|Photo courtesy of Sherri McGriff Hershel – McGriff stands with his wife Sherri and his trusty No. 4 car outside the Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif.
By Nick Prevenas, www.gvnews.com – Published: Tuesday, July 7, 2009 3:49 PM MDT
When Green Valley resident Hershel McGriff retired from stock-car racing in 2002, he told the Los Angeles Times that his days behind the wheel weren’t over.
“When I turn 80, I just might go out to a short track and show the young guys that I can still do it,” he said in that interview.
Next week, that’s exactly what he plans to do.
McGriff, a member of the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame (class of 2002) and the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America (class of 2006), will be taking part in the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops “125” Race July 17-19 at Portland International Speedway at the age of 81 — making him the world’s oldest competitive driver.
He barely missed out on the 40-car field at the Bennett Lane Winery 200 at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., but he has his sights set on making the field in Portland, where he was born and raised.
McGriff’s storied career began on Sept. 16, 1945 — the first race in America after World War II. NASCAR founder Bill France convinced him to race full-time in the early 1950s, where he tallied four wins and 17 top-10 finishes in 24 events.
He took a long hiatus to be near his family and tend to his growing lumber business, but the call of the pavement was too strong to resist. He signed up for a few races in the late 1960s, but kept a low profile.
In 1989, McGriff made history, as he became the oldest man to win a NASCAR race, taking first at the AutoZone West Series at age 61.
Throughout the 90s, McGriff participated in a handful of exhibition races, but rarely took part in any sanctioned events — until now.
E.D. “Thumper” Thornton, CEO of Mind2Motion Pilates, has been working with McGriff the last couple of years, and his exercise routine has enabled McGriff to get behind the wheel and attempt to prove that he wasn’t just blowing smoke in that L.A. Times interview seven years ago.
“Hershel is an inspiration to all of us,” Thumper said. “All of us age, but we don’t have to get old. Hershel is a prime example of that.”
When he’s not practicing Pilates or racing cars, McGriff manages the local copper mine.
McGriff’s return to the racetrack has been diligently detailed on his blog, hershelmcgriff.wordpress.com. From his experiences at time trials to his interview with Speed TV to hanging out with Richard Petty, McGriff’s blog has it covered.
For a full timeline on McGriff’s incredible NASCAR career, please visit http://www.legendsofnascar.com/Hershel_McGriff.htm.
Keep checking the Green Valley News throughout the summer for updates on McGriff.
San Francisco Chronicle — Tom FitzGerald Saturday, June 20, 2009
Hershel McGriff, 81, quit at age 74 but came out of retirement this week, intending to run three races in the NASCAR Camping World West Series, beginning with today’s Bennett Lane Winery 200 at Infineon Raceway.
But he barely missed out on qualifying for the 40-car field Friday. He said he was “quite a bit” disappointed.
“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” he said shortly afterward. “I thought I’d qualify in the top 15 and finish in the top 10.”
His crew had to replace a malfunctioning carburetor Friday morning, “so we didn’t get much practice.”
McGriff was once selected as one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history. He won 35 Winston West Series races, including a single-season record 12 in 1972.
He retired in 2002, handing his steering wheel to his son and crew chief, Hershel Jr., and telling him, “I don’t want to go 200 mph anymore.”
But he recently got the itch again. He still plans to enter two other races, Portland on July 19 and Utah on Aug. 1.
Hall of Fame and NASCAR top 50 driver Hershel McGriff to compete at Sonoma
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT — Bob Padecky — Wed, June 17, 2009 at 7:23 p.m.
SONOMA — The first thought, the most logical thought, when I heard an 81-year old is going to race this NASCAR weekend was this: Sure is going to look funny, having that handicapped parking sticker on the window of a stock car. An 81-year old racing in NASCAR is like a 13-year old named the Dean Of Students at Harvard, the task a bit beyond the reach of the participant.
And then I saw Hershel McGriff Wednesday. Oh my. Maybe 81 is the new 60. Eighty-one? Come on. If Hershel is 81, then I am a Chinese acrobat. Hershel has a full head of hair, 20-20 vision and mental acuity sharp as a steak knife. While he may not have the body of a Chippendale dancer, Hershel is not a Slim Fast ad waiting to happen either. He weighs 197 pounds, just 17 pounds heavier than when he was in his prime.
