West Coast Bling
by Tom Jensen February 24, 2023
The NASCAR Hall of Fame is home to some interesting artifacts from the West Coast.
With NASCAR headed to the Left Coast for the next three races, it’s a good time to show off some regional artifacts in the NASCAR Hall of Fame.NASCAR has raced on the West Coast since 1951, and over the years the region has produced both thrilling racing and a number of Cup Series champions, including seven-time champ Jimmie Johnson, brothers Kyle and Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Larson.
The NASCAR Hall of Fame has amassed quite a collection of artifacts from the West Coast. As always, we are deeply appreciative of our lenders and donors who entrust us with their priceless treasure to display. All the items listed below are currently on exhibit at the NASCAR Hall of Fame.
Hershel McGriff, 2023
One of the most colorful personalities in NASCAR history, who is still going strong at the age of 95, Oregon native Hershel McGriff was inducted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2023. In 1950, at the age of 22, McGriff drove from Oregon to Mexico, where he bested a field of 132 cars to win the inaugural Carrera Panamericana, a grueling 2,178-mile cross country road race. Later that year, he drove the same car from Oregon to South Carolina, where he finished ninth in the first Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway. On the long drives from Oregon to those races, McGriff slept in his car because he didn’t want to spend the going rate for a motel room – $7.50 per night. An exact replica of McGriff’s Oldsmobile is on exhibit in the Hall of Honor.
Mike Skinner, 1995
Originally conceived as a support series for regional races on the West Coast, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series generated huge interest with Cup Series team owners even before its first season started. When the Truck Series first raced as part of the 1995 Skoal Bandit Copper World Classic at Phoenix International Raceway (now Phoenix Raceway), Cup team owners Dale Earnhardt (NASCAR Hall of Fame Class of 2010), Richard Childress (2017) and Rick Hendrick (2017) all fielded trucks in the event. Driving a black No. 3 Chevrolet Silverado for Richard Childress Racing, Mike Skinner took the checkered flag at Phoenix, winning the race by 0.09 seconds ahead of a Hendrick-owned truck driven by Terry Labonte (2016). The race trophy is on display in Heritage Speedway on the top floor of the NASCAR Hall of Fame. After winning the first race of the season, Skinner went on to become the series’ first champion.
Jimmie Johnson, 2007
One of many impressive entries on seven-time NASCAR Cup Series champion and Southern California native Jimmie Johnson’s resume is the number of tracks where he has won more races than any other driver. Las Vegas Motor Speedway (4 wins), Charlotte Motor Speedway (8), Auto Club Speedway (6), Texas Motor Speedway (7) and Dover International Speedway (11) are all tracks where he’s won the most races. He’s also tied with four other drivers for the most wins at Kansas Speedway (3). You can find trophies from all these tracks in the Victory Lane exhibit located in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Inside NASCAR section. One of those trophies is the unique heavyweight boxing-style belt Johnson received for winning the UAW-DaimlerChrysler 400 at Las Vegas in 2007. The victory was the 150th for NASCAR Hall of Fame team owner Rick Hendrick.
Brad Keselowski, 2015
Winning any race is good. Winning on a track built and formerly owned by your boss? Even better. And that’s exactly what Brad Keselowski did in 2015, when he won the Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway. The 2-mile Southern California oval, which opened in 1997 as California Speedway, was developed by Team Penske founder and Hall of Famer Roger Penske (Class of 2019). A ticket from that first race in 1997 is on display in the NASCAR Hall of Fame’s Heritage Speedway, while Keselowski’s trophy is located in our Inside NASCAR exhibit, as part of a diverse collection that reflects the individuality with which tracks design trophies to highlight their local culture and geography.