Eric McClure credits his family for teaching him about the intricacies of the auto racing industry, but without his education at Emory & Henry, McClure knows he wouldn’t be racing today.
McClure graduated in 2000, majoring in Mass Communications, a field that well prepared him for promoting himself as a driver with Tristar Motorsports, one of the top independent teams in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He just completed his 250th event, a milestone that has brought a time of reflection and appreciation of the opportunities he has been given.
“Racing is driven by sponsorship” explained McClure. “My education prepared me for the meetings and presentations that were necessary to market myself.” From public speaking to design and layout courses, the education he received at E&H made it possible for him to succeed at the business side of racing. Partnering with Hefty® and Reynolds Wrap®, McClure currently has the longest driver-sponsor partnership in the series.
“The average person doesn’t know how hard we have worked to achieve our goals in the industry, or how much education has played in my career. Although racing is difficult, there are thousands of people who race at short tracks throughout the country. What separates me from those drivers is my education,” said McClure.
In addition to the academics, McClure said he learned a lot about himself during his four years at E&H. He enjoyed the opportunities to make friends and participate in campus activities.
“Honestly, I spent a fair amount of my free time dreaming about becoming a professional race car driver, and working part-time jobs to save enough money to buy a car to race at the track,” he said.
“My E&H experience taught me that any goal is attainable if you’re willing to work for it. I actually expressed my intentions to start racing while in a media law course during the second semester of my senior year. Dr. Teresa Keller asked questions and was very supportive. It was a huge encouragement.
“I was a shy person growing up, quite uncomfortable in certain classroom and social environments. Dr. Keller required a student to mature quite rapidly. Her classroom and field environments provided the closest ‘real-life’ experience possible.”
McClure’s first race was in the stock division at Lonesome Pine Raceway in April 2000, just three weeks before graduation from E&H. “I also raced the night of graduation,” he said. McClure ran his first Nationwide race in November 2003, and his first Sprint Cup event in April 2004, becoming a full-time competitor in 2007.
His series competes in 33 events annually from the third week of February to the week before Thanksgiving. McClure will limit his competitions to 28 events this season due to an injury he sustained in 2012. McClure still feels the effects from an accident when he lost his brakes and hit a wall at Talladega Superspeedway in 2012 in Alabama. He suffered a concussion and internal bruising. “Physically, I’m not the same person I was prior to the accident. I’ve learned to never take anything for granted and to continue to enjoy the opportunities on and off the track.”
His greatest mentors are his father, Jerry McClure, and his uncles, Larry, Teddy and Ed McClure, who have operated Morgan-McClure Motorsports, along with Tim Morgan, for more than 25 years. “Through my family, I’ve learned the business side of the industry, as well as the keys to developing relationships with corporate partners,” he said.
“I always wanted to be a driver, but I never knew exactly how that would happen. I assumed I’d work at the family’s race shop, presumably in the front office. My desire to race was strong, even if it never went past the local level.”
Of all the things McClure learned at college, he carries with him the importance of respecting other people. “The biggest thing I took with me is the understanding of personal connection. At E&H, you felt like you mattered as an individual and you were part of a community.
“I’ve signed thousands of autographs, posed for photos, and shaken countless hands. These people do matter and I want to treat them with respect. That’s the E&H way.”
McClure resides in Chilhowie, Va., with his wife, Miranda, and their five daughters, Mabreigh, Maryleigh, Mirabella, Merritt, and Myanna. With excitement, he reported “baby number 6” is due in May.