So, I want what Hershel is having.
And that would be Pilates.
“Gave it to him last Christmas,” said Sherrie, his wife. “He looked at me and said, ‘Oh, thank you’.”
The look, she said, was kindly dismissive, Hershel making every attempt not to insult his wife while hiding his incredulity.
“I didn’t even know how to pronounce the word,” Hershel said.
For two months the gift certificate for 10 Pilates sessions sat unused. Pilates might as well have meant pancakes to McGriff. But then, as what happens to the man, Hershel said what the hay, this gets me off my fanny. And one thing Hershel hates is daydreaming a day away. He may be 81 but he wants more out of his life than watching tomatoes grow.
“I get up at 5 a.m. every day,” he said. “Done that all my life. Never have used an alarm clock.”
McGriff, named one of NASCAR Top 50 Drivers, manages a copper mine near his home in Tucson, Arizona. Goes to work every day. Been doing that for 23 years. He raced 27 years in NASCAR on three separate occasions, mostly out West, and retired from the sport in 2002 at 74. But the sport has never left him, or maybe it’s that he could never leave the sport. Heck, he ran his first stock car race in 1945.
So every once in a while the man who raced 16,663 miles in stock cars feels the need for speed. And what McGriff does about that, well, it will more than satisfy anyone’s curiosity on his ability to drive this Saturday in the Bennett Lane Winery 200.
Near his house in Tucson is a two-and half mile long hill, with, he estimates, a three-percent incline. McGriff bicycles that hill everyday. “Got my time down to 27 minutes,” he said of the roundtrip. That’s interesting, shows his commitment to physical fitness but that’s not the really, really interesting contribution that hill makes to McGriff.
McGriff owns a 12-cylinder, double-turbo Mercedes that goes 160 miles an hour.
“I would like it if it went 200,” McGriff said.
But, doggone it, every time Hershel gets on that two-and-half mile road, the darn engine cuts out at 160.
“I know I could reach 200 before that curve,” McGriff said. “When I hit 160 there’s still a quarter-mile of road left before that curve.”
McGriff said that with a sigh that could only come from someone who has raced 10,643 NASCAR laps. But the way the curve, he said, needs to be taken at 80. McGriff said he has done 160 on that road just a few times and, not surprisingly, without his wife. McGriff is a loving husband and a practical man, taking into account that his wife didn’t sign up to go 160 miles in a hour when she married him.
“And you have to watch out for javelinas and deer out there,” McGriff said.
So it will come as no surprise that McGriff and no one else came up with the idea of his racing three road courses this year. Managing that copper mine keeps his mind active but nothing kept his mind active like pushing it in a stock car.
“Why wouldn’t I do it?” is his answer when McGriff is asked why do this at 81. Goes back, he said, to being active. He has seen a lot of peers retire and fade to misery because they didn’t have anything compelling to wake up to every morning.
“Deals, that’s what I like as much as racing,” said McGriff, whose race car was sponsored by the copper mine company he manages. “Equipment deals, land deals, I love making deals. I love to negotiate. I mean, stuff that’s worth $800,000 or a million.”
When McGriff temporarily left NASCAR those three times, it was to raise a family and to run businesses, first timber in his native Portland area and then the copper mine in Arizona. While he stopped to think about it, McGriff has led his life with one very simple concept in mind, one that makes his running in a NASCAR race entirely plausible.
“Action,” he said. “I like action.”
So McGriff wants to qualify in the top 15 for this Saturday’s race, finish in the top 10, and why should that sound impossible?
“He’s as sharp now as when he retired,” Sherrie said. “Until 2000, he ran four miles a day for 40 years.”
And will she worry about her husband chipping paint off a car Saturday, one that will go 140 miles an hour through Turns 9 and 10?
“A little stress is good for you,” Sherrie said. Not once, she said, did she doubt that her husband was capable of running a stock car hard at 81.
“He doesn’t enjoy golfing,” she said. “He needs something to do. That’s why I gave him Pilates.”
Two months after his wife gave him the Christmas present McGriff began Pilates. A month into it he asked his wife a question that still stuns him.
“I don’t understand,” he said, “how I can get muscles laying down.”
How indeed. On the ground McGriff is going zero miles an hour. He’s passing no one and no one is passing him. It’s probably as close to being 81 as he ever gets, or wants to get. No wonder it took McGriff two months before he started Pilates. He’s a race car driver and it took some time for him to comprehend he could get somewhere without going anywhere.
