the Funny Car safety initiative upon which he embarked soon after Medlen lost his life in a testing accident.
The 14-time NHRA Champion said plans to build the Funny Car of the Future (FCF) in a 48,000 square foot addition to his existing shop facility "is more important to me than all my championships."
In creating The Eric Medlen Project (TEMP), Force said his goal was to secure the legacy of its namesake, enhance race car safety in all forms of motor racing and sustain the JFR racing dynasty, which has claimed 15 NHRA Funny Car championships in the last 17 seasons.
"Our purpose is to show everyone that all of us at John Force Racing will never forget Eric Medlen and the impact he had on us," Force said of the young driver he has called "the son I never had."
To address safety and performance goals, Force ultimately wants to create every race car component and perform every step of the preparation process in-house. That would include everything from building the engines and the chassis for Funny Cars and dragsters to applying the paint.
"Don't get me wrong," Force said. "I am still working with (chassis builder) Murf McKinney, but one day we plan to evolve to doing everything in-house because that's the best way to maintain quality control."
In addition, TEMP will contain the high-tech data acquisition and testing equipment needed to support the JFR safety initiative. Force again emphasized that his team, led by Eric's father, John Medlen, will share all the safety-related data it develops with the NHRA and the PRO (Professional Racecar Owners).
The elder Medlen, who was crew chief on his son's Ford Mustang, is relocating from Russellville, Ark., with his wife, Martha. Hired in 1996 to oversee the build-up of a second JFR Funny Car team, Medlen also will resume his duties as crew chief on a Ford Mustang driven by rookie Mike Neff.
In addition to the program specifics, Force also announced that through Main Gate, Inc., the John Force RaceStation store and the www.johnforceracing.com website, the sale of Eric Medlen memorabilia already has generated more than $200,000 for division among four charities specified by the Medlen family including Racers for Christ International, Inc., and the Drag Racing Association of Women (DRAW).
"Seeing Eric's dad so strong is all that gets me through it," Force said of the loss of the leader of his Next Generation of drivers. He also credited Medlen for putting him back on track following the March accident.
"He told me that my job was to lead this team and that I wasn't doing that, " Force said. "He said Eric would have been disappointed in the way I was acting. That got my mind right because I knew then that I had to give John Medlen the tools he needed to make sure that what happened to Eric didn't happen to someone else. The only way I knew to do that was to keep on racing."
The thrust of TEMP will be the creation of the FCF, a concept vehicle that Force insists must be both "affordable and competitive.
"John Medlen already has talked to engineers about what can and can't be done," Force said. "We've talked to people inside the sport, like Murf McKinney, and people in IndyCar and NASCAR and Formula One."
In the weeks after the accident, Force dictated immediate changes based on conversations with Dr. John Melvin, a biomechanical research scientist with extensive crash safety experience. The resulting improvements likely prevented injury to drivers Robert Hight and Ashley Force during subsequent accidents at Topeka, Kan., and Seattle, Wash., respectively.
John Medlen, who is working closely with the NHRA, SFI, Ford Motor Company and others on the safety initiatives, calls the spirit of cooperation he has seen thus far unprecedented.
"We've been given data that it would have taken years for us to develop on our own," Medlen said. "It's been a very humbling experience that shows the depth of the impact of Eric's accident."
"It's a joint effort," Force said, "and whatever (safety) data is developed and whatever the conclusions are, we'll share them with the entire racing community. It's not just for my own children (daughters Ashley, 24, Brittany, 20, and Courtney, 18, all are racers), it's for all the mothers and fathers and their children who are out here with us. To make the sport better for them, better for the future, that's why I'm investing my money and why the sponsors are investing their money."
While the creation of the FCF will be a priority, The Eric Medlen Project ultimately will be competition-driven. Using machine tools built by Giddings and Lewis and Fadal, TEMP this fall will deliver a Ford-branded fuel motor.
Eric Medlen never will be far away from the project that bears his name. A life size bronze statue of the once aspiring rodeo cowboy now occupies a prominent position beneath the flagpole outside the JFR complex and a room inside the shop is dedicated to the six-time tour winner, remembering his life in photos, displays and testimonials.
The statue, unveiled in ceremonies on Thursday, Aug. 30, was cast by Storyland Studios in Lake Elsinore, Calif., the same company that created the statue of NHRA founder Wally Parks that stands in front of the NHRA Motorsports Museum in Pomona, Calif.