Dick Pierson was on Hershel McGriff’s pit crew in the 60’s and 70’s. His son, Kevin, now a member on Wes Rhodes Northwest Tour team found some old photos that he asked his dad to give a little information about. Well, Dad did such a great job it would be a shame to edit and butcher it. So here is what Dick Pierson has to say, in his own words:
Don't know for sure about the first two (photos), but they look like some that were just taken at a local track or maybe Riverside. For sure it was the Nova.
Trivia: That car was built after the Chevelle became one of the winningest cars in the Northwest. The car was built in the garage at the Bridal Veil mill as I recall, by Pat McElreath. Later Benny Johnson took over Pat's position as Crew Chief and that car won on most tracks in the Northwest at least once. BUT, That was the car that was taken to Daytona in 1977 and ran the 24 Hours of Daytona. The car ran for 17 hours when the race was called for dirty fuel in the Union Oil tanks. The car finished third in its class and as a result NASCAR approached Hershel about France.
The last photo is the Charger that was built in the Collins garage in Portland in 6 weeks. It was originally the Charger that Doug McGriff ran in the Winston West program but was converted (rebuilt) to a road car. Note the windshield wipers, door number lights; it had brake light and headlights too. I believe the last race that car ran as a stock car was Victoria where Doug finished 2nd or 3rd behind Hershel in a challenge race put on by the promoter where he placed a bounty on Roy Smith.
Hershel won the race and with that win not only got cash but 100 loaves of bread from the local bread bakery; we stuffed the bathroom in the motor home full of bread for the trip home. I drove the truck with both racecars home; when we drove on the ferry we got an ovation from some of the ferry passengers. That was the first race that a young Mike Easley was with us!
The Charger was built, placed on a hand made 40 foot trailer along with a large steel rack full of tires and wheels from Goodyear, Champion spark plugs, Union oil and grease, etc. you name it, it was there, including cases of Olympia Beer. The car was then transported to Norfolk, Virginia (I took it there with Hershel's new dually pickup).
On the way the welds on the beams of the trailer broke and I had to have the trailer re-done in Des Moines, Iowa. I then went on through Indianapolis, Ind., West Virginia and finally into Virginia on a Saturday. That night I went to the Hampton, (Virginia) racetrack and showed the car before going to the Sealand dock on Monday. I then went to Norfolk where the car was loaded into a shipping container, courtesy of RJ Reynolds Co. (they own Sealand), and shipped to Rotterdam, Holland where the container was unloaded from the ship and was transported via truck to Lemans France.
This car, along with a Dirk Brooks Ford Torino, were the first American made Stock Cars ever allowed to run the 24 Hours of Lemans. The car ran a total of 30 minutes of the race. We had Precision Engine Co. of Seattle do the engines and they were all at 11 to 1 compression. The hottest fuel they could get in France at that time was 87 octane; it finally blew all of the motors (3).
A lot of history in those three photos. Actually I think that the one with the helmet sitting in the car was at Riverside, for some reason I remember that picture. I think he was sitting on pit road getting ready to go out and we got that shot.
I bet the story about the Charger will be news to allot of people. I'm sure not very many people realize what kind of racing history there is with Hershel. Another tidbit - He was one of the first 100 drivers to break the 100-mile an hour barrier on the sand at Daytona Beach Speedway when it was on the beach at Daytona. He had/has a large plaque signed by Bill Sr. I believe he and Lee Petty were at about the same time period on that one. Don’t know for sure.