For the second time in six days, Derek Griffith held a $10,000 check in victory lane Saturday night at Lee USA Speedway. Griffith of Hudson, New Hampshire took the lead from Eddie MacDonald on Lap 38 and never looked back on his way to winning the inaugural Freedom 300.
Griffith’s win at the Lee, New Hampshire oval came just five days after winning the inaugural $10,000 Granite State Nationals at Claremont Motorsports Park (NH). He admitted after the race that he wasn’t as confident heading into the feature as he was last Sunday at Claremont.
“Coming into this race, we unloaded and we were off. Like off, off. We ended up like 11th fastest in practice and qualified seventh,” Griffith said. “I was like, ‘Oh man, it’s going to be a long day.’ But I don’t know, there’s something about this place that we seem to run good. I got my first ever Pro Stock win here in 2012. It’s been a place that we just do really well here, and I like racing here.”
Originally scheduled as a 150-lap race, Friday night’s race at Lee was reduced to 100 laps due to a 12 a.m. town curfew that was quickly approaching.
After starting seventh, Griffith methodically worked his way to the front during the early stages of the race. Eventually, he powered the No. 12G around MacDonald on Lap 38 and pulled away to win the shortened race.
“It was pretty cool racing with Eddie,” Griffith said. “His father is a former owner of this race track, and it’s always cool racing with him. I’m sure he didn’t want to finish (third) but I had a lot of fun racing with him. He ran me super clean; it was a good race.”
After celebrating in victory lane, Griffith admitted that he was unsure of what may have happened had the race run the scheduled distance.
“I think it could’ve gone a couple different ways if we ran it out,” he said. “It seemed like Eddie was saving a little bit. He turned it on quick and then we caught lapped traffic and I kind of wiggled ahead. Dolly (Mechalides) came over the radio and said we only had about 20 minutes to finish the race. I had a feeling they were going to call it early because of the time frame stuff. I decided it was time to go. I still tried to save as much as I could but I really wanted to get a little distance. I think that was the right strategy at the end. If we had a yellow there late in the race, it probably would’ve been a pretty darn good race because I definitely used it up a little bit to stay up front there.”
MacDonald, who considers Lee USA Speedway a home track, took over the lead from polesitter Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. on Lap 25 and led until Griffith took command 13 laps later. After receiving word that the race would be shortened, “The Outlaw” turned up the wick and began chasing down Griffith. However, with less than 10 laps to go MacDonald pushed it too hard and hit the frontstretch wall, relegating him to a third-place finish.
“It was a really good race. Derek did a heck of a job; congratulations to those guys,” MacDonald said. “We had a pretty good car; we were really happy with the car. We were just trying to ride it out and save as much as we could to have something at the end. Then they called over the radio that it was going to be a 100-lap race. I pushed it a little bit too hard and got into the wall. At least we ended up third, but I would’ve like to challenge him for the win at the end there.”
Mike Hopkins, who was driving the No. 93CT typically piloted by Ray Christian III, snuck by MacDonald late in the race to finish second. His runner-up finish continued a strong stretch that includes a top-five Oxford 250 finish, as well as a second in the Boss Hogg 150 at Wiscasset (ME) one week ago.
“The momentum and confidence is going on our side,” Hopkins said. “Ben and the Crazy Horse guys gave me the opportunity and asked me to come drive this thing. It was pretty good, but I over adjusted I think and cost us a chance for it. Griffith is on a pretty good roll, too. Two weeks in a row with ten grand plus. I can’t thank Lee enough for putting it on. We’ll keep chugging away and maybe we can win one of these things.”
A hard-charging Joey Doirion finished fourth and Joey Pole completed the top-five after leading the opening 24 laps.
With $20,000 in purse money collected over the last six days, one might wonder how Griffith will be spending his money. Unfortunately for him, there are no trips to Disney currently planned.
“After the (Oxford) 250, we had some tore up stuff so it’s getting recouped right back into the race car I’m sure,” he joked. “A good couple weeks. Big checks, I like big checks.”
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51