The end of last week's NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Talladega Superspeedway was overshadowed by a violent crash for TriStar Motorsports driver Eric McClure during the first of two attempts at a green-white-chequered finish.

His #14 car was tapped from behind, and careered off at an angle and high speed into the SAFER barrier on the inside wall at Talladega. It culminated in an extreme head-on impact for the car that resulted in a lengthy red flag for the race while safety crews took extra care in peeling back the hood of the car in order to extract the injured McClure.

"I don't have a lot of recollection of what happened there," he admitted this weekend at a media appearance at Darlington Raceway. "I remember just before the accident, and then I remember bits and pieces of the safety workers there, and then I remember the helicopter ride."

McClure was airlifted to hospital - not easy for him in itself, as he's afraid of flying at the best of times - and spent two nights in under observation for concussion and for internal bruising. But really, he was incredibly lucky not to have received any worse injuries - thanks to the HANS device and to the SAFER barrier safety technology.

"I'm thankful to be here and certainly very thankful for the safety initiatives and everything NASCAR has [put in place]," he said. "There's certainly been an outpouring of support from fans and peers in the sport, and I'll be forever grateful for that." He was particularly proud of the tweet he'd received from racing legend Mario Andretti calling him "one tough dude!"

What didn't work so well were the brakes on the car, which explains why it went into the wall at such a huge speed. But he'd had no warning of any problem: "I had no idea the brakes were out. We had them the whole race," he insisted.

"I hit the brakes was when I saw the smoke, and they just weren't there," continued the 33-year-old. "It's a little bit of a near-sinking feeling right there. It created the impression that I was speeding up or going faster than everyone when I hit, which obviously I was."

NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp confirmed that series officials had subsequently found a mechanical failure with McClure's brakes in reconstructing the crash.

With the bruising still proving very painful even six days on, McClure has not been cleared to race at this weekend's Nationwide Series event at Darlington Raceway and must watch from the sidelines as he recuperates from his injuries.

"I'm doing okay, about as well as can be expected," said McClure. "Definitely sore and battling some things this week." He said that he wanted to get back in the car as soon as he was given the all-clear: "I'm ready to get back in the car, I look forward to doing that."

There's no timetable for his return to racing, which will involve assessment by a NASCAR-approved neurosurgeon. "I'll go back for evaluation next week," he said. "I look forward to going through the process NASCAR has laid out and getting the right clearance ... I live to race."

In the meantime, he will be deputised at Darlington this weekend by his team mate Jeff Green, the 2000 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion who has one win, five top-five, and nine top-10 finishes at the venue.


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