The door has been pushed open for a new Granite State Pro Stock Series champion this upcoming season. Defending champion Dillon Moltz and 2013 champion Mike O’Sullivan will not attempt the full 12-race schedule in 2015, which opens the door for veterans like 48-year-old Larry Gelinas and young guns such as 18-year-old Derek Griffith to chase their first touring series championship.
Gelinas, the 1996 winner of the prestigious Oxford 250, has finished second and third in the championship standings over the course of the past two Granite State Pro Stock Series (GSPSS) seasons. He’s picked up two wins, 13 top-five and 18 top-10 finishes in 23 career starts with the series.
Operating as a self-owned and operated race team, Gelinas says he simply goes to the race track each week to “have fun and see how things go.” If things go well, he plans to move on to the next week. And as of right now, the Buxton, Maine driver has plans to run the full GSPSS schedule and chase his first career touring series title.
“Because I’m doing it all out of my own pocket, I try to spend as little as possible to get on the race track,” Gelinas told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “If it gets to a point where it costs too much I wouldn’t do it, but I’m trying to do it so that I could run for a championship. I haven’t won one before, so I guess that would be nice.”
For a driver that has been victorious at race tracks up and down the East Coast throughout his career, a touring series championship is something that Gelinas believes would enhance his resume. At this point in his career, he understands that his resume may not get a shot in the big leagues of NASCAR, but he’s completely fine with that as long as he is able to continue racing.
“I’m probably getting too old to be thinking about that type of stuff,” Gelinas stated when asked what a championship would mean to him. “It can’t hurt. I don’t plan on stopping racing anytime soon, so the more things I can win the better off.”
On the opposite side of the spectrum from Gelinas is Hudson, New Hampshire native Derek Griffith. The teenage driver has yet to capture a win during his three years in a Late Model, but he’s been knocking on the door for quite some time.
During the 2014 season, Griffith was one of the more consistent GSPSS drivers. He registered 10 top-10 finishes in 11 starts on his way to finishing fourth in the championship standings.
Driving for car owner Louie Mechalides and LCM Racing, Griffith is pumped up to get the season started this upcoming weekend at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park’s Icebreaker event.
“The whole entire crew is just very excited,” Griffith said about Sunday’s season-opening event. “We had some bad luck down in Florida (at New Smyrna) so we’re hoping to rebound with the car we rebuilt here. It’s absolutely beautiful. It’s what everybody dreams that they could have. The only reason it’s like that is because of Louie and LCM Racing. He is the mastermind behind the whole thing. We’re all just so happy with how this car is.”
Since the end of the 2014 GSPSS season, Griffith has stayed fresh behind the wheel while competing in the Governor’s Cup 200, Red-Eye 100 and World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). He believes that experience will pay huge dividends for his No. 12 team when they hit the race track this season.
“A lot of people that I’m racing against have been racing for 10 or 15 years, so they’ve been around the tracks thousands and thousands of times,” said Griffith. “Learning with the best of the best down in Florida was a great experience. It’s awesome and it’s even a confidence builder for me being able to say I was racing with guys like Bubba Pollard for 75 laps. It’s huge.”
With all signs pointing in the right direction for Griffith entering the 2015 racing season, he maintains realistic expectations but believes the sky is the limit. After showing consistency one year ago, he believes his team is capable of chasing a championship this time around.
“I sure as heck hope so,” Griffith said when asked if the thinks he’ll be a championship contender this year. “I think as a driver I’ve become better and as a team we’ve all grown together better. We all work really well with each other. There are five guys at the shop every single night that work because everyone loves doing it. It’s all for the love of racing.
“This year we really want to get some wins. We’re going to be attempting a championship for sure. You know how racing goes, you can’t always win them all or win the championship but we’re really going to focus this year to do well in points and races themselves. I want to lead laps, I want to win races, I want to pass cars, I want to race with the best guys like Larry Gelinas, Joey Pole, Wayne Helliwell and all of those guys. I want to be up front with those guys as much as I can.”
Gelinas, Griffith and the rest of the Granite State Pro Stock Series kicks things off this Sunday, April 12 during the Icebreaker at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. Live coverage of the event can be found on NASCAR Home Track Race Central Live powered by Speed51.com.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Eric LaFleche/VLF Photos