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Medlen Paired With Capps

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 21 2010

John Medlen to tune for Ron Capps.

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Funny Car driver Ron Capps received a pair of unexpected presents on his 45th birthday Sunday – a first-round loss in the 10th annual NHRA Thunder Valley Nationals and a new crew chief.

Winless through the first 12 events of 2010, Capps will be paired with crew chief John Medlen “effective immediately,” according to a post-race news release issued on behalf of team-owner Don Schumacher. Medlen replaces drag racing legend Ed “Ace” McCulloch as tuner of the NAPA Auto Parts Dodge Charger heading into the fourth annual Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Nationals at Norwalk, Ohio, Friday through Sunday.

The announcement was made without official comment from Schumacher, Capps or McCulloch.

Capps began the season in February with a runnerup finish to 14-time Funny Car world champion John Force and his Castrol GTX High-Mileage Ford Mustang at Auto Club Raceway at Pomona (Calif.) But Capps has not advanced to a final round since, and the resident of Carlsbad, Calif., remains the only Don Schumacher Racing Funny Car driver without a victory in 2010.

Capps’ most recent victory was scored against Ashley Force Hood and her Castrol GTX Mustang at Bandimere Speedway in Morrison, Colo., on July 12, 2009 – 23 races ago. It was Capps’ 30th career victory in 60 final-round appearances.

On Sunday at Bristol (Tenn.) Dragway, Capps was trailered after a first-round loss to eventual event winner Bob Tasca III. Tasca’s Motorcraft/Quick Lane Shelby Mustang ran 4.236-seconds at 292.65 mph to Capps’ 4.299-seconds at 277.77 mph.

Capps, who finished 11th in the 16th-car field, is seventh in Full Throttle Drag Racing Series points. Five races remain before the start of the Countdown to 1 championship playoffs at the Mac Tools U.S. Nationals at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis Sept. 1-6. Capps trails championship leader Force by 236 points and is 62 behind sixth-place Tasca.

Capps was championship runnerup to Force in 1998 and 2000 and to Don “The Snake” Prudhomme Racing teammate Gary Scelzi in 2005_ the latter by eight points in the closest Funny Car finish in NHRA history.

Capps again began this season as a title favorite based upon the category-best five races he won in seven final-round appearances in 2009. Capps held the top spot in the point standings for the first 10 races of ’09, en route to an overall third-place finish after the six-race Countdown to 1.

According to the news release, McCulloch will continue to be a part of DSR and the NAPA team. McCulloch will assist Medlen as well as crew chief Tommy DeLago on the DieHard Dodge driven by Matt Hagan, and crew chief Rahn Tobler on the Valvoline/Mail Terminal Services Dodge driven by “Fast” Jack Beckman.

McCulloch joined DSR in 2005 after spending the majority of the previous five seasons tuning the Funny Car driven by Capps for lifelong friend Prudhomme’s Skoal Racing Team. McCulloch produced five wins in three seasons with Snake Racing.

As a driver, McCulloch won 22 national events – 18 in Funny Car and four in Top Fuel. Six of those victories were scored during the prestigious U.S. Nationals, including five in Funny Car. Capps has advanced to the NHRA’s playoffs in each of the past three seasons, albeit without a victory. Capps has a combined 17-18 won/loss record in the postseason format.

Medlen unexpectedly left John Force Racing for DSR in March to work as co-crew chief with DeLago on Hagan’s Dodge. Hagan since has posted the first two wins of his NHRA career – at Houston Raceway Park in Baytown, Texas, in April and at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet, Ill., earlier this month. Beckman, meanwhile, knocked off Force in the season’s second race at Firebird International  Raceway in Chandler, Ariz.

Hagan ended reigning Funny Car champion Robert Hight’s three-race/15-round winning streak in the Auto Club Mustang at Joliet, as well as posting a new national elapsed time record of 4.022-seconds during a semifinal win against Force Hood. Hight and Force Hood are teammates at archrival JFR.

A former race-car and race-boat driver, Medlen is an accomplished designer, fabricator and tuner. In the mid-1980s, he designed and built clutch systems and later developed one of the first multi-lever clutch systems and a fuel volume control device.

As a crew chief, Medlen claimed the 2003 Funny Car crown with Tony Pedregon at JFR. Medlen has scored 44 NHRA national-event victories as a tuner in both Top Fuel and Funny Car, winning six times in three full seasons with his late son, Eric.

Eric Medlen, 33, died on March 25, 2007 from head injuries suffered during a crash while testing at Gainesville (Fla.) Raceway. At Force’s request and with the technical assistance of Ford Racing, Medlen was put in charge of The Eric Medlen Project, which has remained at the forefront of improving Funny Car chassis construction and cockpit safety.

Medlen reportedly left JFR because of his desire to tune a Funny Car on a regular basis, coincidentally at a time when Force decided to downsize from four teams to three because of a lack of sponsorship.

Headquartered in Brownsburg, Ind., DSR consists of seven professional NHRA teams. In addition to the aforementioned three Funny Car teams, DRS also features the U.S. Army Top Fuel Dragster driven by seven-time/reigning world champion Tony Schumacher; the FRAM Dragster of Cory McClenathan and the Matco Tools Dragster of Antron Brown.

Craig Treble also rides a DSR Suzuki in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class. DSR teams have won eight world championships since 1998.

John Sturbin | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, June 21 2010
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