Morgan-McClure team trying to regain stability

By Marvin Birchfield
STAR STAFF
mbirchfield@starhq.com

   The last time Morgan-McClure Motorsports visited victory lane was back in 1998, where Bobby Hamilton took the checkered flag in the Goody's Headache Powder 500 at Martinsville, Va.
   Since then, the Abingdon, Virginia-based team has seen lots of changes with drivers and crew, and its climb to the top spot has become a distant memory.
   Going into this season, the McClure car took a new look after losing their Kodak Films sponsor, which had been with the team in the start of the early '90s.
   With no sponsorship heading into the season, the team announced that Yolk-TV was jumping on board in the week of the Daytona 500.
   "We're hoping this thing will last all the way through the season, but if it doesn't, then we'll try to find somebody else," said Car Owner Larry McClure.
   The future for McClure racing is still up in the air though, as the web-based TV show has rumor of pulling sponsorship to the lack of funds.
   "It's real expensive to do this, and it takes money to ride the train, so we're planning on continuing as of now, but we'll just have to see what transpires in the next little bit," said McClure. "It's a day-to-day thing right now, but we would love to have them on the car."
   If there's no sponsorship on board, then it's not clear on how long the team can foot the bill and continue to compete on the Nextel Cup Series.
   "We know we're going to run Bristol, Talladega and Texas is in there, but past that we'll have to find something," said McClure.
   It's been a dismal season to say the least for the No. 4 Chevrolet team, as they have failed to finish in the top 20 this season, with their best run coming 22nd at Rockingham, NC.
   "At Rockingham we finished so-so, and we had a bad pit-stop that cost us a couple of laps or we would of had a top 20 finish there," said McClure. "At Vegas we had a broken motor or we would have had a top five finish there, and at Atlanta we just ran terrible. As far as the race team goes, it's not bad."
   Toward the end of last year, McClure named veteran Kevin LePage to drive the car, as he had a much-needed 15th-place finish at Darlington, SC.
   "If you compare him to these other guys, then he's not had a whole lot of experience, but he hasn't had too many full-time rides, so I think he's done a nice job for us."
   The team continued to show signs of improvement with a fifth-place start at Lowes Motor Speedway and a season-best 14th-place finish at Atlanta.
   McClure has also added long-time crew chief Tim Brewer, who leads the all-time list of active crew chiefs in wins.
   "Tim Brewer is pretty much running the operation, and we started out well qualifying for the Daytona 500, but didn't finished like we had hoped," said McClure. "We ended up pushing the car harder than what we wanted too, and we had looked to do that a little later in the race, but got caught up in an accident."
   McClure still remains optimistic although, as his team seems to be stronger than it has in the recent past.
   "Actually I think we have the best team we've had in quite a while, and it was a learning curve when we blew the engine up at Vegas, but we pushed it hard and found out what failed," said McClure.
   One of the changes that has enabled the McClure team to improve is going back to a Chevrolet and abandoning the Pontiac.
   "It's had a positive effect on our race performance, because I feel like they're a little better aerodynamic than the Pontiacs are," said McClure.
   The idea of coming to Bristol is always very exciting for the team, which thinks its chance of a good finish is very high.
   "I'm always anxious to come here at Bristol, and I think we'll qualify well and race well here," said McClure. "The last time we came here with Kevin, we finished around 11th, and he finished around the top ten in his first five races with us."