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Volume 26, Number 2 — February 2019

When the Stars Align

NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure is the cousin of
NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Eric McClure is the cousin of "Crazy Heart" film director Scott Cooper. (Photo by David Crigger | Bristol Herald Courier)

Local NASCAR Driver Has Link to Hollywood


*** This story appeared Tuesday, March 16 in the Bristol (Va.) Herald Courier. ***

ABINGDON, VA — Abingdon's Eric McClure has attracted his share of fame since entering the NASCAR world in 2003.

In addition to earning a full-time ride at Team Rensi Motorsports in the Nationwide Series, the Emory & Henry College graduate has generated news through his association with the famed Morgan-McClure Motorsports Sprint Cup team and for his involvement in a nightmarish crash last season at Memphis Motorsports Park.

McClure was back in the news March 7 when first cousin, Scott McClure Cooper, was featured during the nationally-televised Academy Awards show.

Cooper, who played basketball and tennis at Abingdon High School before graduating in 1988, wrote and directed "Crazy Heart." The motion-picture, currently being shown in Abingdon, is based around the plight of country music road warriors such as Merle Haggard and Waylon Jennings.

Cooper's redemptive film was nominated for three Oscars, with Jeff Bridges winning for Best Actor. During his acceptance speech, Bridges acknowledged Cooper in the audience. The film was also honored for Best Original Song.

Cooper was unavailable for comment at press time.

In between honing his racing skills, McClure tuned in to the glitzy Academy Awards telecast to see what honors "Crazy Heart" would garner after weeks of national acclaim.

"I was racing on the simulator during the telecast, and our daughter ended up injuring her arm and we were contemplating a trip to the [emergency room] so we couldn't focus a whole lot," McClure said. "It was nice to see Scott recognized by Jeff Bridges, and I did get to see him win the Spirit Award for best debut film."

McClure, who attended a friends and family screening of "Crazy Heart" this winter in Abingdon, said he has used Cooper's small-town boy-makes-good example as motivation in his racing career. Cooper worked as an actor in Hollywood before stepping into the multifaceted role of director.

"I admired Scott for having the courage to pack up and move out there to try to make it in that industry," McClure said. "One of the neat memories of Scott was when he landed a role in 'Austin Powers 2.'Everybody in the family was just ecstatic at the time. It was kind of like my first Dash race or ARCA race. It was a real neat thing."

Todd Cooper, Scott's brother, was a longtime employee and part-time crewman at Morgan-McClure Motorsports.

Former AHS football standout Jerry Castle, who has found his slice of fame in the music industry as a singer-songwriter, shared in Cooper's national breakthrough. According to Castle, Cooper never lacked for determination or charisma.

"I've known Scott since we were about 8," Castle said. "Scott was always very well spoken and mature for his age. He did a lot of the normal teenager things but he seemed to have a real knack for knowing when it was time to get down to business and when it was time to have fun. Scott was just always a leader of the pack type of guy."

Longtime Abingdon High School administrative assistant Glenna Holmes also expected big things of Cooper.

"I've always been partial to Scott, and not just because of his notoriety," Holmes said."I've kept up with Scott's career since he left Abingdon, and I truly did think Scott could accomplish something like this. He's just that type of guy.Abingdon has a lot to be proud of."