Eric McClure never “dreamed” his first trip to a NASCAR media center would be to discuss the aftermath of a vicious wreck.
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But after full-speed contact with the wall at Talladega Superspeedway when his brakes failed in last Saturday’s Aaron’s 312, McClure, 33, feels grateful just to be back at a racetrack.
“I’m doing OK, about as well as can be expected,” McClure said. “I’m definitely sore and battling some things this week. It’s obviously been a very long week for me and my family. I’m thankful. I’m thankful to be here and certainly very thankful for the safety initiatives and everything NASCAR’s put on display over the years — certainly, (from) first-hand experience — very grateful for that. I would just like to say thank you to everyone.
“There (have) been a lot of calls and concerns about my health and well-being last week, a lot of outpouring of support from the fans and peers in the sport (and) some of the competitors. Most importantly I would like to say thank you to NASCAR, the NASCAR medical liaison team, Talladega Superspeedway and UAB (University of Alabama Birmingham) — a lot of care there, a lot of professionalism that certainly helped me through the process and I’ll always be thankful for that.”
The 10-year NASCAR veteran held his side as he walked. He doesn’t completely remember the moments following impact. Fortunately, McClure’s point of contact was on a portion of the SAFER barrier – the energy absorbing wall now lining most tracks. However, the moments that followed contact with the wall are a blur, except for the helicopter ride to the UAB Medical Center.
While there were early reports of soreness to his arm and leg, McClure said his biggest “battle” was with internal bruising, which he described as “still quite painful,” and a concussion. In the wake of criticism leveled at the National Football League after Junior Seau’s suicide and resulting focus on head injuries, McClure, who has always worn protective gear, including a head-and-neck restraint and helmet throughout his career, praised NASCAR’s proactive stance on safety.
“I think you can’t put into words the advancements that NASCAR has made in safety,” McClure said. “I love football. I study the NFL and college football and I think the concussion reports are apples to oranges based on the nature of our sport. You generally don’t hear a lot of stories or reports of concussions in our sport and I think that’s a testament to NASCAR and what they’ve done.
“We’re all fans of NASCAR. We all grew up watching it, wanting to be a part of it and I think we’re guilty sometimes of trying to be critical of NASCAR as a whole … and point out things that we don’t always agree with.
“I was a skeptic of the new car and everything they did and never questioned the safety and the SAFER barrier, but I was always one that (said), ‘Hey, they need to worry about this instead of this,’ but experiencing it first-hand, I think the initiatives they have put in place (are) very good and I think a lot of people don’t understand how proactive NASCAR has been.”
McClure is currently 17th in the driver standings. Former Nationwide Series champion Jeff Green will assume driving duties in the No. 14. McClure has three Sprint Cup starts. His best career finish was 26th at Talladega driving for his uncle Larry McClure.
Eric McClure, who has yet to post a top-10 finish in 179 Nationwide Series starts, acknowledged he questions his talent at times. But he’s never doubted his desire to race again.
“Obviously, when you’re in a situation like that and things are happening fast and you’ve just been through something like that, you’re a human being and thousands of things run through your head,” McClure said. “As far as questioning my desire to do this, I don’t. I look forward to going through the process that NASCAR has laid out, getting the right clearance when it’s time to come back and at this point, when they do that, I look forward to doing it and racing again and trying to get better.”
McClure says he will follow NASCAR’s medical regimen to ensure he’s 100 percent before returning to competition.
“As far as getting back in the race car, we’re following the process that NASCAR has in place — it’s a very thorough process and a very good process,” McClure said. “We’re consulting with the doctors on that. Once they feel that I’m cleared to get back in the race car and that I’m ready to get back in the car, then I look forward to doing that. We’re definitely preparing the best we can to do that as soon as possible.”