Volume IX, Issue 4, Page 69

A few notes on Eric Medlen

y normal tradition is to be one of the last to leave the track, especially after qualifying days/nights. One reason being to let the traffic thin out and the other because it’s one of the best times to catch a driver with a little time on his hands to talk. How late have we stayed? Thanks for asking. My longtime drag racing buddy and I stayed so late at Pomona one night that the security guards were about to lock us IN! That brings me to a thought/picture has stuck in my mind for some reason. It involves Eric Medlen and has dad, John.

I thought it would be appropriate to share about Eric, something non-stat related at the beginning of this article. It was two years ago after qualifying at Gainesville. It was dark and late, several hours after the last run was made for the day. I’m on my way out to my car and look over to see John and Eric leaving and walking somewhere. Maybe to their car or motorhome, I don’t know. John was carrying his briefcase of tuning tricks and secrets. They were both chatting away, about the day’s runs or whatever. I just remember thinking how cool it was to be with your dad at work and then to ride home with him after the day was over. It’s something I’ve never had the chance to do, but I just remember seeing that and it stuck with me.

Let me give you a few stats to remember Eric by. His last two elimination runs were against two of Funny Car’s legends. His last win was over his boss, John Force. Eric left on John and outran him by two hundredths. His last loss was against Kenny Bernstein. Ironically, Eric tagged the wall on that run. (Interesting enough, Cruz Pedregon and Ashley Force were both disqualified by tagging the wall at Gainesville.)

Eric qualified at every event he entered starting in 2004, 72 to be exact; 62 times qualifying in the top half of the show and eight times No. 1. He had an even 5.0 qualifying average. He only had two measly red-lights out of 161 elimination runs. His best win/loss record was against Gary Densham (10-1). Plenty of good things have been said about Eric that I can’t add to. His enthusiasm and the fact he came to be a driver by working on the car first, earned him respect and a lot of fans.

One more note related to the Force camp: Damian Dottore had a great blurb in the Orange County Register about what NASCAR could learn from NHRA. The article is about provisionals in letting “legend” drivers into a show. So the driver gets in based on who they are (or were), instead of what they got. Yes, everyone wants John Force racing at every event, but he didn’t have what it took at Las Vegas and the chips (so to speak, since it was Vegas) fell where they may.

I remember when Yuichi Oyama squeaked out Don Garlits at Indy 2002. Oyama qualified #16 and Garlits #17. The crowd booed, big time. Well, who would you rather see race, Yuichi Oyama or Big himself? With all due respect to Yuichi, I think we would rather see Garlits. But that’s not how we play the game over here and thank goodness we don’t. . .and thank goodness NHRA doesn’t allow the “buy in to qualify” stuff anymore as well, where any unqualified driver could get into the show by paying money to a “qualified” driver so they could race on Sunday. Besides that being goofy and unfair, it really caused havoc with my stats as well. :>) I mean did the guy qualify 17th or 10th?

Great racing to you.

Jim Hawkins



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