CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Eric McClure has one major dream to fulfill before he called it quits on the NASCAR circuit.
The 35-year-old Chilhowie, Va., driver will have a chance to fulfill that dream next month when he tries to make the Daytona 500 in the No. 35 Ford for Front Row Motorsports.
McClure also plans to run a majority of the Nationwide Series schedule for Tri-Star Motorsports, but he wanted to take advantage of this one-race deal for the 500. It is a race special to his family, who as the owners of Morgan-McClure Motorsports, won the race three times in the 1990s with drivers Ernie Irvan and Sterling Marlin.
“For our family, it’s a big deal,” McClure said Wednesday at the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour. “They became a fixture in the sport when they won Daytona. I remember when Sterling won the second time, I remember just getting in my car driving around town, thinking in that moment, that could be me.”
The Daytona announcement is good news for the 11-year veteran of the Nationwide Series, who has spent much of the past two seasons sidelined with injuries and illness. He missed five races in 2012 after a crash at Talladega left him with a concussion and internal bruising. Last season, he missed another six races due to complications from acute kidney failure. After going through extensive tests, he comes to Daytona with a clean bill of health.
“I’m at the point where I’m at a lot of peace,” McClure said. “But I don’t like the fact there has been so much adversity the last couple of years. It’s affected us physically and emotionally, and has taken away some of the fun of what we do.”
It’s the second time McClure has driven for the Front Row team, which is owned by Dandridge businessman Bob Jenkins. They competed in 32 Nationwide Series races during the 2008 season.
McClure, who had a career-best, eight-place finish in last year’s Nationwide Series opener at Daytona, feels the pairing provides his best chance at making the 500. Front Row scored its first Sprint Cup victory last season at Talladega, NASCAR’s other restrictor-plate track..
“I watched Bob Jenkins has done and it paralleled what my family did,” McClure said. “It made me appreciate what they accomplished.”
In addition to his own health issues, McClure’s house suffered major damage in the April 2011 tornadoes which struck the local area. He and his family stayed in the basement and escaped without injury. McClure simply hopes for drama-free season before transitioning from the driver’s seat into the business side of racing.
“I want to go out on a good note,” he said. “Unless God has a change of heart, there is a good shot this will be it for me. I just want to go, have fun, and have a normal year where nothing goes wrong.”