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July 22, 2009 > 81-year-old is oldest to drive in NASCAR event

81-year-old is oldest to drive in NASCAR event

By Anne M. Peterson, AP Sports Writer

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP), Jul 19 _ Eighty-one-year-old Hershel McGriff became the oldest driver to take part in a national NASCAR series race, finishing 13th in a Camping World West Series event at Portland International Raceway on Sunday.

Jim Inglebright of Fairfield, Calif., won the Bi-Mart Salute to the Troops 125 on Portland's 1.98-mile road course.

In a career that has spanned more than six decades, McGriff has four NASCAR Cup series victories and 37 wins on the West series. He is a member of the Motorsports Hall of Fame.

McGriff was the defending champion in Portland winning the only other time the series _ then known as Winston West _ visited the track in 1986.

McGriff, who last raced in 2002, broke his own record as the oldest driver.

The odds were against him before the race started. Although he automatically qualified as one of 26 drivers in a race that had 28 spots, he had to start at the back of the pack and one lap down because of changes he made to the car after the qualifying session.

David Mayhew of Arascadero, Calif., was the polesitter for Sunday's race. His shop put the decals on McGriff's No. 04 Park Corporation Chevrolet.

``It's awesome,'' Mayhew said of McGriff's accomplishment. ``The first time I saw him he was jumping into a seat at the shop and I thought, that guy's not 81 years old,'' he said.

McGriff, who spent most of his adult life in Oregon but now lives in Arizona, drove in his first race in the family sedan on a dirt track at Portland Speedway in 1945 at age 17. The next year there, with the track newly paved, he won his first race.

In 1950, he won the Pan American Road Race in Mexico and met NASCAR founder Bill France, who invited him to run in the first Southern 500 at Darlington.

Over the years, he competed in 85 races on the NASCAR Cup series, winning four.

But he eschewed NASCAR's premiere series because 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. He won 37 times.

McGriff won the 1986 Winston West championship, was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, and was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame in 2006. He retired from racing twice, first in 1954 and then again in 2002.

He made his last Cup series start at Sonoma in 1993 when he was 65, but did not finish.

McGriff, who hadn't raced in seven years, entered three events this summer. He did not qualify for a June 20 race at Sonoma's Infineon Raceway. He was expected to try and qualify again for an Aug. 1 race in Tooele, Utah.

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