News & Media

Back after horrific accident, McClure living in the moment

June 22, 2012, Jill Erwin,

ELKHART LAKE, Wisc. -- No. 14 driver focused on running well in his return after Talladega accident

Eric McClure waited seven weeks to get back into his race car. Seven weeks of bed rest, "brain rest" and watching the rest of the Nationwide Series field race every weekend.

McClure's horrific accident at Talladega (watch) the first weekend of May had sent him to the hospital and then into the shadows of the sport. He finally was cleared to race again Saturday in the Sargento 200, and not a moment too soon for him.

"I still feel like I have a lot left to do and prove. But at the same time, I don't want to be doing this when I'm 40, but I want to be involved in the sport."


But in his first practice, McClure went off course in the one part of the Road America track he needed to tame.

Turn 11 is called the Kink, a narrow part of the track with concrete barriers on each side with no runoff area. When McClure's car started to go around, there was no escape.

"That was kind of scary right there," McClure said. "The one place where there's concrete on both sides, and that's where I ran off course. I wasn't sure what that would feel like or what I would feel like or if I was as emotionally prepared to do it as I thought I was."

He came through it OK, and that was the best sign yet that he had returned fully.

To get back behind the wheel, McClure had to shut down.

The doctor stressed "brain rest" for him in the aftermath of his accident, which left him with his third concussion. They said no TV, no computers, no cell phones. Just shut it down, lay in bed and recuperate.

For someone with four daughters age 5 and younger, it was a challenge. But just like a race car driver, McClure did what he could to get the most out of what he had.

And what he learned from that experience is something he's carrying with him as he returns to the track for the first time since then.

"[Thursday] when I left, they were sad, but the two oldest were really sad and then that made me sad," McClure said. "It's a challenge because I can't say over that time that my heart hasn't been there. I have to come back here, and I want to come back, but there's that part of my life, too."

McClure doesn't want to give the wrong impression. He's so thankful to be back behind the wheel of the No. 14 Toyota that it's hard to keep the smile off his face. There's no place he'd rather be than right here, right now, and to think otherwise would be in error.

After all, he's already spent too many weekends seeing someone else pilot his car.

"It's painful, there's no doubt," McClure said. "It's harder at home. You feel like when you're there, you still have some sort of control. I feel like Jeff [Green] helped turn our team around a little bit with some things they found, so I'm excited to get back and duplicate some of that success."

He'll be doing it with a clean bill of health for the first time all season. As a constant reminder of the accident, his ribs remain sore, and his feet still ache.

But even before the accident, he was running at less than full strength. He was diagnosed in the preseason with an Epstein-Barr virus infection, one of the main causes for mononucleosis.

Now, he is thinking clearly and is focused on the task at hand: following up on last year's strong run before he was caught up in the late-race melee that sidelined so many of the top contenders.

He ran top 15 for much of last year's race, and race strategy even put him in the top five at times. But in the end, all he had to show for it was a 27th-place finish and a feeling of what might have been.

This is his chance for racing redemption, and to show he can put on the same kind of show in the No. 14 as Green did. And he can do it with no fear, as he showed to the world -- and himself -- on Friday.

"Coming back to a road course, I think, is better," McClure said. "At the other tracks, speeds are fast all the time, you're around a bunch of other cars, you're worrying about everyone else ... there's not a lot of time to get comfortable.

"As a human being, you can talk yourself into and out of things. For me, coming back, I'm not scared of the race car. I think they're as safe as they've ever been, and I think I proved it."

There has been a lot of tumult in McClure's life during the past 17 months, from a tornado that forced the family to move from what he and his wife, Miranda, assumed would be their forever home to the birth of the couple's fourth daughter to the accident that would change all their lives.

"They didn't see the accident, but they were at the hospital, and it really upset my oldest daughter," McClure said of 5-year-old Mabreigh. "My second daughter [Maryleigh], she wanted to play doctor, and they were both mindful for the immediate future about how sore I was and what I could do. They kept my third daughter [off me] ... They were definitely my police."

McClure, a very faith-based man, said that "God shows up on time" for him. That when he gets too far ahead of himself, or too wrapped up in results and places and money and rankings, that something is there to remind him of what's really important. The Talladega accident got him thinking about his future, when he wants to remain a part of the sport even when he's not driving.

"I still feel like I have a lot left to do and prove," McClure said. "But at the same time, I don't want to be doing this when I'm 40, but I want to be involved in the sport. I feel like I have some things I can bring to the series, whether that's ... I feel like I'm really good at marketing and finding sponsorship. Yeah, maybe there's team ownership in the future; who knows? That's all I'll say."

But until that time comes, McClure is focusing on where he is now: in the moment.

"It's like it's my first time all over again," he said, "and I'm going to try to appreciate it."