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Accident memories murky for thankful McClure

May 11, 2012, David Caraviello, NASCAR.com



Accident memories murky for thankful McClure
DARLINGTON, S.C. -- Brakes going out before crash, helicopter ride are among things he remembers

The overriding emotion that Eric McClure felt before his crash last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway was excitement. He had a chance for his first top-10 finish of the season and liked his position as his No. 14 car approached the restart for a green-white-checkered finish. Then he saw smoke, and he mashed the brake pedal -- and it went straight to the floor.

He remembers being hit by another car and turned toward the wall. He remembers bracing for impact. And he doesn't remember anything else until after the accident.

"Next time I hit the brakes was when I saw the smoke, and they just weren't there. It's a little bit of a near-sinking feeling right there."

--ERIC McCLURE

"Honestly, I remember just before the accident, and then I remember bits and pieces of the safety workers there, and then I remember the helicopter ride," McClure said Friday at Darlington Raceway. "I don't have a lot of recollection of what happened there."

Days after his devastating hit, McClure was back at the race track, but not in a race car. He's sitting out Friday night's Nationwide Series event recovering from a concussion and internal bruising suffered in a thunderous crash into the SAFER barrier at the big Alabama track. TriStar Motorsports teammate Jeff Green is driving the No. 14 Toyota this weekend as McClure deals with the aftereffects of an accident that forced him to spend two nights in a Birmingham hospital.

*Sound Off: McClure reflects on scary crash

Clearly, he's still hurting.

"I'm doing OK. About as well as can be expected," McClure said. "Definitely sore and battling some things this week. It's obviously been a very long week for me and my family. But I'm thankful to be here."

The memories of his accident are incomplete at best. McClure said he's unsure how he got hurt, although internal bruising isn't uncommon in racing accidents -- organs and tissue may slam forward within a driver who is harnessed tightly to his seat. He remembers being scared of the helicopter because he doesn't like to fly. He remembers talking, the voices of emergency medical personnel trying to assuage his concerns.

And he remembers the brakes going out before the crash. McClure said the brakes had worked the whole race to that point, and he knew he had them during a green-white-checkered restart that unfolded slowly, with many of the cars bunched up.

"Next time I hit the brakes was when I saw the smoke, and they just weren't there," he said. "It's a little bit of a near-sinking feeling right there."

The bruising, McClure said, is still quite painful, and no one knows when he'll get back in the car. He's following NASCAR's recovery protocol, which will involve further evaluation next week.

"Once they feel that I'm clear to get back in the race car and I'm ready to get back in the car, I look forward to doing that," he said. "But we're definitely preparing the best we can to do that as soon as possible."

The next Nationwide event is in two weeks at Charlotte Motor Speedway, but right now McClure is taking it week-by-week, with no timetable of when he might be back on the race track. Helping to fill that void is his family, which includes four daughters ages 5, 3, 21 months and eight months. McClure said his family was at the race track when the wreck happened but fortunately didn't see the accident.

"There were some times with the family when everything died down and we were in the hospital that made me understand how loved I was by them," he said, "and made me very thankful that I had a family like that."

The accident, he said, hasn't diminished his desire to race. The 33-year-old is part of an extended NASCAR family that includes uncle Larry McClure, who once co-owned a Morgan-McClure Motorsports team that won the Daytona 500 three times. Eric grew up around the shop in Abingdon, Va., and has seen plenty of wrecks in his time. But the McClures have never been affected by anything quite like this one.

"Growing up working in the shop, I've seen some of the cars that have come back from tracks. You just look at it and say, 'Wow, somebody was lucky, somebody was blessed,'" he said. "And I really don't know how to say anything other than to say the same thing. In our family we've seen a lot, but I think that's the first time we've experienced something that close."