Derek Griffith entered his 23rd career Granite State Pro Stock Series feature on Friday night at Claremont Speedway (NH) still searching for his first series win. Competing on the tour since 2012 when he was 15 years old, the now 18-year-old driver had come close to scoring that highly sought after first win before. He had shown the speed to challenge for wins, but was never able to put the whole puzzle together to end up in victory lane.
On Friday night, at a track that he had never previously raced at before, Griffith was able to put the entire puzzle together and score his first win. Griffith took the lead for the final time on lap 40 of the Claremont 125 and cruised to victory lane where the monkey was officially removed from his back.
“It feels amazing (to finally get the monkey off my back),” Griffith told Speed51.com after the race. “We’ve run so many races with these guys and I’m really glad to come here, unload, I’ve never raced here so to unload and be fast and win a race is unbelievable. I raced with Jeremy Davis and Barry Gray, some of the best guys around, Larry Gelinas and all of these guys. They’ve won Oxford 250’s and stuff, so this is amazing to be able to win and finally show I’m a competitive person in this series.”
Despite competing in 23 of the 30 Granite State Pro Stock Series events over the course of the last four seasons, Griffith had never competed at the 1/3-mile Claremont, New Hampshire oval prior to Friday night. Lucky for him, he had a guy on his side that had previous experience setting up race cars for competition at Claremont Speedway.
That guy is car owner and crew chief Louie Mechalides, a former racer himself.
“We unrolled the car from the trailer with a setup that Louie (Mechalides) has had for years,” said Griffith. “It was just fast. It was just so fast. Louie, I don’t know how he does it. To have anyone onboard, he’s like the best person to have on your team. It’s amazing. To have him set the car up and help us get this win is great.”
Getting the monkey off of his back gives Griffith loads of confidence and momentum heading into the remainder of the 2015 season. He’s shown the speed to be a top team on the series and his win Friday night only gives the team further confidence that they are now one of those teams to beat.
“It keeps the hope up that I can keep them coming,” Griffith state. “It definitely helps now that I can say I have that under my belt. It’s a confidence booster and it’s all around uplifting for the entire team, not just me. We’re finally in victory lane.”
Griffith’s win at Claremont comes just two weeks after recording a runner-up finish in the season-opening event at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park (CT). The combination of a second-place finish at Thompson and a win at Claremont will unofficially put Griffith at the top of the series championship standings heading into the next event.
Although there’s still 10 races remaining on the schedule, Griffith knows that his goal of being a championship contender is much more attainable now than it was a month ago.
“We kind of came in hoping to do some points stuff and this has just set it up so it’s more chaseable now than it was at the beginning of the season,” said Griffith.
Following Griffith across the finish line on Friday night was three-time GSPSS winner Barry Gray of Belchertown, Massachusetts. Series founder Mike Parks of Charlestown, New Hampshire rounded out the podium. 2013 series champion Mike O’Sullivan and former Oxford 250 winner Larry Gelinas completed the top-five.
The Granite State Pro Stock Series returns to action on May 23 at Monadnock Speedway (NH).
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com