BRISTOL, Tenn. – This should be one of the biggest weeks of the year for NASCAR Nationwide Series veteran Eric McClure.
It’s race time at his home track – Bristol Motor Speedway. Fans, friends and family gather here each year to cheer for the soft-spoken Chilhowie, Va., resident.
But instead of preparing for a Bristol breakthrough, McClure has been dealing with pain and searching for answers.
McClure spent eight days at Bristol Regional Medical Center where he was diagnosed with acute renal failure. He was released Tuesday evening and is currently resting at home.
In a phone interview Wednesday afternoon, McClure admitted that he feels a high level of frustration.
“This has not been a fun process,” McClure said. “Things were really close to getting bad, so the best thing right now is that doctors have diagnosed the problem and we’re treating it.”
For the second straight week, Jeff Green will replace McClure in the No. 14 TriStar Motorsports Toyota.
McClure became ill just moments after walking through his front door following the Aug. 10 Nationwide event in Watkins Glen, N.Y.
“I went to the emergency room and they found out that I had an infection,” McClure said. “I was violently sick for a day.”
McClure was hospitalized for elevated creatine level, a signal of improper kidney function.
It’s just the latest setback for McClure over the last two years.
Just before the start of last season, McClure was slowed by Epstein-Barr – an energy-sapping virus connected to mononucleosis.
In the May Nationwide race at Talladega last year, McClure was involved in a horrific crash that became the subject of sports highlight shows across the country. The impact left McClure with damage to his pancreas and the third concussion of his career.
McClure missed five races and considered leaving the driver’s seat in favor of a marketing role.
Last fall, McClure’s wife Miranda was hospitalized for several days with meningitis.
In the spring of 2011, the former McClure home in Abingdon was extensively damaged in a tornado. McClure huddled with his family under a basement staircase for four hours.
“It seems like it’s been one thing after the other,” McClure said. “We just try to take things one day at a time.”
According to McClure, there does not appear to be an immediate correlation between his racing injuries and renal problems even though the symptoms and treatments are similar.
“We’ve tossed around several theories, but nothing has added up,” McClure said. “This just snuck up on us. There have been some long nights. It’s just tough physically and emotionally.”
McClure has been slowed by illness before races in recent years, but he has been able to soldier through.
Entering this week, McClure is 18th in Nationwide points. His goal is to finish in the top 20, which qualifies him for a lucrative NASCAR bonus program.
“That would be a big boost for my team owners and family,” McClure said. “My team has been very supportive through all this and the car is in good hands with Jeff Green. Jeff is a great representative for our sport and he has offered a lot of guidance throughout my career.”
McClure is unsure how many races he will be forced to skip. Green is expected to run each as a fill-in.
Just a few weeks ago, McClure and his wife celebrated the birth of their fifth daughter.
“This has been a frustrating time for my wife and family” McClure said. “There have some long nights, but my wife has done an amazing job of holding everything together and we’re feeling a little better each day.
“I race cars for a living, but my priority is being a husband and father. It’s tough when you can’t go out and play with your kids.”
If his health allows, McClure hopes to attend Friday’s Food City 250 Nationwide race at Bristol.
“We lean on our faith and look at the blessings we’ve had,” said McClure, who has several doctor appointments lined up in upcoming days. “I’ve got a wonderful family, we were able to get a top 10 this year, and we’ve had wonderful support from our family and friends.
“I understand some people have more serious health problems, so we’re just taking things one day at a time.”
The high-banked layout at BMS has always given headaches to McClure, but he was anxious to give it another try.
“We finally had a good run there in the spring race,” McClure said. “I’m really going to miss it this week.”
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