Raiders Legend Ken Stabler Special Guest Analyst on “Race Week” — Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Comcast SportsNet Bay Area, the home of “Authentic Bay Area Sports,” presents its latest installment of Race Week, a new weekly half-hour motor-sports show, on Thursday, June 18 at 6:30 p.m.
This week’s show previews the Toyota/Save Mart 350, the annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, California. Joining the program as a guest racing analyst will be legendary Oakland Raiders quarterback Ken Stabler. Best known for his days as an All-American at Alabama and Super Bowl champion quarterback, Staber is an avid NASCAR fan and been named this year’s Grand Marshal of the Toyota/Save Mart 350 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series weekend.
Additionally, Race Week visits with eighty-one year old NASCAR legend Hershel McGriff. Named one “The 50 Greatest NASCAR Drivers of All Time,” McGriff comes out of retirement and makes his triumphant return at Saturday’s Bennett Lane Winery 200, the first of three races he hopes to compete in on the Camping World West Series circuit this season. The program also sits down with Sprint Cup Series driver David Ragan and breaks down the Toyota/Save Mart 350.
Hosted by Matt Morrison, Race Week, a half-hour program, airs every Thursday and provides comprehensive coverage of both local and national motor-sports news from NASCAR, IndyCar, NHRA drag racing and more. Check local listing for additional air dates and times. Race Week is also available on Comcast Digital Cable’s ON DEMAND Channel 1. For more information, visit www.csnbayarea.com.
Infineon Raceway — SONOMA, Calif. (June 11, 2009)
Eighty-one year old Hershel McGriff has had enough of retirement, and the legendary driver will make his return behind the wheel at Infineon Raceway for the Bennett Lane Winery 200, presented by Supercuts, on Saturday, June 20.
McGriff walked away from racing in 2002, but he will compete in three road-course events on this year’s NASCAR Camping World Series West schedule, including the series’ only stop in Sonoma. If McGriff takes the checkered flag, he would become the oldest driver to ever win in one of NASCAR’s premier series.
“After I quit in 2002, I often said I’d like to come back and try a short-track race when I was 80,” McGriff said. “Well, I missed that.”
McGriff has reason to be excited about making his return at the Sonoma Valley road course. He has earned four West Series victories at Infineon Raceway (1983, ’85, ’87, ’89) and still has the track record for most West Series poles with three.
“I heard about the two road-course races at Infineon and in Utah,” McGriff said. “I thought it would be nice to fix the car up and run all three. So, that’s what we’re doing. I’m looking forward to it. I hope I haven’t lost my touch.”
Perhaps best known for his talent on a road course, it’s only natural that McGriff makes his return at the road-course events. McGriff’s racing career is one that pre-dates NASCAR and spans seven decades of racing. His first race was at 17 years of age after his family moved to Portland and from there his career took off.
McGriff went on to gain numerous honors both on and off the track, including:
· 1986 NASCAR Camping World Series West champion
· Third on the list of career West Series victories (35)
· Third on the list of career series poles (37)
· His record 12 victories in 1972 still stands as the most in a season – as does his record that year for winning the most pole positions (12).
· Became the oldest driver to win in the series, at 61 years and four months (Bakersfield, 1989).
In addition, McGriff was presented with the NASCAR Award of Excellence and named one of the 50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR in 1998. He was also inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its inaugural year in 2003. McGriff’s popularity among fans was indicated by the record 12 consecutive years (1981-1992), that he was named the Most Popular Driver in the NASCAR Camping World Series West.
McGriff will look to build on that success as he makes his return behind the wheel in the Sonoma Valley. With a successful weekend, McGriff could become the oldest driver in track history to enjoy a sip from the Champion’s Goblet in the Wine Country Winner’s Circle.
By SceneDaily Staff — Friday, June 12, 2009
Eighty-one-year-old Hershel McGriff will make his return to racing in the NASCAR Camping World West Series Bennett Lane Winery 200 at Infineon Raceway on June 20.
“After I quit in 2002, I often said I’d like to come back and try a short-track race when I was 80,” said McGriff, who was voted one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers in 1998. “Well, I missed that.”
