Eric McClure hopes to make first Sprint Cup start since 2006 this weekend at Talladega

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The last time Eric McClure qualified for a Sprint Cup race was 2006.

Since then, he’s failed to qualify five times – four at Daytona and once at Talladega.

But the veteran Nationwide Series driver – he’s currently 18th in the standings – will make another bid at making his first Sprint Cup race in eight years for this Sunday’s Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway.

McClure has made just three qualified career starts in the Cup Series, including twice at Talladega (finished 26th in spring 2004 and 31st in fall 2006).

And even though he failed once again to make the field for this year’s season-opening Daytona 500, he’ll be back at it on NASCAR’s other restrictor plate track, hoping to pilot a third car for Front Row Motorsports in Sunday’s race.

Driving the No. 35 Ford, McClure hopes to qualify and make Sunday’s race with defending race winner and FRM teammate David Ragan and fellow teammate David Gilliland, who pushed Ragan to the win in last year’s spring race there. McClure will also race in Saturday’s Aaron’s 312 Nationwide Series race there, as well.

“I am very appreciative of the opportunity Bob (Jenkins) and Front Row Motorsports have given me to drive the No. 35 car at Talladega,” McClure said in a team media release. “After having a fast car at Daytona (International Speedway in February), the disappointment of missing that race still lingers a bit for me.

“I am optimistic we can make the show at Talladega and have the chance to compete for a great finish.”

In addition to his two previous starts at ‘Dega, McClure has seven NNS starts there, with a career-best 15th-place finish in spring 2008. He’ll be sponsored in his bid to make Sunday’s race by Hefty Ultimate/Reynolds Wrap.

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Daniel Ricciardo would relish being Lewis Hamilton’s teammate

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BAKU, Azerbaijan (AP) — Daniel Ricciardo says he would relish the challenge of having Lewis Hamilton as his teammate if he joins Mercedes next year.

Ricciardo is out of contract at Red Bull at the end of the season and expressed interest in joining teams like Mercedes or Ferrari to help him challenge for the championship.

The Australian says he would “love to obviously be challenged against the best and Lewis is obviously up there.”

He adds: “I don’t want to say it’s just Lewis I’m looking for but that would be a good challenge.”

Ricciardo says he won’t accept a faster car if it means playing second fiddle to an established star.

He says “there’s always been really good clarity and fairness (at Red Bull) … and I would expect that environment everywhere.”