The 23rd Annual Fram-Autolite National at Infineon Raceway thundered to completion earlier this month, with the event featuring all the top professional categories, Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. In addition many of the Lucas Oil sportsman categories were also contested.
Oakdale’s own, John Medlen had the best race weekend of all the locals. Serving as crew chief of the Napa Dodge Funny Car driven by Ron Capps, Medlen made all the right tuning calls on the ‘tricky race track’ giving driver, Ron Capps, a 4.169 second victory lap at 296.44 mph. John Medlen’s son, the late Eric Medlen, won as a driver in the John Force Racing Castrol Syntec Mustang Funny Car at this same event in 2006 and John Medlen was the crew chief on that car. Eric Medlen lost his life in a testing accident in Gainesville, Florida in 2007. John Medlen tuned the Ron Capps car through four rounds of racing, taking out the defending champion Tim Wilkerson in the first round. After defeating a struggling Melanie Toxel in the second round, and Don Schumacher Racing teammate Matt Hagan in the semifinal round, he then tuned the car into the winner’s circle by giving Capps a car that easily handled the number one qualifier (and teammate) Jack Beckman in the final. In an event that is now capped off by the “Eric Medlen Ice Cream Social,” it was fitting that John Medlen be the winning crew chief in the Nitro Funny Car category that Eric loved so much to compete in. The winning funny car driver, Ron Capps, was also a very close friend of Eric.
When asked how he was able to get the car to perform so well on the tricky racetrack, Medlen said “Eric was looking down on us and helped guide him and his team to victory.”
In the last four years at this racetrack, since Eric’s win in 2006 in the John Force Racing Funny Car, John Force and Robert Hight (of Team Force) defended Eric’s title in 2007 and 2008. Keeping things in the “Ford Family of cars,” Tim Wilkerson (also a friend of Eric’s) won last year. Now, John Medlen defended the event title for Eric, again, tuning Capps to the Winner’s Circle in front a large contingency of family and friends from Oakdale, known as the Oakdale Posse.
The local racers from the surrounding San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Merced and Tuolumne counties came upon some of stiffest competition around in the popular Lucas Oil Sportsman drag racing series. The regular NHRA National event-traveling contingency of racers in these categories, represent the best in the county in their respective classes. The classes contested were Competition Eliminator, Super Stock, Super Comp, Super Gas, Top Sportsman and Stock Eliminator.
In Super Stock, Dave Raybourn of Modesto made it to the second round of eliminations. He fouled out to Alan Falcone of Seattle, WA. Dennis Paz of Stockton and Steve Wann of Modesto both made it as far as round four in Super Stock.
In Stock Eliminator, there were four racers local to the Oakdale and surrounding areas. Caroline Jimmerfield of Escalon lost in the first round of eliminations to Ken Etter of Riverside. Don and Steve Wann, both of Modesto, lost in the second round of eliminations. Larry Gilley of Hilmar had the best outing of the local racers in this category, lasting until the fourth round of the seven-round class elimination.
In the highly competitive 8.90-second index Super Comp category, there were several area racers competing for the class trophy and prize money. Rich Nedball of Sonora, Rick Mangili of Stockton, Rod Hartzell of Modesto and Greg Boutte of Stockton all fell victim in the first round of eliminations. Glen Kern of Modesto and Matt Constant of Stockton both made it as far as the second round of Super Comp eliminations. Matt Hartzell of Modesto foul started his chances away in the third round of the seven rounds of competition.
Local Nostalgia Funny Car driver, Josh Crawford of Oakdale, was also at the event with his 1969 Blue Max Mustang Funny Car. The car did not make any runs down the racetrack, but was on display, along with over a dozen other Nostalgia race cars for the enjoyment of the drag racing fans. Crawford was one of the special invitees that NHRA asked to come to display his famous race car at the event.