McGriff’s racing career predates the creation of NASCAR and spans seven decades. His first race came at age 17, and he went on to have a distinguished career both on and off the track. His accomplishments include:
· The 1986 NASCAR Camping World Series West championship;
· 35 career West series victories (third all-time in the series);
· 37 career West series poles (third all-time in that category;
· A single-season record 12 West series victories in 1972;
· Oldest driver to win in a West series race, at 61 years and four months (Bakersfield, 1989)
· Named the Most Popular Driver in the West series 12 times (1981-1992).
• McGriff competed in the first Cup race at Darlington Raceway in 1950, finishing ninth;
• Made a total of 85 Cup starts, with four series wins in 1954;
McGriff has four West series victories at the Infineon road course and still has the track record for most West series poles there with three.
“I heard about the two road-course races at Infineon and in Utah,” McGriff said. “I thought it would be nice to fix the car up and run all three. So, that’s what we’re doing.
“I’m looking forward to it. I hope I haven’t lost my touch.”
By Rich Rupprect – Press Democrat Staff Writer – Published: Wednesday, June 10, 2009 at 5:32 p.m.
If NASCAR racers are beginning to dread turning right, if Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart are looking forward to visiting the Wine Country for more than just the wine and if Boris Said is getting excited about a Cup Series race, then it must be time for NASCAR’s annual weekend racing festival at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma.
This year, for the first time, the June 21 Sprint Cup Series race falls on Father’s Day, and the weekend includes qualifying Friday afternoon and a Saturday NASCAR West Series Race.
The weekend draws approximately 150,000 race fans, with Sunday’s race estimated to attract close to 100,000.
Just like past years, Infineon’s Toyota/Save Mart 350 follows NASCAR’s Sprint Cup Series race in Michigan. Haulers head back to headquarters in North Carolina, swap out standard oval track race cars for road-course cars and drive day and night to Sonoma, usually arriving on Thursday.
At the same time, the field across from the raceway fills with trailers and RV’s sporting an assortment of different state license plates.
Many of the drivers fly and jet to Sonoma County early next week, many with sponsorship obligations and others with wives and family who just like visiting the Bay Area each year.
NASCAR’s current Sprint Cup points standings leaders are Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon, who just happen to have won seven races at Infineon between them. Gordon, a Vallejo native, is the top money winner all-time at Infineon with $2,161,600.
The week before the race is when some NASCAR regulars usually pop up at the track for some quick practice runs in non-Cup cars. On Wednesday, those drivers included rookie Joey Logano, David Reutimann, David Ragan and Max Papis.
Said, who no doubt has the most laps logged at Infineon, counting stock cars and sports cars, plans on racing in both Saturday and Sunday races.
Said was still looking for a main sponsor for the same car he raced last year when he had his poorest finish — 41st in a 43-car field.
Said has tutored many of the top Sprint Cup racers for road courses, including Carl Edwards, Kevin Harvick and Dale Earnhardt Jr.
The most difficult part of racing at Infineon, according to Said, is getting used to going fast through sharp turns.
“It’s an intimidating place,” said Said. “It’s very technical and has a lot of blind corners. It’s hard getting used to how much speed you can carry through those corners.”
While road course specialists like Said usually find a ride during the Infineon weekend, many of the younger drivers, like last year’s winner, Kyle Busch, and others, like Logano, seem to adapt quickly.
“Ten years ago it was like three or four road racers were always out front and now it’s like any one of 20 cars are racing hard and competing near the front,” Said said.
Before NASCAR’s Chase for the Sprint Cup was introduced, drivers might resign themselves to the fact they wouldn’t do well in the season’s two road course races and try and make up the points at other races. Now, most regulars consider every point critical to make the final field of 12 in The Chase.
Currently, other racers in the top-12 in points are Jimmie Johnson, a three-time defending Cup Series champion, Ryan Newman, Kurt Busch, Edwards, Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Jeff Burton, Reutimann and Denny Hamlin.
Michael Waltrip, who had missed just the 2007 race since NASCAR began racing at then Sears Point in 1989, and holds the record for most laps completed at Infineon (1,770) announced this week he’s replacing himself on his own team with Patrick Carpentier. “If I see where I can improve my car’s performance then that’s exactly what I am going to do,” he said. “I am a good road racer, but Patrick is a great road racer.”
