Former NASCAR driver and team owner Eric McClure, who made nearly 300 starts in the NASCAR Xfinity Series in a career that spanned from 2003-16, died Sunday. He was 42 years old.
McClure’s cause of death was not immediately released, but was confirmed by the family and NASCAR officials. The Associated Press reported that his body was sent to nearby Roanoke for an autopsy, according to the Washington County (Virginia) sheriff’s office. He had suffered from serious health issues in recent years, included diagnosis of a lung infection and a severe musculoskeletal disorder in the summer of 2019.
NASCAR issued a statement Sunday afternoon: “We are saddened to learn of the passing of former driver and owner Eric McClure. NASCAR extends its deepest condolences to Eric’s family and friends.”
The McClure family also released a statement: “The family of Eric Wayne McClure, former NASCAR driver, announces with great sorrow his passing on Sunday. They would like to thank everyone for their prayers and support during this very difficult time.”
RELATED: Eric McClure career stats
McClure made three starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, but he found a home with 288 career starts in the Xfinity Series. He last competed in the national-series ranks in 2016 with a single start for JD Motorsports, which gave him his first full-time opportunity in 2007.
McClure was a native of Chilhowie, Virginia. His uncle, Larry, was one half of the Morgan-McClure Motorsports team, based 20 miles away in Abingdon, Virginia. Morgan-McClure was a three-time winner of the Daytona 500 with Sterling Marlin and Ernie Irvan among the top drivers of the team’s No. 4 Chevrolet.
Eric McClure’s best NASCAR finish was an eighth-place result in the 2013 Xfinity Series season opener at Daytona for longtime team owner Mark Smith’s TriStar Motorsports group. “For me, this is the best day of my life professionally,” he told MRN Radio post-race. “We’ve raced for a lot of years, never had a whole lot to show for it statistically, but we raced up front all day, survived, had a great day and I’ll never forget it.”
McClure was known for his longevity and his team’s underdog spirit, but his career was also marked by severe crashes. He missed five races in the 2012 season after a hard head-on wreck at Talladega Superspeedway left him with multiple injuries, including a concussion and internal bruising.
As the one-year anniversary of the crash neared, McClure told NASCAR.com: “I am a better person because of what happened. I could talk for two hours about how this has really impacted our lives, but it’s way too much drama unless people have gone through something traumatic. It was huge for our family. It just uprooted everything we were used to. It made us think about career steps, family steps, what we need to focus on. When people go through things, it affects them differently and not everyone can relate to that situation, but for me, it’s just still surreal.”
McClure sustained another concussion in 2015 at Kentucky Speedway, and his driving career ended the following season. His post-career health troubles were also serious, and he told the Bristol Herald Courier in 2019 that he had undergone numerous tests and surgeries before reaching a diagnosis of rhabdomyolysis, a rare syndrome related to muscle injuries that can lead to kidney failure. McClure told the Bristol newspaper that he had been placed on dialysis treatment and had emergency surgery to save his limbs.
“I no longer take little things for granted,” McClure told the Herald Courier’s Allen Gregory during his recovery. “Whatever the next chapter of my life is, I know that this journey — the pain, the tears, the laughter, new relationships — will be what has prepared me.”
McClure was father to seven children — all girls, all of whose names begin with the letter M. His marriage to Miranda McClure ended with their estrangement. Eric McClure pleaded no contest to misdemeanor domestic violence charges last October. He had recently become engaged to Keira Brinegar.
McClure followed his family’s path into team ownership in what is now called the ARCA Menards East Series, forming Martin-McClure Racing with another former driver, Hal Martin, in 2016.