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Records are made to be broken

By Dick Pierson on 21 July 2009 | Commentaires (0) Comments | Permalink


When Hershel McGriff started his racing career in 1948 little did he know that it would continue through seven decades of time, involve thousands of miles of driving race cars, generate records that perhaps can never be broken, create the need to retire not once or twice but three times from the sport that he loves so much and generate a following of thousands of race fans all over the world.

Hershel McGriff is a humble man, an unsuspecting man that just lives his life the best of his ability, a man that loves competition, negotiation and the feeling he gets from winning or getting the best deal. He is a good man, a man that has generated five beautiful children, which have in turn generated several Grandchildren, Great Grandchildren for the legend of Stock Car Racing. He lives each day as though it could be his last, challenging life to throw him a curve he can't hit, so far he is batting a cool 1000% in my book. Never before have I even witnessed one person generate so much for himself while giving so much more to others in his life. A beautiful loving family, a fantastic beautiful caring wife, a pack of fans like no other and a legacy that will be upheld and written about for many years from the time he leaves us for the race track in the sky. God forbid that be any time soon.

On July 19, 2009 history was made in Portland Oregon, Hershel McGriff broke yet another record - he is now the oldest driver ever to have competed in aNASCAR race. At the ripe age of 81 (and 1/2) years old, Hershel has done the impossible, he has out driven 13 other much younger drivers to finish a cool 13th place in a 26 car field of NASCAR Stock Cars on the road course at Portland International Raceway in Portland Oregon. But there's more, what makes this even more interesting is the current record holder was there to see it happen. At the age of 74 he became the oldest man to drive a NASCAR race in 2002 - but wait a second here - it was Hershel McGriff that surpassed himself to set that bar even higher for the next driver to better. In the opinion of this writer that is not going to happen, unless I can do that is. However I have 21 years to go before I can even make the attempt at it. My gosh, I hope I am still walking at that age, let alone getting in and out if a race car.

But it wasn't easy for Hershel, he worked long and hard before ever attempting this feat. He rides his bicycle 2 to 3 miles a day up hill to build up his body, he practices Pilates, he works out. He started building up his body for this day years ago, getting into shape to make it happen. He is a very healthy young looking 81 (1/2) let me tell you. In the words of one person that met Hershel for the first time this weekend "Oh My Gosh, No way he is 81 years old, he doesn't even look 65". It's true, he doesn't and it all comes from a healthy life style, a caring wife, a great heritage and the will to win in life, and wow has he done that.


The race weekend was not without it's hick ups however. While practicing the car the first time out on Saturday Hershel decided to take a little side trip into a tire wall, not much of a hit but enough to wrinkle up the left front fender into the tire and make it a bit tough to steer. Enter the pit crew - oh did I mention the pit crew - made up of a few special people, several friends of Hershel Jr. (Hershel's youngest son at 50) who was the crew chief, his two son in laws, the legendary Tex Powell who worked with the King Richard Petty's crew from the the 70's and 80's and Chuck Bown, the 2000 NASCAR Busch Champion and owner of a pit crew training school located in Charlotte North Carolina. (Not bad huh !) They managed to get the car back looking pretty good in time for the next practice session. But more trouble during the qualifying session, the fuel lines and carburetor were getting plugged with an unknown rubber susubstance and the car would not run well at high rpm. Enter the crew once again, a carburetor change made it impossible for the car to start at their qualifying position. According to NASCAR rules the car has to go to the rear of the pack and start in the 26th position and one lap behind the leader.

With the drop of the green flag Hershel, being the smart experienced driver he is knows you can't win the race on the first lap, stayed out of harms way and sure enough there was trouble right away and a yellow flag flew giving Hershel the ability to move all the way around the pack and to the end of the longest line (in NASCAR they call that The Lucky Dog). Fast forward through a few other yellow flags, a pit stop for gas and after 60 laps of racing the end comes with Hershel in the 13th position overall and on the same lap as the leader. Did you say he was 81 years old ? Yes that is exaclty what I said 81 and going on 60. I will never know or be able to imagine what is like for someone with that much talent to do what he has done. Ask him about the expereince, I suspect he would answer something like, "No body told me I couldn't do it so I did". To me it is sort of like the story of the chicken going to the other side of the road - why did he risk his life to get there, because he could. Why on earth would an 81 year old man decide to drive  NASCAR stock car among 25 other drivers that are more near the age of his grandchildren - because he could !


And, did I mention his children ? Here they are with Dad just after he is out of the car and attempting to cool down. Left to Right they are, Debbie (Bown) Hershel McGriff Jr. and Marilyn (Powell). All very proud of Dad and taking care of him the way Dad's should be taken care of after a hard day at the office.

Copy of HPIM2297

One more little story. As Hershel got out of the car, which takes a couple of minutes to get everything unhooked and crawl out of the window cavity, a crowd of 50 to 100 loyal fans began to form around the pit area creating a human half circle around the car and Hershel. Helping him to a waiting chair with a cool bath for his hot feet were his children, so Dad could be comfortable and have a drink of water before going any further with the day. Suddenly a small young boy squirted from between the legs of one of the fans running to Hershel's side carring a small checkered flag. "Mr. McGriff" said the young man, "would you sign my flag?" Without hesitation, Hershel said yes. He set his cold water bottle to the side, was handed a pen, which he had trouble grasping because his hands were not yet fully recovered and a clip board for a hard surface and managed a signature for the young fan. This was one of the most heart warming touching moments of the entire weekend. A young fan running to his hero with no thought that he should let him rest for a minute before approaching him and the hero acknowledging the young man with his wish - this ladies and gentlemen readers this is the definition of a True Champion in my opinion. This man has always been a winner and he will always be a winner. He is truly a very special spirit of a man, my life has been so blessed with the ability to know and love him. A giant among men is Hershel McGriff.



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