In an interesting matchup of different generations, two 19-year-olds, Logano and Sonoma Valley High grad Paul Pedroncelli, Jr., will take part in Saturday’s Bennett Valley Winery 200 along with 81-year-old NASCAR veteran Hershel McGriff. McGriff won a West Series race at Sonoma in 1983, seven years before Logano and Pedroncelli Jr. were born.
The Old Man of the Racetrack is Comin’ Home – Contracosta Times — By Curtis Pashelka – 6/13/2009
The car needs a bit more work. After all, the crew basically had to build a new one from scratch to meet modern specifications.
As for the driver, well, he still has the same competitive fire that led to 35 Winston West Series wins, four Grand National — now called Sprint Cup — victories, a triumph at the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana and the NASCAR Award of Excellence.
“I’m hoping to qualify in the top 15,” Hershel McGriff said, “and finish in the top 10.”
The 81-year-old McGriff, named one of the 50 greatest drivers in NASCAR history, will attempt to qualify for Saturday’s Bennett Lane Winery 200, the first of three races he hopes to compete in on the Camping World West Series circuit this year. The Toyota/Save Mart 350 is Sunday.
McGriff has not raced since April 2002, which was 57 years after he first climbed into a 1940 Hudson to compete at Portland Speedway at the age of 17.
Along the way he competed in the first Cup race at Darlington Raceway in 1950, set a single-season record with 12 West series wins in 1972 and became one of the most beloved and respected drivers in stock car racing history.
“He’s had this comeback in the back of his mind ever since he decided to step away,” said Ken Clapp, a former NASCAR executive and longtime friend of McGriff’s. “He never said, ‘I quit.’ He just hung it up for the time being.”
McGriff’s family moved from South Dakota to Portland during World War II. Shortly
after the war ended, McGriff began racing and was quickly regarded as one of the best drivers in the Northwest.
His life changed in 1950 when he entered and won the La Carrera Panamericana, or the “Mexican Road Race,” which spanned five days and close to 2,000 miles.
NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. met McGriff in Mexico and asked the then-22-year-old to come to a new track in Darlington, S.C., to race in something called the Southern 500.
So, McGriff drove the same car he used in Mexico, a 1950 Oldsmobile, back to Oregon and then across the country. And with a ragtag, thrown-together pit crew, McGriff finished ninth in a 75-car field.
“Then we drove home,” McGriff said. “And that was before all of the highways were built. We were mainly on two-lane roads.”
McGriff would eventually run in 85 Cup races over 33 seasons. In 1954, he won four times, including on the dirt at Bay Meadows in San Mateo, and finished in the top five 13 times. And despite running just 24 out of 37 races, he finished sixth in points.
McGriff looked to be set up for a run at a championship in 1955 as he was offered a ride in a car owned by millionaire Carl Kiekhaefer, who ran a profitable boat motor company. Instead, McGriff chose to return to Oregon to raise his family and start what would eventually become a lucrative career in the mill and timber business.
Tim Flock drove Kiekhaefer’s car that year, won 18 races and the Cup championship by a wide margin over Buck Baker and Lee Petty.
“It wasn’t a tough decision at the time,” McGriff said. “Tim Flock got that ride, and it was a good ride. But my family was young, and while (racing) was fairly good money, you couldn’t put a lot in the bank. So I thought I’d go home and get something going.
“You could look back and what would have happened, and I probably would have won more races than Tim did. … But that’s done. It’s history.”
McGriff returned to racing in the late 1960s and went on to win 35 times on the Camping World Series West circuit. He was voted the series’ most-popular driver 12 consecutive seasons from 1981-1992. And at 61 years and 4 months, became the oldest driver to win a West series race when he took the checkered flag in Bakersfield in 1989.
It won’t be easy eclipsing that mark this week at Infineon, where McGriff won four West series races between 1983 and 1989. He first has to qualify, and then he has to race against the likes of Eric Holmes, Jason Bowles, David Gilliland, Boris Said and 19-year-old Sprint Cup rookie Joey Logano.
“If it’s in your blood, it’s in your blood. It’s all you want to do,” said Logano, who tested at Infineon last week. “I’m not sure when the last time he’s raced, but if you’re out of a car for so long, you can only watch so many races before you’re back in the car.”
