NOTE: QUICK LOOK BOX/PHOTO MUG: McGriff
A Green Valley driver will be among those making history across the seas.
Making NASCAR history is nothing new to Green Valley race car driver Herschel McGriff.
McGriff is one of just a handful of drivers to race a NASCAR stock car outside the United States. In 1976, he drove on the famed course in Le Mans, France, site of the 24 Hours of Le Mans. And two years ago, he was part of a tour of NASCAR drivers who raced in an exhibition in Australia.
In November, McGriff and 32 other drivers will compete in the first ever NASCAR exhibition in Japan. And McGriff, 68, will among some select company.
Representing the NASCAR Winston Cup series will be Dale Jarrett, Rusty Wallace, Ernie Irvin, Wally Dallenbach, Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt, Sterling Marlin, Terry Labonte, Jeff Gordon and Kenny Schrader, to name a few.
“It’s old hat to me,’ McGriff said, “because I’ve been involved in a lot of firsts with NASCAR. But I’m really looking forward to this one because of the Winston Cup drivers involved.’
The rest of the field for the Nov. 24 race in Suzuka, Japan, will come from the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the NASCAR Winston West Series, which comes to Tucson Raceway Park tomorrow night for the Valvoline/Jiffy Lube 200. Two Japanese drivers might also be in the field.
Winston West drivers who will race here tomorrow night – and in Japan in November – include, Dan Obrist, Scott Gaylor, Butch Gilliland, Ron Hornaday, Rick Carelli and Lance Hooper.
McGriff, who races on the Winston West circuit, is bypassing tomorrow’s race. He said he plans to race in two weeks in Portland.
“We’re in the racing business, and if there is a mountain there to climb, we will climb it,’ said Ken Clapp, NASCAR’s vice president of Western operations and the point man behind the race in Japan. “This is a special project, and one which I think will be good for the whole racing industry.’
According to Clapp, the exhibition in Japan was proposed about three years ago. Representatives in Suzuka, where the Honda Accord is built, showed a great interest in getting involved in NASCAR stock car-style racing, Clapp said.
Clapp added there is also a great interest among Japanese fans in NASCAR racing.
“We were in Japan a few years ago for tire testing at the Suzuka road course and there were 13,000 people out there watching. And it was rainy and foggy. The next day, there were 40,000 people.’
The track to be used in November is a 1.4-mile road course, Clapp said. But what makes it unique is that the whole course can be seen from the grandstands. Clapp said the track holds 160,000 fans when the Formula I course is set up, but it will accommodate a little over 100,000 for the NASCAR exhibition. In the United States, the race will be televised live by TBS.
And while NASCAR is taking its show to other countries, Clapp said there are no immediate plans for sanctioned NASCAR races overseas.
“The races are strictly exhibitions,’ Clapp said. “What I think will happen is they (Japanese officials) will try to develop kind of a NASCAR of Japan, a series of races up and down the country. There could be an actual Japan stock car series. That seems to be logical direction ultimately to take.’