Since moving up to the Super Late Models ranks five years ago at the age of 15, Derek Griffith has worked hard to make a name for himself throughout the Northeast region. With a handful of touring series wins now to his credit, Griffith is gearing up for his biggest challenge yet as he prepares for the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway (FL).
“We’re a pretty small team to be trying it,” Griffith admitted. “It took a little bit to get everything in order, it’s exciting to say the least. We went down to Pensacola last year to get a feel for everything that goes on and how it works. It’s a pretty intense weekend, people want to compare it to the Oxford 250 a lot, but with time trialing, you’ve got to pick all that speed in just those two laps. I don’t think anyone on our team isn’t excited; it’s going to be a good weekend whether we make it or we don’t. I can’t wait.”
The past three seasons have been especially impressive for the Hudson, N.H. driver. During that time, Griffith has captured a Granite State Pro Stock Series championship (2015) and multiple race victories in both the GSPSS and Pro All Stars Series (PASS) North.
The LCM team has spent close to two years gathering what they need and planning accordingly for the biggest Super Late Model race of the year. To start on the road to Pensacola, Griffith will head to Hickory Motor Speedway (NC) this Saturday, November 18 for the 300-lap Mason-Dixon MegaMeltdown to get tuned up.
“We have a good spec motor for down there; we have everything it’s going to take to hopefully get in,” he stated. “We have a newer style Lefthander chassis that we haven’t run; it’s a year old, like new. We’re going to run it this weekend at Hickory. 300 laps there is pretty big to help work the bugs out and bring it to the Snowball from there.”
Griffith joins fellow New England driver Ben Rowe, who is also digging deep with the Richard Moody Racing team, as Northeast drivers making their Snowball Derby debuts. To be able to pull off this journey, Griffith and LCM are digging deep, but are also getting help from a number of others who have volunteered time and energy.
“We’ve reached out to everyone that we can. I’m lucky I have some good sponsors that really love racing, just helping me out; FEP Insurance Agency, Hitman Industries. Running the Snowball, which is a dream up here, we got some people who normally wouldn’t help out with a race up here, help out a northern guy so we can make it down there.”
While Griffith is realistic about his chances, he knows making the 50th Snowball Derby is not only doable, but so is the possibility of a strong run. His confidence stemming from his own progress and the continued teachings of LCM team principle Louie Mechalides.
“It would be incredible. We are a small team; we do everything ourselves. I’m lucky to have Louie, he’s really smart with this stuff. He ran Speedweeks a lot, but he’s never run over at Pensacola. He just helps me out, it’s not like some of these development teams that get tons of money and stuff like that. We go down every night to the shop, six toe eleven at night we’re working on race cars. He’s taught me everything. He’s taught me how to drive and he’s taught me how to work on them.”
Griffith also has another goal in mind for the Derby: getting his name out to an even larger audience; not so much for a top-tier ride, but just more backing for what he considers one of the best low-budget teams in the nation.
“You saw almost a Cinderella Story last year with Christian Eckes. He did a good job and he got everyone’s attention. You always hear the stories of everyone going big from the Snowball Derby. What we need going forward is some big backing, some big sponsorship and that would propel us forward to more racing and maybe some racing higher up in the NASCAR ranks. We’ve had some opportunities, but we’re just short on the money part to be honest. Maybe one day. If we have a good finish, maybe we can turn some heads.”
Griffith will join a stout field of Super Late Model drivers during the 50th Annual Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway. Race fans unable to make the trip to Pensacola, FL will be able to watch all five days of racing via a live television-style broadcast on Speed51.com. Live video tickets can be purchased today by clicking here.
-By: Connor Sullivan, Speed51.com CT, MA, RI & Long Island Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo Credit: Speed51.com/MoJo Photos