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Eric McClure, alive and kicking: and thanking NASCAR for all those safety devices that just saved his life

Eric McClure, alive and kicking: and thanking NASCAR for all those safety devices that just saved his life

Eric McClure gets quick emergency work at Talladega (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)



   By Mike Mulhern

   Eric McClure probably owes his life to Dale Earnhardt.
   And McClure certainly owes his life to the numerous – and now too frequently overlooked – safety initiatives NASCAR executives have put into place over the decade since Earnhardt's death.
   McClure, the 33-year-old journeyman racer who got caught up in last weekend's vicious crash at Talladega, spent a night in the Birmingham hospital recovering that hard hit, much harder than it should have been, because his brakes inexplicably failed.
   But he is here this weekend, watching though, not racing, and eager to talk about just what's happened the past few days.
   "I'm doing okay, about as well as can be expected," McClure says. "I'm definitely sore and battling some things this week.  
    "It's been a very long week…."
   McClure was quick to praise the in-car safety devices – particularly the head-and-neck restraint -- and car-extraction procedure and NASCAR's safety liaisons procedures that have become norm on the stock car tour over the decade since Earnhardt's death.
   The padded softwall at the point of his infield impact was key too….though there are other spots near there where there is no such Safer barrier.
   McClure says he's had a lot of calls from other drivers and fans asking about him.
   However he says remembers little about the crash itself: "I remember bits and pieces. It's very spotty at times after the impact.  
    "Saw the smoke ahead of me and went to hit the brake pedal and the brakes were not there.  At that point I remember getting hit by someone and going towards the wall.  
    "It's a heart-sinking feeling…and that created the impression I was speeding up when I hit.  Obviously I was. I'm just glad it wasn't worse.
   "I just braced for impact…and that's really all I remember until after the accident.
    "I remember being really scared of the helicopter because I don't like to fly."
    Internal bruising, McClure says, has been one of his biggest issues: "Still quite painful…and the concussion."
   Concussions are a major story in the National Football League, of course, but since Jerry Nadeau's career-ending crash at Richmond in 2003, concussions have not been a headline issue in NASCAR. Major improvements in head restraints and helmets can  be credited.
    McClure says he's ready to get back in a race car as soon as he's medically cleared and NASCAR gives the okay. No indication of when that might be though.
   He is to return to the doctor for further examination next week.
   McClure's family, he says, was naturally shaken: "I have four daughters and the oldest one is five….and I'd be lying if I said it didn't affect our oldest daughter.  
    "Fortunately they didn't see the accident.  They were at the track, but they did not see it live."
    NASCAR officials have black-box data of the G-force of the impact but that has not been released. "It was a really high number," McClure said. "And it's pretty awesome…except for the fact  we had to go through all of that."

   Eric McClure, six days later, here at Darlington (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    With the recent suicide by former NFL star Junior Seau raising yet more questions about head trauma, McClure's crash could be a NASCAR text case of how this sport has been dealing successfully with hard impacts.
   "You can't put into words the advancements NASCAR has made in safety," McClure says.  
    "I love football;  I study the NFL and college football…and I think the concussion reports are apples to oranges based on the nature of our sport.  
    "You generally don't hear a lot of reports of concussions in our sport. And I think that's a testament to NASCAR and what they've done.  
    "We're all fans of NASCAR.  We all grew up watching it, wanting to be a part of it…and we're guilty sometimes of trying to be critical of NASCAR at times and point out things we don't always agree with.  
     "I was a skeptic of the new (COT) car…but never questioned the safety, and the SAFER barrier.
     "But I was always one that 'Hey, they need to worry about this instead of this.'
    "But experiencing it first hand, the (safety) initiatives they have put in place are very good. A lot of people don't understand how proactive NASCAR has
     "We don't always see…
    "And I was guilty of not paying attention to it -- what they're doing behind the scenes to stay ahead of the curve on all the safety.
    "I experienced it first-hand…and it's been amazing what they've done. And I'm thankful they did it."

  Eric McClure's Talladega car, the roof cut off for his extraction, standard procedure (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


Scary crash. Thank Nascar for safer cars and

Scary crash. Thank Nascar for safer cars and safer barriers at most surfaces. Now maybe the time to be proactive and place safer barriers on all surfaces. I can't imaging what would have happen if McClure hit concrete at Dega or anywhere elsewhere no safer barrier exists.

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