Having faced a myriad of issues at Watkins Glen Int’l last season, Eric McClure headed north to try his luck once again at the 11-turn road course. Posting a track-best starting position of 30th, it looked as though the 34-year-old driver was going to secure a track-best finish when a tie rod broke on the No. 14 Hefty®/Reynolds® Camry with 21 laps remaining in the event. After quick work by the team, McClure was able to return to the track to finish the Zippo 200 in the 28th position. With this finish, the team was able to maintain the 24thposition in the NASCAR Owner Standings.
Taking the green from the 30th position, McClure quickly maneuvered his way around two-spinning cars in turn one and around two additional cars on the track before the full-course yellow flag was shown. When the race resumed on lap four, McClure was scored in the 26th position, where he remained until the yellow flag was displayed again on lap 16. Although the Virginia driver was battling a car that was loose on the right-handed turns and tight on the left-handed turns, crew chief Todd Myers called for a fuel only pit stop which allowed the orange and blue Camry to be scored in the 24th position when the race resumed on lap 20.
Five laps later, another yellow flag waved. Myers used this opportunity to bring his driver down pit road for service and to try to repair the “spongy brake” issues McClure was having. The team changed four tires, added fuel, made an air-pressure adjustment, and removed tape from the brake ducts to help keep them cool. After the service, the team was able to maintain the 24th position in the running order when the race resumed.
Despite slipping to the 26th position on the restart, McClure worked his way back up to the 25th position when the yellow flag was again displayed on lap 41. Reporting that the car was the best it had been, despite having to battle “spongy” brakes, Myers called McClure to pit road for four tires, fuel, and to again remove tape from the brake ducts. After quick work by the team, McClure was scored in the 22nd position on the lap 46 restart.
As the race continued, McClure began battling a car that was loose on every turn. Since no adjustments were made on the previous pit stop, it was determined that the removal of tape from the brake ducts hurt the car’s down-force. When the caution flag waved on lap 58, McClure returned to pit road for a four tire and fuel service. The team also added tape to the brake ducts in hopes of fixing the loose-handling condition. After restarting in the 25th spot, McClure quickly informed the team that something was amiss with the car’s handling. Teammate Mike Bliss, who was several laps down to the race leader from an earlier issue and was running behind McClure at the time, informed the team that a tie rod had broken on the No. 14 Camry. In an effort to not cause damage to the car, McClure limped around the track and headed to the garage area for repairs on lap 61. Although the team was able to replace the tie rod, the hopeful expectations were diminished with a 28th-place finish.
Driver, Eric McClure Quotes:
“It was a disappointing finish for sure. It seems that if a freak deal happens, it happens to us. That said, we had a solid day prior to that; it was the best I have been at Watkins Glen. We will hang our hat on that and keep racing hard.”