Hershel McGriff’s long road to the NASCAR Hall of Fame

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The long road that will lead to Hershel McGriff’s induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Friday (8 p.m. ET on Peacock) began on another long road.

In May 1950, McGriff and co-driver Ray Elliott won the Carrera Panamericana, also known as the Pan-American race, a five-day, cross-country competition held in Mexico. The race was a wild affair run across portions of a new highway and parts of the Mexican desert. McGriff, who handled most of the driving for the two-man team, and Elliott won the event by 76 seconds.

It was a big deal – the team won $17,000, but the race held a bigger prize for McGriff. He met NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., who competed in the race with teammate Curtis Turner. That meeting was a life-changing event for McGriff.

France introduced McGriff to NASCAR, which had formed in 1947 and ran its first Strictly Stock (now Cup) season in 1949. McGriff, who lived in Oregon, jumped into NASCAR at France’s invitation, won four races in 1954 and competed in various forms of motorsports competition across the decades that followed.

MORE: Elton Sawyer named to NASCAR’s top competition position

McGriff was a fixture in West Coast racing for decades. After breaking into victory lane in Cup racing, he was offered a first-class ride with the new Carl Kiekhaefer team for the 1955 season, but McGriff chose to stay in Oregon, where he had successful businesses and was raising a family. Tim Flock took the Kiekhaefer ride and won the Cup championship.

On Friday, McGriff will join France, Flock and many others in the NASCAR Hall of Fame. Also to be inducted at the Charlotte Convention Center are Cup champion Matt Kenseth and Kirk Shelmerdine, four-time champion crew chief with driver Dale Earnhardt.

McGriff also had a long road to get into the hall, having been nominated several times before being elected last year.

“None of us knew back then, standing and talking around a cactus (during the Mexican race week), that we’d wind up in the Hall of Fame,” McGriff said.

MORE: How to watch Hall of Fame induction ceremony

The stories from 1950 stretch belief. McGriff and Elliott drove their Oldsmobile 88 about 2,000 miles in winning the Pan-American race. Then Elliott drove the car home to Oregon. Four months later, at France’s invitation, McGriff drove the same car from Portland to Darlington, S.C., to compete in the inaugural Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. McGriff finished ninth in that race, then promptly drove the car home to Oregon.

The Olds 88 obviously was a strong mount.

“The car ran flawlessly the whole race in Mexico,” McGriff said. “It never had a mark on it. It might have been a little dirty. The car was absolutely stock. We took the back seat out and put four spare tires and two bumper jacks in there. We threw a few wrenches in the glove box, and we were ready to go.”

McGriff said he occasionally saw the France-Turner car on the race course.

“We ran daily within a few seconds of each other,” he said. “Bill told me later he was wondering how this young kid (McGriff was 22) was keeping up with his driver (Turner).”

McGriff and France, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the first class in 2010, became fast friends and worked together in the 1950s.

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“I flew with Bill a lot in his plane and did public relations for him,” McGriff said. “He’d drop me off whenever they had a race coming up, and I’d go by a few television and radio stations and do advertising for the race. After the race, we’d fly back.

“Coming home to Daytona from one trip, he circled over this swamp and pointed down and told me, ‘This is where I’m going to build Daytona International Speedway.’ He showed me blueprints of the track and asked me to steer the plane.”

The speedway opened in 1959.

McGriff, now retired in Green Valley, Arizona, continued to race in various series through 2018. His track time included two appearances in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Now he rides into the NASCAR Hall, at 95 the oldest inductee.

 

 

 

 

 

NASCAR Power Rankings: William Byron, Kyle Busch rank 1-2

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Kyle Busch moved closer to the top spot after his win Sunday at WWT Raceway, but William Byron keeps hold of No. 1 after another top-10 run.

The series heads to Sonoma Raceway this weekend, the second race of the season on a road course.

NBC SPORTS NASCAR POWER RANKINGS

(Previous ranking in parenthesis)

1. William Byron (1) — He goes into Sonoma with six consecutive top-10 finishes after his eighth-place result at WWT Raceway. Byron has led a series-high 717 laps this season.

2. Kyle Busch (4) — Recorded his third win of the season Sunday. He is tied with Byron for most wins this year. Busch scored 59 of a maximum 60 points and won his first stage of the year Sunday. He has 16 playoff points. Only Byron has more with 17 this season.

3. Kyle Larson (3) — His fourth-place finish continued his up-and-down season. In the last nine races, Larson has two wins, four top fives, a 20th-place result and four finishes of 30th or worse. He has led 588 laps this season, which ranks second this year to Byron.

4. Martin Truex Jr. (2) — His fifth-place finish is his sixth top 10 in the last eight races. He ranks third in laps led this year with 383.

