Earlier this week it was announced that Hershel McGriff will be competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race May 5th at Tucson Speedway in Arizona. That may not be a big story to many people who may not be familiar with Hershel McGriff. What’s special about him? Well, he was born in Bridal Veil, Oregon and has raced 87 times in what is now the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. I’m sure some are still be scratching their heads saying, “Who?”
Let me first go over some of the events that happened the year McGriff was born. For starters, Charles Lindbergh flies The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic nonstop and solo, directly from New York City to Paris, as the first solo transatlantic flight. During the same year McGriff was born Henry Ford revealed the Ford Motor Company’s newest vehicle, the Model A, work began on Mount Rushmore, the first transatlantic telephone call took place between New York and London, and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) was created. A manual washing machine would set you back $15.95 and a Kodak Box Brownie Camera went for $2.29. One pound of bacon cost 47 cents, a pound of coffee went for 45 cents, a gallon of milk was 56 cents, and 1 pound of round steak went for 40 cents.
When McGriff was born we were almost a year away from the first appearance of Mickey Mouse and the start of the world’s first television station, W2XB, in Schenectady, New York and were still over 10 years away from the start of World War II. Richard Petty, the winningest driver in the history of NASCAR, wouldn’t be born for another nine years.
To think that a man who was born on December 14th, 1927 is going to strap into a 3,300 pound stock car with a 358 cubic inch Pushrod V8 engine on May 5th and compete against drivers 60 to 75 years his junior is almost mind boggling.
And it brings up an interesting question. Should NASCAR mandate a maximum age limit? I don’t think anyone can argue that Hershel McGriff wasn’t a very talented driver. In fact, in 1998 he was named one of NASCAR’s 50 greatest drivers. McGriff won four races in 1954 in what was then the NASCAR Grand National Series. His final win came at North Wilkesboro on October 24th, 1954 in a race he won over Buck Baker, Herb Thomas, Slick Smith, and Dick Rathman. There were 32 drivers entered in the race on that autumn day in North Wilkesboro. Of those drivers, there are only five still living: Ralph Liguori, Dave Terrell, Ned Jarrett, Dink Widenhouse, and McGriff.
Is any of that important? If McGriff gets a clean bill of health to go out there and race should he have that right? Or, is there a point where NASCAR needs to step in and mandate a maximum age limit? There’s no arguing that Hershel McGriff is a talented race car driver who has ran hundreds of races over the course of his career. But, there’s still going to be that lingering question on whether it’s a good idea to let a 90 year old man race a stock car, regardless of his previous accomplishments and ability. If McGriff passes the physical and is deemed fit to race is that good enough? Or, should NASCAR look at a maximum age requirement going forward? Tell us what you think. We’d love to hear your thoughts and comments!