McGriff will also try to qualify for the West series races at Portland International Raceway on July 19 and Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on Aug. 1. Right now, though, he and his crew are still putting the finishing touches on the car for Sonoma for practice, which determines the groups for qualifying.
And at that moment, everyone will probably know how competitive McGriff still is.
“You can get a good lap going (in qualifying), catch another driver and lose one or two seconds trying to get around them,” McGriff said. “But catching Joey Logano, well, I’d feel pretty good about that.”
McGriff’s NASCAR Journey one of skill and destiny
McGriff returns at 81 – age, not mph – By Jason Vondersmith
The Portland Tribune, May 14, 2009 – (COURTESY OF HERSHEL MCGRIFF)
Legendary race-car driver Hershel McGriff, who manages a mining operation in Arizona, is tuning up for a July 19 stock-car event at Portland International Raceway.
During the years, he might have muttered the word “retirement,” but Hershel McGriff has never really been serious about it.
If an opportunity arose, McGriff always knew that he would race again. Not long ago, he got the itch and made it a goal to drive a race car at age 80.
He didn’t quite make it. But McGriff will line up his 2009 Monte Carlo in three NASCAR Camping World West road course events this summer, including the July 19 event at Portland International Raceway — at age 81.
One might think: An 81-year-old man must be crazy to get behind the wheel of a high-performance race car and compete against drivers who might be 63 years his junior.
Well, McGriff still holds his NASCAR license —and has the vitality of someone much younger than what it says on his driver’s license.
“As fast as these kids go now, it won’t be easy to keep up with everybody,” says McGriff, a longtime Portlander who lives in Green Valley, Ariz., south of Tucson. “I think I can hold my own, but I don’t know about setting the world on fire. I’m in pretty good shape physically and have 20/20 vision.”
McGriff, who occasionally visits friends in Portland, says that he lives an active life in Arizona. He manages a mining operation — parent company Park Corp. will be his car’s sponsor. He also tries to ride his bicycle up a two-mile road every day, and he generally keeps on the move. He had cataract surgery to repair his vision.
“I’d like to lose a little weight, 10 to 12 pounds. I’m 201 1/2 right now,” he says. “You go out and get a big steak and you’re three pounds heavier the next morning.”
His son, Hershel McGriff Jr., will be his crew chief this summer.
The elder McGriff’s racing history dates to September 1945, when he first drove a stock car on the old Portland Speedway’s dirt oval.
Through the years, McGriff has made 236 NASCAR West starts (now Camping World West), with 34 wins and 145 top-10 finishes. He started 85 Cup races (now Sprint Cup), winning four times and finishing in the top 10 31 times.
McGriff claimed the 1986 Winston West championship, with a season that included a win at PIR — the last time the West cars have run there – among his three consecutive road-course victories.
The Camping World West tour last stopped at the Portland Speedway in 2000, a few years before the venue was torn down.
Although he continued to dabble in racing here and there, McGriff believed for a while that he had piloted a stock car for the last time. Seven years ago, he crashed into the wall at Las Vegas. After buying a new car from Dale Earnhardt Inc., he took some laps around California Speedway in Fontana, Calif., only to back out of the race. Driving at Fontana includes 190 mph straightaways.
“I kept looking at the (Fontana) wall thinking, ‘Sure would hate to blow a tire,’ “ McGriff says. “And, I didn’t have a good crew lined up. It bothered me, I wasn’t comfortable, so I just pulled out.”
Driving on road courses will be somewhat tamer, and McGriff has navigated turns before in his career.
There isn’t much he hasn’t done. He won the Mexican Road Race in 1950, after all.
McGriff’s first West event will be at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif., on June 20. Then comes the show at PIR and a race at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah on Aug. 1.
McGriff has to qualify for the main events, of course. He won’t be testing his Monte Carlo on any of the circuits, as NASCAR rules prohibit that, but the car will make some laps somewhere.
In the meantime, McGriff plans to go back to school —he’ll head to Bondurant Racing School in Phoenix to tune up his skills.
Born in Bridal Veil, Ore., in 1927, McGriff most recently visited Portland to stage a party. He and his wife, Sherrie, travel in their motor home and ride motorcycles. The couple has a dog, Brogan.
He remembers an auto racing scribe asking him to return to Portland to be grand marshal of the Camping World West race.
“I already had in my mind that I wanted to drive,” McGriff says.