5. Denny Hamlin (7) — Runner-up result at WWT Raceway is his fourth top 10 in the last seven races.

6. Ryan Blaney (10) — Followed Coca-Cola 600 win with a sixth-place run at WWT Raceway. He had an average running position of 2.6 on Sunday, second only to winner Kyle Busch’s average running position of 1.9.

7. Joey Logano (9) — Third-place finish is his second top 10 in the last four races.

8. Kevin Harvick (NR) — His 10th-place finish is his fourth consecutive finish of 11th or better.

9. Ross Chastain (6) — Lost the points lead after placing 22nd, his third consecutive finish outside the top 20.

10. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (NR) — Headed for his eighth top 15 in a row until he was collected in a crash after the contact between Austin Cindric and Austin Dillon late in Sunday’s race.

Dropped out: Chase Elliott (5th), Tyler Reddick (8th)

NASCAR will not penalize Austin Cindric for incident with Austin Dillon

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Despite Richard Childress and Austin Dillon saying that Austin Cindric intentionally wrecked Dillon late in Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway, NASCAR will not penalize Cindric.

Elton Sawyer, NASCAR senior vice president of competition, said Tuesday on SiriusXM NASCAR Radio that there would be no penalty to Cindric after reviewing the contact.

Dillon and Childress were upset about the incident, which brought out the caution on Lap 220 of the 243-lap race. Dillon said NASCAR should suspend Cindric for the contact, just as NASCAR suspended Chase Elliott one race for hooking Denny Hamlin in the Coca-Cola 600.

Contact between the left front of Cindric’s car and the right rear of Dillon’s car sent Dillon up the track into Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Dillon finished 31st. Cindric continued and placed 13th.

Dillon told Frontstretch.com: “I was wrecked intentionally by (Cindric), hooked right just like Chase and Denny and Bubba’s deal (in wrecking Kyle Larson at Las Vegas in 2022). He better be suspended next week.”

Childress said: “(Dillon) had drove up to about 10th until (Cindric) wrecked him in there on purpose, sort of a payback.”

Sawyer said a review of the incident included viewing video and data.

“We didn’t see anything — and haven’t seen anything — that really would rise to a level that would be a suspension or a penalty,” Sawyer said. “It looked like hard racing. One car coming up a little bit and another car going down.

“As we said last week, we take these incidents very serious when we see cars that are turned head-on into another car or head-on into the wall. I spent a lot of time (Monday) looking at that, looking at all the data, looking at TV footage and just deemed this one really hard racing.”

Sawyer said NASCAR plans to talk to both Cindric and Dillon “to make sure we’re all in a good place as we move forward to Sonoma.”

 

 

Seven Cup drivers entered in Xfinity race at Sonoma

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Kyle Larson is among seven Cup drivers entered in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Sonoma Raceway.

The race marks the first time the Xfinity Series has competed at the California road course. Teams will get 50 minutes of practice Friday because this is a new event on the schedule. That additional time will give those Cup drivers more laps on the 1.99-mile road course.

MORE: Sonoma Xfinity entry list

Here is a look at what Xfinity rides the Cup drivers will pilot this weekend:

The race is scheduled to start at 8 p.m. ET Saturday.

The ARCA Menards Series West also is competing this weekend at Sonoma Raceway. Cup driver Ryan Preece is entered in that event. Xfinity drivers Cole Custer, Riley Herbst, Sammy Smith and Parker Retzlaff also are entered in that race, which will be held at 6:30 p.m. ET Friday.

 

Winners and losers at WWT Raceway

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Winners and losers from Sunday’s Cup race at WWT Raceway:

WINNERS

Kyle BuschWins the pole, leads the most laps and holds the field off over the last five restarts to win the race. He scored six playoff points, giving him 16 on the season, second only to William Byron’s 17. Busch left Joe Gibbs Racing after last season for Richard Childress Racing. Busch’s three wins this year equals what JGR has done so far.

Ryan BlaneyHis sixth-place finish moved him into the points lead. He last led the points after the spring 2022 Richmond race. Blaney also won a stage Sunday to collect another playoff point. He has seven this season.

Kyle LarsonFourth-place finish was a big turnaround after struggles earlier in the race. It has not been easy for this team the last few weeks. He has three top-five finishes and four finishes of 20th or worse in the last seven races.

Daniel SuarezHis seventh-place finish moved him up two spots to 16th in the standings, the final playoff transfer spot at this time.

LOSERS

Ross ChastainHe finished 22nd for his third consecutive result outside the top 20. He entered the weekend leading the points and fell to fifth afterward. He is 29 points behind new series leader Ryan Blaney with 11 races left in the regular season.

Tyler ReddickRebounded from an early spin to lead but had his race end after a brake rotor failed. He was one of four drivers eliminated by brake rotor failures. The others were Carson Hocevar, Bubba Wallace and Noah Gragson.