From the young age of 15, Derek Griffith has built his racing career in Super Late Models with the goal of raising both himself and the family-owned LCM Motorsports No. 12G team up the ladder in the short track world.
After gaining regional attention with a championship in the Granite State Pro Stock Series in 2015, the Hudson, NH hot shoe became a driver to watch on the national level in 2018, starting with his selection to both the #SponsorMePFC18 and Kulwicki Driver Development Program, and culminating with the Pro All Stars Series (PASS) National Championship.
The year 2018 included some big firsts; the first win in the Southeast, coming at Dillon Motor Speedway (SC) in the PASS South Carolina Clash, and making the field for the biggest race of them all, the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
One place that is not alien to Griffith in the South is New Smyrna Speedway (FL) and the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, the annual nine-night marathon during Florida Speedweeks in February. He has made five visits in the last six years, gradually improving. Only this year, they are heading there with a car built for Southern racing, a Fury chassis with a big built engine.
“We’re real pumped. We’ve been going down there for quite a while, and I’ve kind of had my teeth to a cutting board there for a while,” Griffith said on Speed51’s Morning Bullring talk show Monday. “It’s a place where we’ve learned a lot. Last year, we had some pretty decent runs, and this year we’re going in with the new car. We’re excited. I’ve had one my best years of racing and we’re just excited to get there and show what we got.”
The good news for Griffith and the LCM crew is that they won’t have the hassle of hauling the car south from the Granite State, as the car has spent little time outside the Sunshine State since its debut at the Snowball Derby.
“We left it in Smyrna at Jason Boyd’s shop just to keep it there, and he’s always been a huge help for Speedweeks and even during the season if he ever comes up or we go down. He’s been friends with Louie Mechalides for years. We actually sent it to Fury in North Carolina for some work, so my dad and Louie went down there last week and brought it back to Smyrna for me.”
The last year has been key in shaping Griffith into a winning road warrior, possessing the know-how of winning far from home.
“We traveled a lot last year and got some success out of my bubble of New Hampshire and the local area. It’s weird, I’m a little more comfortable at New Smyrna compared to some other places. I’ve got a lot of laps there, just not a lot of success.”
While Griffith has benefitted from his car owner/crew chief Louie Mechalides, a former World Series champion, he has had to do it in equipment meant more for the New England bullrings, rather than the fast confines of a track like New Smyrna. But that has not stopped him from getting oh so close, especially in the month of January in the New Year’s Red Eye race.
“We’ve been so close, the Red Eye we ran second and third with Bubba Pollard, and we were just good. Then a late-race restart we got jacked up and lost a couple of spots. Last year, we finished second to Choquette at the Red Eye.”
Now, Griffith hopes that all the pieces of the puzzle are finally coming together for a shot at glory in February.
“We’re right there; we just need that little bit of a push. Those guys are almost on another level, and we just need to get there. Fingers crossed, I just want one win this year at Speedweeks, that would make the whole week worth it. But it’s not easy, those guys down there are really tough and it’s a long week.”
Keep up with Derek Griffith and all the drivers in all of the divisions competing in the World Series at New Smyrna Speedway on Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage, starting with practice day this Thursday, then all nine nights of racing beginning on Friday.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com