Eric McClure and the No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds Wrap® team posted a 25th-place finish in Saturday night's EnjoyIllinois.com 300 at Chicagoland Speedway after qualifying 25th. With this finish, McClure and the TriStar Motorsports team sit 19th and 24th respectively in the NASCAR Driver and Owner standings.
Early in the race, McClure reported that his No. 14 Camry lacked grip in the rear of the car and as a result, he had slipped to the 28th position by lap five. Two laps later, the first caution flag waved and, after much consideration, the team decided to remain on track and restart the event in the 26th position. Shortly after the restart, a car that was on the inside of McClure slid up into the left front fender of the No. 14 Camry sending it into the wall. Although the damage to the left front and right rear of the car seemed to be minor, the hit significantly altered the car's handling as it was now extremely tight in the center and on exit of the turns. As a result, McClure slipped to the 31st position.
Down but not out, McClure continued to work different lines around the track to find what worked best for his now tight-handling Camry. By lap 45, the Virginia driver was scored in the 27th position. A routine green-flag pit stop on lap 57 allowed the team to change four tires, add fuel, make a chassis adjustment to help the car's drivability in the turns, and fix the left-front fender damage on the Hefty®/Reynolds Wrap® Camry. Once the pit stops cycled through, McClure was scored in the 26th position.
The event's second caution flag waved on lap 68. Since the previous chassis adjustment only helped the car's rear grip issue, McClure returned to pit road for tires, fuel, and an additional chassis adjustment to help the tight-handling condition. Despite restarting in the 26th position on lap 73, McClure slipped one position when several cars stacked up in front of him and by the halfway point, he remained in the 27th position.
As the race continued, the car's handling became extremely loose in the center and on exit of the turns. A caution on lap 122, three laps before the Virginia driver was scheduled to make a routine green-flag pit stop, allowed him to visit pit road under yellow conditions for four tires, fuel, and another round of chassis adjustments. When the race resumed on lap 127, the team was scored in the 25th position.
In the final 50 laps, McClure maintained his position in the running order and also reported that he was becoming extremely hot inside the No. 14 Camry. It wasn't until a routine two-tire and fuel green-flag pit stop on lap 183 did the team realize that the right-rear crush panel was knocked loose, allowing debris, carbon monoxide, and heat inside the car, thus causing the heat McClure was experiencing. Nevertheless, McClure remained focused and brought the Hefty®/Reynolds Wrap® Camry home in the 25th position.
Eric McClure Quotes:
"It was a tough night for us. We were damaged very early and the car was never the same after that but we fought hard. We salvaged 25th and maybe had a little carbon monoxide exposure as well but I'm feeling ok. Disappointments are part of our sport and part of life. I'm just thankful to be able to compete."