Fans from around the United States kept a close eye on the action at New Smyrna Speedway (FL) with the ARCA Menards Series East kicking off its season. Super Late Model standout Derek Griffith caught many of those eyes with his performance, with many fellow racers taking to social media to offer their praise.
Griffith, making his first-ever start in the series, led most of the 175-lap event. However, per series rules he was required to make one pit stop during the race, which he and the Chad Bryant Team elected to do during a caution on lap 144.
That, along with a penalty on pit entry, placed Griffith 13thin the closing laps of the race, but with considerably fresher tires than his competition who had pitted near the halfway mark. The New Hampshire driver quickly charged through the field, taking the second position with eight laps to go.
Griffith then closed the gap on leader Sam Mayer, nearly catching him just before the checkered flag fell.
The late race pursuit caught the eyes of many racers, hoping to see Griffith get more opportunities in the Stock Car series.
NASCAR Xfinity Series racer and former ARCA Menards Series champion Chase Briscoe was one of the notables impressed by Griffith’s performance.
“Thought the @ChadBryantRace guys were gonna pull that one off, easily the class of the field,” Briscoe tweeted. “@DerekGriffith12 did an awesome job for his first @ARCA_Racing start. Hope you guys can race more together.”
Another Xfinity racer, Noah Gragson, offered his condolences and tweeted, “Bummed for Derek. Was on rails tonight. Heck of a job tonight.”
Many in the Modified community were tuned in, with the Tour-type Modifieds competing in their first race of the World Series.
Six-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Doug Coby posted on Facebook, “Derek Griffith #MAGA Making ARCA Great Again.
“Head turning run first time in the series. Fun to watch. #puthimincoach.”
Another former Whelen Modified Tour champion, Justin Bonsignore, tweeted, “@DerekGriffith12 is a wheelman and a great interview.”
The reception has been just another sweet bonus to being a part of an incredible debut in the series, a strong run on one of the biggest stages he has competed on.
“It was just such a cool opportunity to be a part of. Seeing everyone online and seeing the way they’re talking about what happened is pretty cool, for sure.”
While Griffith was back at New Smyrna Speedway on Tuesday to compete in his Super Late Model, he was up until 2:00 a.m. replying to many of the well-wishers on social media.
Even on Tuesday afternoon, his phone was still ringing off the hook with well-wishers.
“I woke up this morning and my phone was blowing up. It wouldn’t stop ringing. Everyone back home is happy. It’s cool to have New England rooting for us. There were so many messages, texts, posts, other stuff, I still haven’t been able to go through them all.”
Griffith will continue to compete throughout the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in his Super Late Model. Racing continues on Tuesday, and fans unable to attend in person can follow Speed51’s Trackside Now coverage, presented by StopTech.
Fans can also visit Speedweeks Central for a one-stop shop of stories, videos, updates and more throughout Florida Speedweeks.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twitter: @ztevans
-Photo credit: Speed51 Photo