McGriff also owns a new Mercedes-Benz S65, a twin-turbo 12-cylinder car that he has driven really, really fast — but not fast enough.
“I can do 160 up this road coming to the office,” he says, from Arizona. “I could go faster, but the thing just dies when it comes to being that fast. My wife’s Lexus does the same thing; it goes about 130 and then levels out.”
McGriff, 81, eyes qualifying for three West Series races — By Mark Aumann, NASCAR.COM
May 12, 2009 12:20 PM EDT
DARLINGTON, S.C. — Hershel McGriff turned 81 in December but he scoffs at the idea of retirement. And he plans to prove it by entering three races in the Camping World West Series this summer.
McGriff, a four-time winner in the Cup Series who made his NASCAR debut as a 22-year-old in the inaugural Southern 500 in 1950, plans to attempt to qualify at three road courses: June 20 at Infineon Raceway, July 19 at Portland International Raceway and Aug. 1 at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.
“This is the first time they’ve run Portland since 1986, and I won that race, so I wanted to defend my title,” said McGriff, who resided in nearby Bridal Veil for many years before moving to Arizona.
McGriff met Bill France during the running of the 1950 La Carrera Panamericana, or Pan American Road Race. After McGriff won the event in a stock 1950 Oldsmobile Rocket 88, France invited him to make the cross-country trip to Darlington, where he finished ninth. He drove the car from Oregon to South Carolina in time for qualifying, competed in the race, then drove the car back west.
He started his racing career at Portland Speedway in 1945 and participated in the track’s final race in 2000.
McGriff’s four Cup victories came during the 1954 season, as he traveled back and forth, running both the Grand National and Pacific Coast Late Model Series. McGriff won the 1986 Winston West championship and is third behind Jack McCoy and Ray Elder in Winston West victories with 35. A 12-time winner of the series’ most popular driver award, he holds the record for most stock-car victories at Riverside International Raceway, where he won 14 times.
He made his last Cup start at 65, finishing 43rd at Sonoma in 1993 after engine problems sidelined his No. 04 Chevrolet. He attempted to qualify for the inaugural Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994, but missed making the field.
STOCK CAR RACING RETURNS TO PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL PORTLAND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY Jerry Boone — May 01, 2009
Stock car racing returns to Portland this summer with the NASCAR Camping World West series scheduled to take to the Portland International Raceway road course July 18-19.
Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 NASCAR race will be the main event of a racing schedule that includes the late model Great American Stockcar Series (GASS) and historic NASCAR stockcars from the California-based Stock Car Racing Series (SCRS).
Tickets will be available on-line at PortlandNASCAR.com beginning April 29 and will be available soon at area Bi-Mart stores. The special advance price for the combined Saturday and Sunday is only $25, with children 12 and under admitted free. U.S. armed forces personnel with valid military I.D. will be admitted at no charge. Reservations are being taken now for motorhome and camping spaces.
The last time the big V-8 powered cars raced on the road course was 1986, when legendary Hershel McGriff took the checker flag on his way to winning the season’s Winston West championship.
Although he “retired” from racing in 2003, McGriff says he plans to be back at the road course to defend his 23-year-old title as race champion.
He is currently working on a program to run all three road courses in the 2009 Camping World West schedule, beginning in mid-June at Infineon Raceway in California and ending at Miller Motorsports Park in Utah.
“The car’s getting new bodywork on it now and the engine should be finished and installed in a couple of weeks,” he said. “It will be done right. It will be a first class race car, one we can win with.”
The 2009 NASCAR Camping World West schedule includes 13 races ranging from short track bullrings to the high-speed Phoenix and Iowa Speedway ovals and the trio of road courses.
McGriff, named to a list of NASCAR’s top 50 drivers, is one of the racing legends to come out of the West Coast series. But he’s far from the only one. Many of NASCAR’s current stars – Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick among them – used the series as a steeping stone to rides in NASCAR’s top ranks.
Then known as Winston West, the touring cars raced the final laps on Portland Speedway’s half-mile paved oval. Minutes after the checker flag fell, jackhammers replaced racecars as the paved surface was torn up to become a dirt oval, and closed forever three years later.
McGriff competed in that event, and then sat along the front straight and autographed pieces of pavement for the fans.
“It’s going to be good to get back to Portland,” he said. “I’ve always like that road course and I’ve been able to do pretty well on it.”