One of the Northeast’s top Super Late Model racers will be heading south to Pensacola, Florida this winter for the 51stAnnual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. Derek Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire will be armed with a new weapon in his arsenal when he makes his debut in the nation’s most prestigious asphalt Late Model race.
Griffith and his team recently struck a deal with veteran racer Jeff Fultz to acquire a brand new Fury chassis. The team plans to debut the new chassis during the Snowball Derby race week, November 28 – December 2.
“Brand, brand new,” Griffith said with excitement. “We talked about going used for a while but we couldn’t find the right one that wasn’t all tore up before. We started talking with Jeff and we worked together. It worked out good and we ended up coming to a deal. It’s pretty cool. He’s been sending us pictures and everything. It’s incredible how nice it is.
“We’re kind of putting all of our eggs in this basket. Hopefully it all plays out in our favor. He’s done really well down south. You look at Harrison Burton, Jeff Choquette, Stephen Nasse and all of those guys who are winning some of the biggest races in the country, they’re all down there with Fury cars. I think Jeff really wants to make it work, so he’s going to really help us out.”
Much of Griffith’s desire to acquire a new Fury chassis came during another big event in the state of Florida, the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway (FL). While competing in that event in recent years, he witnessed first-hand the amount of work that Fultz puts in to help his customers go fast.
“I saw Ryan Moore down there at Speedweeks struggling a little bit,” Griffith began. “Jeff was there helping Harrison (Burton). He came down, walked down to Ryan, took his car out in practice and told him what was wrong with it. Ryan went out and won that night. He knows what he’s doing, and to have someone like that is going to be pretty cool. It’s going to help out for sure.”
Griffith hopes that having Fultz as a resource will be the piece of the puzzle that allows his team to be competitive while competing against the best of the best in Super Late Model racing. He also believes it will take a little bit of the pressure off of his small, family-owned team as they embark on their toughest test yet.
“It’s a little bit more, I wouldn’t say confidence boosting, but you almost feel a little less anxious to get out there, especially with someone who has run with guys there a million times over,” Griffith stated. “We’ll still have Louie (Mechalides), my father and all of them helping but to have someone to say, “Hey, it’s doing this, what do we do?” And he comes over and says, “This, this and this.’ It’s definitely going to help.”
Although this is not the first time that Griffith’s name has appeared on the Snowball Derby entry list, it will be the first time that he’ll make laps around the historic Five Flags Speedway. After entering the race last year, he wasn’t able to compete due to engine problems suffered during the PASS MegaMeltdown at Hickory Motor Speedway (NC).
“Last year we were gung-ho on going and we were at Hickory and hurt the motor. It was actually the first outing in our blue Lefthander,” he explained. “We had all of our eggs in one basket. We had the motor freshened up before we were going to Indy (Speed51 Super Select) and then we had a freshened motor for Richmond. That got rained out so the motor is still fresh and ready to go for the Snowball Derby.”
Despite not racing in the 50thAnnual Snowball Derby, Griffith and his crew still made the trip south to experience the event for the second consecutive year. After two years of watching the race from the sidelines, the 2018 Kulwicki DDP driver is itching to get a first-hand account of the spectacle that is the Snowball Derby.
“It’s such a cool show,” Griffith said. “It’s a different atmosphere than the Oxford 250 but it has that same sort of feeling where you’re nervous the whole time. The thing down there is that everyone is two hundredths off from each other on that transfer spot. If you’re on the bubble there, you’re sitting on the edge of your seat. It’s going to be a little different than what we’re used to but fingers crossed that we’ll do okay. With that new car and everything, that’s going to be a huge booster for us.”
For Griffith, much of his focus during the Snowball Derby week will be on the all-important qualifying night on Friday, November 30. Although time trials aren’t something that he participates in on a regular basis, he isn’t a stranger to the single-car qualifying runs.
“I love them. Louie has had me down at Speedweeks for quite a while now. It’s just been a huge learning process down there. That’s where we go and you race with a lot of the same guys that will be at the Derby. You can compare yourself to the best when you’re down there. We go down there and time trials down there every night are a little hairy, but I actually love time trials. My first lap out on the race track I’ll go wide open.”
With a brand-new race car and a race track that he’s never raced on awaiting him, Griffith plans to take advantage of one of the testing dates leading up to the Snowball Derby.
“We’re definitely going to run it at the Derby for sure. We might try to run it at one of those practice days ahead of time,” he stated. “Going to the Derby with a brand new car is a little intimidating.”
Despite the Snowball Derby itself being an intimidating event, Griffith believes the acquisition of the new Fury chassis will provide a needed boost for his race team. After a strong start to the season with Pro All Stars Series (PASS) wins at Dillon (SC), Thompson (CT) and Spud (ME), the team hit a bit of slump towards the end of the season.
They’re hoping to turn all of that around with a new race car in their arsenal.
“It’s a little bit of a booster for us. We’ve fallen into a little rut here so hopefully we’re good at Seekonk this weekend and head to the Derby with a little bit of confidence.”
The Snowball Derby will take place on Wednesday, November 28 through Sunday, December 2 at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL. For more information regarding the event, visit Snowball Central presented by Schaeffer’s Specialized Lubricants.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com