Saturday, July 10, 2010

Hershel McGriff To Return To Portland International Raceway.

McGriff & NASCAR Race Mom - 2009 Infineon Raceway

Now in its 57th season, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West can be traced back to 1954, when NASCAR came to the West Coast and began sanctioning the Pacific Coast Late Model circuit. The series visited California tracks such as the Oakland Speedway in Oakland; the Balboa Speedway in San Diego; the Bay Meadows Speedway in San Mateo; and the Carrell Speedway in Gardena.

The 1954 series schedule featured nine races, with the first event taking place at the 5/8-mile Oakland Speedway. The track was known as “The Oakland Wall” because of an incredible 65-degree banking used for some events. The man on pole for that race was the then twenty-six-year-old, Hershel McGriff (born on December 14, 1927).

However Hershel McGriff’s career began nine years earlier in September of 1945 — the first race in America after World War II. He went on to become the driver with the most wins of any Winston West active competitor (35 victories). He won the 1950 Mexican Road Race and competed in the first Southern 500 at Darlington International Raceway. McGriff also competed in a stock car at LeMans, France, in Australia and in Japan.

McGriff won the 1986 NASCAR Winston West Series Championship and tops the list of pole awards in Winston West Series poles with thirty-five. Additionally, Hershel McGriff was voted ‘Most Popular Driver’ twelve times over his long NASCAR career.

Last year Hershel returned to the series now known as the K&N Pro Series West after an eight year absence. On 06/20/2009, he attempted to qualify for the Bennett Lane Winery ‘200’ (Infineon Raceway). Although he can boast of three wins at the track (1983, 1985, 1987), this time round McGriff failed to quality.

Unfazed, McGriff returned to his home track, the Portland International Raceway on 07/18/2009, qualified 21st and finished 13th. He also raced the road course at Miller Motorsports Park. A flat tire, two laps from the finish, relegated the 81-year-old Hershel McGriff to a 19th-place finish.

McGriff strives to augment his legacy in NASCAR history bookd by qualifying for and racing in the BI-MART Salute To The Troops "125" at the Portland International Raceway this month. PIR is a 1.98 Mile Paved Road Course and has hosted two K&N Pro Series races in the past. Hershel McGriff won the first K&N Pro Series race there in 1986 and finished 13th in 2009. This year the field will be limited to twenty-eight drivers and consist of sixty-three laps (125 miles). Should Hershel McGriff win this race, he would become the oldest driver to ever win in one of NASCAR’s premier series.

NASCAR Race Mom was able to catch up to the NASCAR Racing Legend for a quick pre-race interview:

NASCAR Race Mom: Which race is most memorable to you and why?

Hershel McGriff : Probably the 1950 Pan American Road Race in Mexico. It was by far my greatest achievement because there were entries from countries all around the world. It was quite an experience at 22 years of age. I won by only 76 seconds after driving 2,178 miles.

NASCAR Race Mom: How has racing changed from when you started your stock car career in September of 1945 at the Portland Speedway to your last race there on July 19, 2009?

Hershel McGriff : Imagine taking your street car and trying to compete with a Cup car. We all drove the same kind of equipment which has gradually gotten better over the years. Thankfully today, we have safer cars, much better technology, and much more knowledgeable people.

NASCAR Race Mom: What is the best change NASCAR has made in this series during your career?

Hershel McGriff : One thing I miss in the West series is we used to run dirt one night and blacktop the next with the same car. We had some great shows. Another great change is the how NASCAR has created the opportunity for young drivers to work their way up through the ranks.

NASCAR Race Mom: What are your goals for your Portland International Raceway race on July 18, 2010?

Hershel McGriff : A top six would make me feel pretty good.

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