90-year-old man competes in NASCAR-sanctioned event

Hershel McGriff struck a blow for elderly drivers everywhere Saturday.

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McGriff, who turned 90 in December, became the oldest racer to compete in a NASCAR-sponsored event, finishing 18th in the K&N Pro Series West event at Tucson Speedway, ESPN reported.

Driving on the three-eighths-mile track was a snap, McGriff said, but he was more nervous about playing the national anthem on his trombone to kick off the race.

"Instead of racing young kids at 120 miles per hour, he's more nervous about playing his trombone," Tucson Speedway president John Lashley told the Arizona Daily Star. "He's just wound different than you and me."

McGriff drove for Bill McAnally Racing with sponsorship from South Point Hotel & Casino, the Star reported. His son, Hershel Jr., and his granddaughter Mariah competed in separate races Saturday at the track.

McGriff is no stranger to racing. He won four races in 1954 in what is now the NASCAR Cup Series and has 37 career victories. His last win in the series came in 1989, ESPN reported. McGriff’s last race in the K&N series came in 2012, when he placed 18th at Sonoma Raceway.

McGriff’s last victory came in 1989. He was named one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers in 1998, and in 2006 was inducted into the Motorsports Hall of Fame.

McGriff began racing as a 17-year-old, enticed by an advertisement in an Oregon newspaper.

“So 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 Star. “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.”

McGriff retired from competitive racing when he was 74. He raced sporadically since, and in 2009 -- as an 81-year-old -- he became the oldest man to compete in a NASCAR-sanctioned race. "I've had a great life. I wouldn't backtrack for anything,” McGriff told the Star. “I have family that's with me and behind me, so it's great.”

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