Monday, July 13, 2009

It Just Can't Get Any Better

How many of you can remember what it was like growing up idolizing various race car drivers and dreaming how cool it would be to meet them in person? Of course the dreams didn't stop there but in fact festered into a full blown fantasy of what it must be like to spend time with them at the track or better yet to get to drive in the races like them. Isn't this the same fantasy that anyone who had a love of racing began with?

Now many years later there are those of us who were fortunate in that we were able to fulfill that childhood fantasy. Then we spent weekends building and racing cars and working on them in between races in an attempt to squeeze a few more tenths of a second many times out of what seemed like thin air. In the mean time our fascination with the greats whom we all watched on TV or read about in the latest hot rod magazines continued to inspire us which only further fueled our need for speed and the dream that began the first time we saw a race.

Like everyone else I can remember my favorites all of which I had pictures hanging on my walls that I had cut out of the latest car magazines. In a best case scenario the best anyone could hope for in their wildest dreams was to get an autograph and possibly a picture as they stood next to one of their idols while attending a race. It is those precious moments that helped fulfill a void, bring a smile of satisfaction and create a memory that they would tell their friends, children and their children's children about for years to come.

But over the years it seems as if most of those greats whom we idolized have gone to the big race track in the sky leaving us with only memories of their spectacular feats, amazing records and bigger than life stories of accomplishments that only supermen could make a reality. Now we can only read about them and the sports broadcasters reference the ones that stand out the most and comparisons are made and questions are raised asking, "Will his record ever be broken?" or "You should have seen "So and So" the day he..."

But now comes the completion of an even more spectacular chain of events in my life's love of racing. Like I have previously stated, I grew up in Oregon idolizing a man who was already making racing history before I was even born. That man was none other than Hershel McGriff. By the time I was 8 years old I was terrorizing the country side with my homemade go-cart with the name "McGriff Special" painted on the side. Little did I know Hershel had actually done some business with my father's lumber mill, something I wouldn't learn until almost 50 years later.

Since becoming friends with Hershel not only have I been able to get to know him but in fact to learn what an amazing man he is, one that is so much more than just a racer... So much more than a great racer... Hershel McGriff is even more than what any of us dreamed of being... In fact Hershel McGriff is what all the great drivers ever dreamed of being.

Well today I spent the day at Thunderhill Raceway with Hershel and his wife Sherrie as well as a few members of his family and some friends while Hershel got in some testing to get more familiar with his new car before heading up to Portland for next weekends race. Now tell me how damn cool is that? To be able to idolize someone almost 60 years and then spend a day with them not at a retirement home but at a racetrack!!! Simply unbelievable.

But the story gets even better. Besides spending the day with Hershel McGriff Junior I also got to meet one of Hershel's life long buddies who Hershel used to race with. I had the pleasure of spending time with Bud Hickey and his wife who used to race in the Winston West Series and even raced with Hershel in two separate trucks in the granddaddy of all desert races the 40th Annual Tecate SCORE Baja 1000 desert race.

After spending half a day hanging out with every one you can only imagine my surprise when I realized that one of the guys I had been talking to all day just happens to be one of coolest guys you could ever meet. It's Hershel's son in law, Chuck Bown who has raced with and for many of the biggest names in all of Nascar. Chuck has driven in the Winston Cup Series, was named the Most Popular Driver of the Year in the NASCAR Winston West Series, the Busch Series and the Craftsman Truck Series just to name a few. Chuck drove for several teams including Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and Roush Racing.

Chuck Bown

In July Chuck was inducted into the West Coast Stock Car Hall of Fame after having won three times in the NASCAR Camping World Series West before moving to the Northeast where he became the champion of the NASCAR North Series. Bown then competed in the NASCAR Busch (now Nationwide) Series winning the 1990 championship and 11 times overall. His father, Dick, was inducted into the Hall in 2003. Chuck took time off from his Nascar driving school in North Carolina to take part on Hershel's team.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to know that everyone surrounding Hershel has the utmost respect and affection for him and one of the best parts of all is his team is comprised of family and close friends and everyone pitches in.

Here is Sherrie McGriff doing a tire change.

Well, ok so maybe that's a lie. But just because Hershel is 81 doesn't mean his wife is an old maid. Quite the contrary, but the term bombshell does comes to mind.

The next two videos are Hershel coming and going. Ask yourself, when is the last time you saw a senior citizen drive like this? WARNING... Don't blink.

Check this out... I know drivers in their 30's that can't get in and out of their race car without help. Hershel does it like he's a teenager. Geriatrics my ass.

A special thank you to Hershel and Family and Friends for making my day so special.


docford said...

Genuine guys like Hershel are the real racedrivers! Way to go, Mr. McGriff!


PS: thanks to your advice, my heel-toe has greatly improved since we last met ;-)

racerguy said...

Hershel is my hero, my role model and a true Champion in life. He is the man I can and do model my life after. I can't wait to see him in Portland !