It was the story that grabbed the headlines during Florida Speedweeks, a last-minute deal nearly becoming an upset for the ages, as Derek Griffith’s debut with Chad Bryant Racing on the ARCA Menards Series East produced both a pole and a strong runner-up finish to defending champion Sam Mayer. Since that time, the question has become: when will ‘D-Griff’ get his next chance? We now have that answer.
It will be this coming Saturday in the second round of the 2020 ARCA Menards Series East, the Pensacola 200 at Five Flags Speedway (FL). Beyond that, Griffith and Chad Bryant Racing have no plans on stopping, as they will go for the ARCA East title in 2020 after obtaining a primary sponsor for all of the remaining races.
“We’re going to be running with Chad Bryant Racing, we just signed on a big sponsor Gourmet Lollipops, they are an international company. Richard the owner, we’re pretty good friends with him. So they’re going to be the main sponsor of the car. This will be for the whole ARCA Menards Series East season under Gourmet Lollipops and Chad Bryant Racing,” Griffith told Speed51.
The announcement has further heightened Griffith’s already over-the-top enthusiasm that began with the initial one-race deal for New Smyrna.
“Oh my goodness, I can’t even put it into words. We’re all pretty giddy and excited about this weekend coming up and the rest of the year. It is a little last minute, but we’re very excited to be doing this. In the way it happened, I’m not going to forget about this ever, it’s going to be an awesome deal.”
In just their one race together, Griffith and Chad Bryant Racing have already found great cohesion together. It is something which will prove critical not just this weekend in Pensacola, but when the series gets to tracks Griffith has never turned a lap on.
“I hope so, especially with how good we were at New Smyrna. Five Flags this weekend we’ve been there, also New Hampshire Motor Speedway for the finale. But, we’re going to some places I’ve never been before, but with Paul Andrews, Chad, and the entire team, they made me super comfortable at New Smyrna. We had a good day and it just seemed to happen very easily, I’m hoping we can continue to have that easy success, but it’s rarely that easy. I think if we can keep having runs like that it’s going to be a good season.”
In a career that has seen the Hudson, New Hampshire driver see success in Northeast Super Late Model racing, with a 2015 title on the Granite State Pro Stock Series and 2018 PASS National Championship, Griffith feels the timing could not have been better for such an opportunity to race further up the ladder.
“We’ve waited for an opportunity like this for years, but I don’t think I really saw myself as fit to do this three or four years ago. These last one or two years, if we had gotten a shot like this it would have been great. Good thing is we have a lot of success behind us now on the Super side, and we’re pretty well established in the short track community from the Kulwicki Program to Team PFC. To move forward is a big step, even that one race at Smyrna was big. This is going to be a huge part of my career moving forward and everything.
“This has been a thought of mine since I was 12 years old running that Volkswagen Golf at Hudson. We’ve always wanted to move forward and make it in racing. It’s a great deal, I’m going to be too excited to sleep this week.”
A great part of that excitement for the weekend ahead at Five Flags Speedway is the fact that both Griffith and CBR each have gained experience on the Pensacola oval in the past year. In March of 2019, CBR recorded a top five in ARCA Menards Series competition with Corey Heim at the wheel, while Griffith ran consistently at the Snowball Derby with the LCM Motorsports Super Late Model team.
He hopes that it will translate to a second straight opportunity at winning a race.
“They had never been to New Smyrna Speedway before, they were at a complete baseline as compared to anyone else. For them to be that strong, with me being able to help get the car setup was really cool. If we have half as good a day as we did at New Smyrna speed wise at Five Flags, we have a serious opportunity to win that race. Those guys are on the ball, it’s the right move to stick with them, and I’m really excited to go back out there.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51