CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Eric McClure wants one more crack at the Daytona 500.
The tough-luck, 35-year-old Nationwide driver who sustained a concussion following a wreck at Talladega in 2002 and has battled other medical problems has teamed with Front Row Motorsports for a chance to qualify for next month’s season-opening race in the No. 35 Ford Fusion. The car will be sponsored by Hefty/Reynolds Wrap.
McClure has three career Sprint Cup starts, but has never raced in the Daytona 500 _ twice failing to qualify there in the past.
“In terms of the bucket list as a driver, I’m trying to enjoy that aspect of it more because I know my (driving) days are numbered,” McClure said.
He’s an 11-year veteran of the Nationwide Series, but said this is likely his last season as a driver and he will share his seat with Jeff Green. He plans to remain on the business side of the sport after he retires from driving.
McClure hasn’t been able to complete the past two Nationwide seasons due to a variety of medical ailments.
Along with the concussion, McClure has been hospitalized for renal failure, battled Epstein-Barr _ a virus that causes fatigue and a sore throat _ and has had his family’s western Virginia home destroyed by a tornado.
“It seems like for two and half years it has been one thing or another,” he said. “But one thing is for sure, we don’t take every day for granted anymore.”
The Talladega accident certainly gave his family a scare.
McClure was airlifted from the track to the University of Alabama-Birmingham Hospital after a multi-car wreck sent his No. 14 ride into the inside wall. He said he still has lasting problems as a result of the crash. Emotionally, the wreck still haunts his 7-year-old daughter, Mabreigh.
“With five little girls at home, and being in my mid-30s now, the reality is I’ve accomplished everything I want to accomplish short of winning a race and competing in the Daytona 500,” McClure said. “So we’re going to try to have a little fun and transition myself into the next phase. I really enjoy the business side of this industry.”
He said he watched the wreck last week on film and still shakes his head that he was able to survive.
“It’s surreal,” he said.
McClure said he has been cleared to race by specialists, but he didn’t decide to make a run at Daytona until after a lot of talks with his wife, Miranda.
“We spent a lot of time praying, and there were times when we came close to calling it quits in terms of me as a driver,” McClure said. “She is very supportive and I am very sensitive as to how it affects my girls. I don’t want to put them through that again because my oldest daughter hasn’t fully recovered from Talladega. It still causes her a lot of problems.”
But he said the goal is to qualify for the Daytona 500.
“Everyone who wants to be a NASCAR driver dreams of being in this race,” McClure said.
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