Although there is 68 years difference in their ages, Dylan Kwasniewski and Hershel McGriff have a lot in common. Both have a passion for racing and both began their racing career at an early age. In addition, the two will be competing in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race, the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix, at Miller Motorsports Park on Saturday, April 30.
Kwasniewski’s race on the road course at MMP will mark his second series start, following a fourth-place finish in his series debut at the age of 15 two weeks ago. McGriff, who has just competed in road course events since coming out of retirement in 2009 at the age of 81, will be making his first appearance of the season.
While they both started racing at an early age, the racing world that surrounded them was immensely different when each got his start.
Kwasniewski, who was born in 1995, has been on a fast-track since he began racing go-karts just before he turned 5. He worked his way up the karting ranks – racing in IKF, STARS and SKUSA. He started racing in the INEX Bandolero Bandit Division in 2007 at The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. His success continued as he graduated to the Legend car series a year later.
He moved up to Pro Legend division in 2009, winning the track and state championships, along with finishing seventh in national points. Kwasniewski raced in the ASA Speed Truck series in 2009 and 2010, while also racing Modifieds and Late Models in 2010 — competing at The Bullring; Toyota Speedway at Irwindale (Calif.); Havasu 95 Speedway near Lake Havasu City, Ariz.; and Lucas Oil I-10 Speedway in Blythe, Calif.
McGriff’s legendary career began in a much different way, meanwhile. Born in 1927, he borrowed his father’s car to compete in his first race at the age of 17 at Portland (Ore.) Speedway in September of 1945.
One of what McGriff considers his biggest accomplishments came in 1950 when he won the Pan American road race in Mexico. His encounter during that event with fellow competitor Bill France Sr., led to a lifelong friendship. That same year, France invited McGriff to compete in the first Southern 500 at Darlington (S.C.) Raceway. After driving his car cross-country, McGriff raced it to a ninth-place finish and then drove it home to Portland.
McGriff’s venture into what is now known as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was most extensive in 1954. Although he only competed in about half of the races that season, he netted four wins and finished sixth in the final point standings. Rather than pursue a full-time racing effort, however, he opted to return home to Portland the following season to focus on his family and a lumber business.
McGriff later returned to competition, but focused his primary attention to racing on the West Coast. He went on to accumulate 35 career wins and 37 career poles in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West, as well as winning the series championship in 1986. He was named as one of the 50 Greatest Drivers in NASCAR in 1998.
McGriff returned to run a full schedule in the NASCAR K&N Pro Series West in 2001 and opted to retire early in the 2002 season. When he returned to racing in 2009, he chose to compete in only the road course events on the schedule.
Besides his accomplishments on the track, McGriff was also noted for his efforts off the track. His contributions to the sport were reflected with him being presented with the NASCAR Award of Excellence. His popularity among fans was indicated by a record 12 consecutive years, from 1981 to 1992, that he was named as the Most Popular Driver in what was then known as the NASCAR Winston West Series.
Now, as one driver nears the end of his racing career and the other embarks upon his; both drivers share one other bond – something that drives all racers – the pursuit of the checkered flag.