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Eric McClure may not be a household name within the NASCAR fanbase, but his consistently joyful demeanor and blue-collar mentality has made him a popular weekly presence in the Nationwide Series garage.
In this Inspiring Athletes interview, McClure talks about how he became a Christian, how his faith helps him deal with NASCAR’s daily grind and why McDonald’s may be his next employer:
Bonham: How did your family’s past involvement in racing influence your decision to follow suit?
McClure: I didn’t hang around the shop. I went to school and played ball. But when I was about 12 years old, that’s when I started to get into it. My parents wanted me to go to college. My grandfather told me that if I finished college, he’d help me get into racing. He passed away before I finished college, but I worked at a radio station and saved up enough to buy an old car. My parents also helped me out.
Bonham: How did your grandfather’s passing impact you?
McClure: He was a strong Christian, but I wasn’t at the time. I had grown up going to church on Sunday mornings, but that was it. When he passed, I wasn’t at a good place. I was in college and was involved in all the things that the world had to offer. I was also very resentful. If God was a loving God, how could He let something like this happen to a man like my grandfather? I became a very angry and bitter person. For the next few years, even after I started racing, I thought I was okay, but I didn’t want to go to church. I thought that Christians were all hypocrites. I also didn’t understand how people could have a relationship with God yet bad things could happen to them
So I wanted to date my wife for a long time. She was the beauty queen. She was the head cheerleader. I had this huge desire to date her. I finally got a huge wave of confidence and I asked her out. So we went out and sure enough, the day after we went out, she invited me to church. It was awful. For about two years, I attended a little Baptist church with her three times a week. They really taught the Bible there. But I would sit there and I would be miserable. I would sweat. I knew what they were talking about and I understood that I wasn’t where I needed to be. I understood that I didn’t know the Lord. I hadn’t received the Lord. But I fought it. I would do anything I could to convince myself that I was fine. But I never missed a service.
Bonham: So what finally convinced you to make the commitment to Christ?
McClure: A couple weeks after we got married, we were at church. I was coaching a little league baseball team at the time and the players had just got back from a teen camp. A lot of them had accepted the Lord and some of the others who had strayed had come back to the Lord. They were giving testimonies that night and the Lord really started working on me. I started to get very uncomfortable. I knew this was the opportunity. I had already admitted to my wife before that night that I didn’t think I was right with God. The Lord really convicted me and I knew I had to make things right. But I didn’t. I got in the car and five minutes later I found myself struggling to breathe. I told my wife we needed to go back and talk to the youth pastor. He was about my age and he taught our Sunday School class. I spent a lot of time asking him questions. Before I left that night, I’d finally decided to give my heart to Christ.
Bonham: How has your faith helped you deal with the struggles that come with racing for an underfunded team?
McClure: I asked the Lord often what His purpose is for racing in my life. What is His plan? I love doing what the Lord has for me and He’s begun to reveal that purpose. There’s not a week that doesn’t go by when someone comes up to me and they’ve seen my testimony on the website and they encouraged by it. Other times I’ve had the chance to share what God’s done in my life. We’ve been invited to speak at churches and help with outreach events. That’s where we’ve seen people come to know the Lord. I know that’s my purpose and fortunately I’m in an environment that allows me to do that.
Bonham: How important is the presence of ministry in your life, whether that’s Motor Racing Outreach at the track or your church back home?
McClure: It’s so important to me. I don’t feel right racing if I haven’t been in prayer. It’s such an important part of my life. But I love being a part of my home church. We have a good home church. But I love the MRO services. Those guys are encouragers for me. I can pick up the phone and call them if I have a problem. Other places may shove (spiritual things) out, but it’s been nice to be in a sport where there a lot of people who believe the same way and (spiritual things) are embraced.
Bonham: Where does racing rank on your priority list?
McClure: I don’t obsess over NASCAR. I’ve been there. And I’m still very serious about this. I make a living off of this. I want to succeed. I love to race. I’m a competitive guy. I love sports. But I don’t worry about it too much. For some of these guys, it’s life or death. If they don’t win races, it’s a failure. If they don’t make the Chase, it’s failure. But my situation is different. I do want to win races. I do want to finish in the Top 10. I set goals for myself and for my team. But if the worst thing people can say about me is that I’m a bad race car driver, then I think I’ve done okay. I’m still daddy at home. I get to work with my family on the race team. Outside of a win, I’ve got everything I’ve ever wanted here. This will end for me one day. It will end for Jimmie Johnson. It will end for Kyle Busch. When that happens, I’ll be happy to go back home and provide for my wife and my two little girls. If that means I have to work at McDonald’s, so be it, because there’s nothing wrong with that.
Keep track of Eric McClure’s career by visiting his official website HERE.