Hershel McGriff just made history by becoming the oldest driver to ever compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned event. Here's his inspiring story.
- Posted on May 18, 2018
This 90-year-old NASCAR driver is proving it’s never too late to pursue your dreams.
On May 5th, Hershel McGriff became the oldest driver to compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned event when he raced at the Tucson Speedway in his home state of Arizona. McGriff had previously set the record for the oldest driver to race in a NASCAR-sponsored contest in 2012 when he got behind the wheel at 84-years-old.
McGriff has been racing since he was a teenager. His first time behind the wheel came when he was just 17-years-old after he read an ad in his local Oregon newspaper and was drawn to the adrenalin rush that comes with driving hundreds of miles per hour around a track, fighting for first while tearing up the asphalt.
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“I borrowed my dad’s 1940 Hudson — ugly car, but he loaned me the car and I found a couple of guys that helped me,” McGriff told The Daily Star of his beginnings in the sport. “I didn’t do too well. I finished I think 12th or 13th out of a bunch of cars and it was a terrible track. That got me started.”
His first win on the NASCAR circuit came when he was just 22-years-old when he competed in Mexico. McGriff would go on to win dozens of races, eventually being inducted into Motorsports Hall of Fame of America in 2006 and being named one of NASCAR’s 50 Greatest Drivers.
The speedster retired from the sport at 74 but he never outgrew his love of the track and decided to return to racing for a few special events that have made him famous in his hometown and inspired others to keep pursuing their dreams as well.
McGriff had to pass a physical before racing, taking a stress test to make sure he could compete at his best. His spot in the race was a gift for his 90th birthday from his son and long-time friend, team owner Bill McAnally.
“Bill called me up on the phone and said, ‘For your 90th birthday, I will furnish the car, the truck, whatever it takes. All you have to do is drive it. You pick the racetrack any time next year,’” McGriff said. “When he made the offer, I was ready to do it.”
McGriff’s history-making race is proof that you can pursue your dreams at any age, but for this young-at-heart racer, it was just an opportunity to get behind the wheel and continue pursuing his passion.
“I’ve had a great life,” he said. “I wouldn’t backtrack for anything.”