When you first read that, you probably had one of two reactions: ?How could I ever do that?? or ?Who?? I will answer both of those questions and give you some reasons as to why this not-so-well known Nationwide driver should have your favor.
A statement he made on Twitter, a place where he is fairly active, about someone giving him a ?hate note? once more prompted my considering the question, ?How could anyone possibly hate this driver that I have come to appreciate so much?? His swearing off of all NASCAR message boards (except his own) a few years ago undoubtedly cut down the level of negative opinions he got, but did not keep it away entirely. His humor in dealing with it, letting it roll off his back, is nice to see, but you know it still has to cut deep when things aren?t going so well, as it has been so much lately. Knowing the lack of favoritism for him is out there, has directed me to this conclusion: They must not know him, for to know him is to love him. So, allow me to introduce Eric McClure to you.
At the basis of his life is a firm belief and trust in God; built on top of that is his growing family that includes his wife Miranda, 3 year old Mabreigh, 2 year old Maryleigh and 1-1/2 month old Mirabella. The simplicity, honesty, steadiness and beauty of his home keeps him grounded in the tumultuous world of NASCAR and is the haven he returns to after a discouraging weekend. Also very close to his family is his sister, Emily, who doubles as his PR person on the weekend.
Eric and Team Rensi Motorsports have faced the struggles typically dealt with by smaller, non-Cup affiliated organizations. Despite that, they stayed in the top 30 for the majority of the first part of the season before handing that coveted position back to the Roush rookies. Still, they qualified their way into the field each week?until Iowa where Eric?s car was too bad-handling for him to hold onto. His tweets later that night spoke of the pain of missing a race: ?Didnt make race. Pretty certain it will be ok but feels terrible @ moment? and ?The punishment for nearly wrecking in quals is to dnq & sit in room and watch 12 cars start n park.? The reality of the start and parks is something he and every fan of the Nationwide series realizes. It is a difficult balance, though, when a full-time team heads home just so a few cars set up especially for qualifying can run a few laps and quit.
On the personal side, everything hasn?t gone quite so smoothly as he and his wife lost their expected baby a year ago and have marched through a surgery in June that forced him to hand over his car to Chris Cook at Road America.
Still, Eric (who made his first Busch series start in 2003 and owns 3 Cup starts) has soldiered on through secondary equipment and making the ESPN highlights a couple of times. His first full time opportunity came in 2007 in Johnny Davis Motorsports? #0 car with support from Hefty. Together they made 26 races with a best finish of 18th that left Eric 38th in points. In 2008, Eric and Hefty made the jump to Front Row Motorsports and the #24. In 32 starts (he did not run the road courses), Eric topped off with a 15th place finish at Talladega and moved up to 21st by the time the season ended. With 2009 looming, Eric, Hefty and his now familiar #24 jumped over to Rensi-Hamilton Racing. A 16th, 18th and two 19th place finishes moved him up to the best points position of his career in 17th. This year, he returned to the team and so far has a best finish of 17th in the season opening race.
Needless to say, Bristol did not go as planned. Optimism was high heading into his home track but went down with his tire during practice, the event that sent them to a backup, leaving him with no laps in that car when we went out to qualify. It was an uphill battle when he did not lock into the field on his first lap. Knowing he had to get it on his second one, he drove a little harder and lost control, slamming into the outside wall. The cameras followed Eric as he climbed out of his car, never taking off his helmet, and walked to the hauler. When Friday was all said and done, neither he nor his family?s #4 Cup series car made a race and for the second time this year Eric went home early.
After those two hard wrecks, doctors have advised the 31 year old driver to skip this weekend?s race in Canada, even as they run tests on him. So he is handing the wheel of his car of to D.J. Kennington, the driver he referred to as his ?best friend in the garage?. As must be done when life isn?t going you?re way, you must look for the bright side of everything that happens. In this case, D.J. should easily get the car into the race and, as a good road course driver, get a solid finish that could move them closer to being locked into the races again. Also, Eric will get to be around his family more (they aren?t typically able to come to the track) and celebrate Maryleigh?s 2nd birthday with her.
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