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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Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”