Heading into the Nationwide Series event at Auto Club Speedway (ACS) Eric McClure and the Hefty® Racing™ team knew a solid finish at the driver’s self-described “worst track” was in order to insure a guaranteed starting position in two weeks at Texas Motor Speedway. Following a day of practice that left the car needing speed, and McClure still battling the effects of a broken hand, the team, led by Gary Cogswell, went back to the drawing board and made several changes to the No. 14 Hefty® BlackOut™/Reynolds™ Impala prior to qualifying. As a result, the Virginia driver not only picked up nearly a second to record his best starting position at the two-mile speedway (22nd), he then went on to capture his career best finish (21st) at ACS later that day. With this finish, the team advanced three positions to 23rd in NASCAR Owner Standings, while McClure remained 18th in driver standings.
“I am so thankful to get out of here with a solid finish, especially given my history here. We struggled a bit with the car’s handling during the middle stages of the event but my spotter, Stevie Reeves, coached me throughout the day and helped me pick the best lane that improved the car’s drivability. Plus, we were able to get it dialed in closer to the end and pick up some speed. The car was probably a bit stronger than our finish, it was hard to fight the car sliding around with the grip I had, but this is still the best we’ve done here. Each week we are improving and that is all I can ask for. I am truly grateful to this team and our sponsorship partners for giving me this opportunity.”
At the start of event, the Hefty® BlackOut™/Reynolds™ Impala was extremely loose through the center of the corners which caused McClure to lose two positions before the event’s first caution waved on the eighth lap. The team came to pit road for a wedge adjustment and to top off the fuel tank. Restarting the race on lap 10 from the 25th position, it didn’t take long to realize the adjustments made had hurt the car’s drivability. While running in the 29th position when the event’s second caution flag waved on lap 18, McClure returned to pit road for tires, a rubber in the left rear, fuel, and a track-bar adjustment. Following the service, the team was scored in the 28th position.
One lap later, the event’s third caution flag waved for a single car spin. Running in the 26th position at the time, the team decided to stay out to see if the adjustments made previously would help the car’s drivability. When the race resumed on lap 28, the No. 14 Impala was shown in the 23rd position.
As the race progressed, the car’s handling became extremely tight on entry and through the center of the turns. Reeves coached and encouraged McClure to try different lines around the two-mile speedway to see if the car’s handling would improve and ultimately the driver found that the extreme high line worked best and allowed him to carry momentum through the turns. As the track remained green for 35 laps, teams were forced to begin green flag pit stops on lap 59. However, McClure, while running in the 27th position, was able to stay on track longer than most drivers and advance to the 23rd position before the event’s fourth caution flag waved on lap 63. The call was made for tires with an air-pressure adjustment, the removal of the spring rubber in the left rear, and fuel. Upon completion of the service, the team was scored in the 24th position where they remained through the halfway point in the race.
Over the next twenty laps, the car’s handling improved slightly despite falling to 25th in the running order. The event’s final caution flag waved on lap 92 which allowed McClure to bring his car to pit road for tires, fuel, and wedge and shock adjustments. When the race resumed on lap 97, the Hefty® BlackOut™/Reynolds™ Impala was scored in the 24th position. As the laps were winding down teams were once again forced to make green flag pit stops. Running in the 23rd position, McClure was called to pit road with 10 laps remaining for a fuel-only stop. As a result, the 32-year-old driver was able to advance two positions, one of which was by inches on the last lap to finish the Royal Purple 300 in the 21st position. This marks McClure’s best finish at Auto Club Speedway and propelled the team three positions to 23rd in owner standings.
TriStar Motorsports PR