Medlen succumbs to injuries

Associated Press • Mar 24, 2007 at 12:27 PM

GAINESVILLE, Fla. - NHRA driver Eric Medlen died Friday, five days after sustaining a severe head injury in a crash during a test session at Gainesville Raceway.

The 33-year-old Medlen, who drove for John Force Racing, never regained consciousness after crashing his Funny Car into a guardrail on Monday at the Florida track.

Medlen, one of the most popular drivers in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series, underwent brain surgery Tuesday night to relieve the pressure and hemorrhaging and was being kept in a drug-induced coma to promote healing. But doctors said he never showed any improvement.

"Eric suffered from severe traumatic brain injury with diffuse axonal injury, or DAI," said Dr. Joseph Layon, Professor of Anesthesiology, Surgery and Medicine and the Chief of Critical Care Medicine at UF. "Survival rates associated with DAI are low."

He said that, despite receiving "the most aggressive treatment," Medlen continued to have uncontrollable intracranial pressure.

"That is when Eric's family elected to honor Eric's wishes and remove him from the artificial life support systems," Layon said.

Team owner and longtime drag racer John Force was devastated by the loss.

"He was the leader of my next generation of drivers," Force said Friday. "This loss is a huge blow, not only to the Medlen family but to drag racing and to John Force Racing."

In 2004, Medlen took over the Funny Car in which Tony Pedregon won the previous year's championship and was the division's top rookie. He won six times in his first three seasons and never finished outside the top five in driver points.

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