Jerry McClure plans to focus on the esses at Watkins Glen NASCAR Winston Cup teams usually worry about dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's before a race, but Jerry McClure will be focusing on the esses on Sunday at Watkins ...
Jerry McClure plans to focus on the esses at Watkins Glen
NASCAR Winston Cup teams usually worry about dotting all the I's and crossing all the T's before a race, but Jerry McClure will be focusing on the esses on Sunday at Watkins Glen.
McClure, 49-year-old spotter for the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Racing Team, will use his two trained eyes, a little racing savvy and veteran driver Bobby Hamilton to conquer the twisting 2.45-mile Watkins Glen road course in upstate New York.
The younger brother of team owner Larry McClure has been with the Kodak MAX Film Racing Team since its inception. He's worked as gas catch man, jackman and has been the spotter since 1994. And on a road course, a spotter needs more eyes than a sack of potatoes.
"There's only a certain part of the race track you can see at Watkins Glen," McClure said. "We really need about four spotters there. You're on a hill at Sears Point and you can see the whole race track, but it's very hard for a spotter to help the driver at Watkins Glen other than on a small part of the race track.
"I'll probably watch through the esses. It's a narrow part of the track, and if there's a problem it'll block up the track. You're coming up a hill, so that's the part I'm going to go to. You can use as many spotters as you want, but they don't have a place to put anybody. They put us in the top of a grandstand last season, but they tore down that grandstand, so we don't know what we're going to do."
Morgan-McClure Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports are the only two teams with victories on both Winston Cup road courses. Ernie Irvan drove the No. 4 Morgan-McClure Chevrolet to victory at Watkins Glen in '91 and won at Sears Point in '92. Jeff Gordon has won four straight road course races in his Hendrick Motorsports Monte Carlo.
Hamilton hasn't won on a road course but gave Gordon a run for his money at Sears Point last year. He led laps 85-101, but Gordon passed him with 10 laps left and held on for the victory. Hamilton started 14th and finished 13th last year at Watkins Glen.
Currently 14th in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, Hamilton is only 13 points behind 13th-place John Andretti and 235 behind 10th-place Rusty Wallace. Hamilton finished 10th in the 1998 standings in his first year as driver of the No. 4 Kodak MAX Film Monte Carlo.
"We've got 14 races left, and we're going to try to work our way back to the top 10 before it's all said and done," Hamilton said. "I think Watkins Glen would be a great place to get things headed in the right direction.
"We finished 11th at Sears Point this year, and I don't think a top 10 or even a top five is out of the question at Watkins Glen."
Jerry McClure, one of four brothers on the Morgan-McClure team, along with Teddy, Ed and Larry, will try to do his part to help Hamilton achieve that goal.
McClure may feel some pressure Sunday at Watkins Glen, but he's learned to handle things when the going gets tough.
"I do (feel pressure) in certain situations," McClure said. "When I first started spotting there was a lot of pressure, but now I'm more relaxed. When the pressure gets to me is when our team is struggling a little bit. It makes pressure on everybody. Other than that, there's no pressure.
"Bobby never says a word. I've heard a lot of spotters talk about their drivers talking back to them on the radio, but Bobby doesn't say a word."
Hamilton has grown to trust McClure as a spotter.
"He's conscious of what he's doing and doesn't take a lot of chances," Hamilton said. "I know how consistent he is, and I know when I'm at certain parts of the race track if he says clear, then I need to make sure myself. About 80 percent of the time, I know I'm clear anyhow because I can feel it by air.
"I had my wife spot for me once at Watkins Glen and there was a big wreck in front of me and she just started screaming. I didn't know what was going on."
It won't work that way Sunday with McClure spotting, even if he can only see part of the track.
"You have to be able to get along with your driver," McClure said. "To communicate is the biggest key to success between a spotter and a driver. He's got to believe in what you tell him. If you tell him he's clear, he's got to know he's clear and go on. He doesn't have time to look up."