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Hershel McGriff – Racing ahead!

September 4, 2009

At the age of 81, when most people prefer a laid back life, Hershel McGriff preferred something else. An eminent car racer, he preferred racing on the  Portland International Raceway, with a bunch of gutsy youngsters, breaking  his own record of being the oldest chap to finish the race at the 13th position. McGriff retired from his racing career at the age of 74 in the year 2002. He was inducted in the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame in its first class in 2002 and into the Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2006. Then McGriff had said, “This is fantastic, getting in the Hall of Fame, but, hey, I might not be through yet. When I turn 80, I just might go out to a short track and show the young guys that I can still do it.” And he stood to his words completely!

McGriff is a motorsports legend.  In the year 1945, during the course of Carrera Panamericana race, where he won, he met Bill France, Sr., the founder of NASCAR (National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing). The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) is a family-owned business venture that sanctions and governs multiple auto racing sports events; and was founded by Bill France Sr. in 1947-48.  France convinced McGriff to come to South and race in NASCAR races at Daytona Beach, the first Southern 500 race at Darlington Raceway, Detroit, and Raleigh. In 1954, France again persuaded McGriff to race full-time in NASCAR. During this period, McGriff had his four wins in the Grand National series. He had 17 Top 10 finishes in 24 events, and finished sixth in the final points standings. McGriff’s average finishing position was higher than the points of champion Lee Petty.

In the year 1955, McGriff had the option to race for a millionaire Carl Kiekhaefer’s newly formed team but he eschewed NASCAR’s premiere series as he wanted to be closer to his family and business in Oregon, and focused instead on the West series — where he competed in 233 races between 1954 and 2002.  McGriff won the 1986 Winston West championship and was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers.

Apart from his passion, this evergreen gentleman works on his 9,000 acres of Twin Buttes Mine property everyday. To quote McGriff, “I’ve always had a job. I drove the car to the races, and I drove it home. I didn’t have a hauler, a jet for the driver to fly in, or a motor home at the track. I envy all those young guns who can do it now. I feel I’m one of the many who paved the way so they could do it. I’m proud of it.”

Legendary! Someone who really knows to live his life to the fullest, even at the age of 81!

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