No doubt about it: John Force's race team has undergone some serious changes over the winter.  Tony Pedregon won the 2003 NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car title, then departed to join brother Cruz in a two-car family effort.  Unless you're in insider, Eric Medlen is not a household word in the sport.  But Force recognized talent and tapped the former crewmember to fill some mighty big shoes.

The three major players in John Force Racing: Force, Medlen and Gary Densham convened at The Strip this weekend to test.  On Friday afternoon, Force cast aside any doubts that he is distracted by Pedregon's departure by setting two unofficial track records.  The 12-time NHRA Funny Car champion blazed The Strip's blacktop to the tune of 4.736 sec. (320.05 mph) to record the track's unofficial E.T. (elapsed time) record.  On the next pass, John "drove it out the back door" to record a lightning-fast pass of 329.18 mph -- another unofficial track record.

¿It¿s fast, it always makes you feel good,¿ Force said. ¿It's really race day (set-up)we are looking at. Right now we are all just learning. I think a lot of guys are trying a lot of new stuff, it makes us look good.¿

For the past seven years, Eric Medlen served as a crew member on Force¿s team along with his father John Medlen, Pedregon¿s crew chief.  This season, Medlen graduated to the driver¿s seat after earning his NHRA Funny Car license at LVMS late last year.  Medlen's best run since testing began on Thursday has been a 4.79 sec./324 mph pass.

 ¿I¿m excited for Eric. I made a decision with the sponsors and I convinced them that he (Eric) could do it,¿ Force said. ¿The kid is doing a good job, I¿m proud of him. Good race car, good driver with a lot of heart and motivation.¿

¿It¿s unbelievable; I still don¿t think it is happening,¿ Medlen said. ¿Having Force and Densham to learn off of and (Gary) Scelzi, Tony (Pedregon), (Ron) Capps and (Del) Worsham. It¿s unbelievable how supportive everyone is. I have a lot to learn. They have way more experience, but maybe I know a little more technical aspects maybe it balances out. I think working on the car speeds up the learning car a lot.

 ¿I am overwhelmed by everything and proud to drive for John. There is a little bit of fear there because this is the 'King of Rock-n-Roll.'

¿In eight years, Tony (Pedregon) has grown to be on equal playing force as John. He is a phenomenal driver. To step into his shoes, you try to get the same performance and do a little extra."

Pro teams testing Friday included:

Funny Car: John Force, Eric Medlen, Tony Pedregon, Ron Capps, Tommy Johnson Jr., Whit Bazemore, Gary Scelzi, Gary Densham, Del Worsham, Jim Head and Jerry Toliver.

Top-Alcohol Funny Car: Las Vegas' Paul Crifasi, Tom Bristow, Mert Littlefield, Hannes Wernhart, Dennis Taylor, Jay Payne and Doug Gordon.

Top Fuel Dragster: Mike Strasburg, Arley Langlo and David Baca.

Top Alcohol Dragster: Duane Shields, Steve Federlin, David Wilson, Darryl Hitchman and Ashley Force (John's daughter).

The test session continues until Sunday and is open to the public. Adult admission is $20 per day and Children 6-12 are $6 per day. The Strip¿s p.a. system also may be heard on 103.9 FM.


Saturday, Jan. 31

Credential sales, pit parking, tech inspection: 7 a.m. ¿ 4 p.m.

Testing: 8 a.m. ¿ 4:30 p.m. (Staging lanes closed at 4:30 p.m.)

Sunday, February 1

Credential sales, pit parking, tech inspection: 7 a.m. ¿ Noon.

Testing: 8 a.m. ¿ 4 p.m. (Staging lanes closed at 3:30 p.m.)