|Eric Medlen Dies at the Age of 33
Eric Medlen, the leading member of John Force Racing's 'Next Generation' of drivers has died at the age of 33. Last Monday during testing at Gainesville Raceway, Medlen's funny car blew out a tire which sent the car head-on into the outside concrete barrier. Medlen was immediately treated at the track before he was sent via ShandsCair helicopter to Shands at the University of Florida Medical Center for full treatment. According to photos that a close friend has given us, the scene at the track was certainly not pleasant. Medlen's car was ripped apart.
After arriving at the medical center, doctors found the Medlen had suffered "severe traumatic brain injury with diffuse axonal injury (DAI)." According to Dr. Joseph Layon, the professor of anesthesiology, surgery and medicine, "Survival rates associated with DAI are low." The day after Medlen's arrival at the medical center, Shands' neurosurgery team performed a cranjectomy which takes pressure off the brain and improves blood flow to the brain by removing the front section of the skull. Unfortunately, the cranjectomy did not have as great an effect as hoped. Medlen was still suffering from intense pressure on
Throughout the week, Medlen has been classified as being in "critical condition". Hopes and prayers were consistently reported on the NHRA's website during their daily updates from many drivers and crewmembers around the sport, including J.R. Todd, one of Medlen's closest friends in the drag racing community. Prayer vigils were also held throughout the week for Eric. Ultimately though, Medlen's family decided it was time to take him off of artificial life support as he had wished before the incident occured. At the age of only 33 years old, Eric Medlen passed away.
As usual after a major injury or death is sustained in motorsport crashes, there is a sea of controversy over safety. Speculation is Medlen's may have been able to survive if it was not for the lackluster safety walls and a possible issue with the driver's cockpit/roll cage. Top Fuel Dragster drivers Cory McClenathan and J.R. Todd are suggesting that the NHRA install the SAFER barrier at tracks that host the NHRA's events. SAFER stands for Steel And Foam Energy Reduction; it is a collapsable barrier that is placed in front of concrete walls to reduce the G-force impact on the driver. The SAFER barrier is currently in use at all NASCAR and Indycar tracks.
*** Eric Medlen was the replacement for Tony Pedregon for the 2004 season when Pedregon had gone on to create his own team with brother Cruz. Medlen had been working for John Force Racing for several years before taking drives in his own funny car. During his time on the crew, John Force had 50 victories and 6 championships. After taking the seat of the Castrol Syntec Funny Car, Eric sent himself to 6 victories over a three year span. One must wonder what kind of success Medlen could've had in the future if it were not for this accident. Without a doubt, a sad week in drag racing history. ***
Thanks to NHRA.Com and ABC7.com where we found this information