DARLINGTON, S.C. – Eric McClure remembers only bits and pieces of the accident that left him with a concussion and internal bruising.
He remembers thinking he was headed to his first career top-10 finish. And he remembers heading straight to the wall. But when he hit the brakes, nothing happened.
"They just weren't there," McClure said Friday at Darlington Raceway. "It was a little bit of a heart-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."
McClure said his brakes were working before Saturday's accident at Talladega Superspeedway, where he was part of a 10-car accident on NASCAR's first attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish. The race was stopped for 19 minutes while the roof of McClure's car was cut off. He was airlifted to an Alabama hospital, where he spent two nights.
He returned home Monday, but has not been cleared to return to racing. He'll be replaced in Friday night's Nationwide race at Darlington by Jeff Greene in the No. 14 Toyota.
McClure says he's not afraid to race again. In fact, he expects his confidence to be higher because he learned firsthand that NASCAR's safety initiatives work.
"Mario Andretti said on Twitter I'm really tough. So that must mean I'm really tough," said McClure, who has made 179 Nationwide starts. "I live to race. Sometimes I question how good I am ... (but) I never had a doubt that I wanted to do it again. You're a human being and there are thousands of things that run through your head. As far as questioning my desire to do this, I don't.
"I look forward to going through the process NASCAR has laid out and getting the right clearance. When they do that, I'll look forward to doing that."
NASCAR said McClure will have to be cleared by a series-approved neurosurgeon before he can race again. His car was returned to Team McClure Inc., and NASCAR officials inspected it at the team's North Carolina shop. NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said officials determined there was a mechanical failure with the brakes.
McClure said many parts of Saturday remain fuzzy nearly a week after the accident. Once he was able to communicate, he said he would ask medical personnel for clarification when he overheard something he didn't understand.
But for the most part, McClure said he just tried to stay calm, especially during the helicopter ride to the hospital because he doesn't like flying.
The 33-year-old has four daughters, all under age 5. His youngest is 8 months old, and McClure said the accident was jarring for his family.
"I'd be lying if it didn't affect eldest daughter just a little bit," he said. "They didn't see accident; they were at the track but didn't see it live. There was a lot of unknowns. Fortunately, my wife is a nurse. She's had experience with this."
"There were some times with family when everything died down that made me understand how lucky I was and thankful I had a family like that," he added. "This week has been good. The 3-year-old brought stethoscopes in and said she'd make heart better and try to rub the bruises. Been really sweet. Really enjoyed time with them."