Concord, N.C. – New England drivers are a tight bunch. Sure, they have their differences on and off the track, but they tend to always look out for each other when they are on the road. While racers from the Northeast may enjoy an unparalleled level of camaraderie, there is still a home state pride that is second to none among those from Maine, Vermont, and New Hampshire, respectively.
For 2018 Kulwicki Driver Development Program (KDDP) finalist Derek Griffith and 2016 program runner-up Dave Farrington, a strong bond really did not exist between the two top Super Late Model competitors until recently. During the 2018 racing season, the 25-year-old veteran Farrington is providing mentorship and advice to the hard-charging 21-year-old Griffith as he hopes to be the first Kulwicki Cup champion from New England.
While the two drivers had raced against each other for several years, they really had not talked much at the track until last season. That all changed last May when Griffith and Farrington were attempting to compete in the PASS North race on the 4/10ths-mile oval at Montmagny, QC, Canada. While Griffith and his Hudson, New Hampshire-based team had no troubles crossing the Canadian border, Farrington and his team were waylaid. In fact, three of Farrington’s crewmen were turned away by border officials. Farrington drove them all back home to his Jay, Maine, race shop, slept for a few hours and hit the road early the next morning all by himself.
When Farrington finally arrived at the track, he needed help unloading the car, pushing it through the inspection line and just general support. Enter the team of Derek Griffith. Pitted next to Farrington, Griffith’s team helped with tires and even provided a spotter for the day. What transpired was the ultimate example of incredible sportsmanship between the two drivers who were running all the series races and competing for the points championship.
“Derek’s team was more than willing to help out,” said Farrington, who somehow balances a full schedule of racing while also holding down a fulltime job as an area supervisor building United States Navy warships. “I mean, racers are racers. We are competitors, but we are always willing to help each other out.”
“Dave has always been a quiet, reserved guy,” said Griffith, who began to make his name heard in 2012 when at the age of 15 he started touring with the Granite State Pro Stock Series. “He shows up at the track and does what he needs to do. Dave is all business, just like Alan Kulwicki, actually. The situation in Quebec just seemed to unfold pretty automatically, though. We were more than willing to help out. We had a full crew that day and could spare a few hands. We were happy to do it.”
At the end of the day in that race, the “PASS Habitation Dany Lagace 150” at Autodrome Montmagny, Farrington actually beat Griffith on the track, posting a sixth-place finish. Griffith was also among the 11 drivers completing all 150 laps and was credited with a 10th-place finish.
A favor done requires a favor returned and Farrington has taken a special personal interest in Griffith’s run for the 2018 Kulwicki Cup. “Derek is going to be a great representative for the Kulwicki program this season,” said Farrington, who was the 2014 Beech Ridge Speedway track champion and also finished fifth in the inaugural Kulwicki Cup battle in 2015. “We came up a little short in 2016 and I really want to see that Cup up here in New England. Derek knows that I’m willing to help him all I can.”
Griffith has asked Farrington for advice on how to balance on-track success with the off-track charity and volunteer work that is an essential part of the program and important factor in accumulating Kulwicki Cup points. “Dave approached me at Oxford Plains a couple of weeks ago and passed along some hats and other swag to share with the fans this season,” Griffith said. “He let me know that he’s there for me if I have any questions and that means so much. Sharing all the details about our charitable work is a challenge for us. We’ve always been active and just done it without talking much about it.”
Griffith has worked with homeless veterans in his home state of New Hampshire for the last year or so and has become a supporter of the 50 Legs Foundation, which provides prosthetic limbs to children, adults and military veterans who want to live an active lifestyle.
“This season, our fans on Twitter and Facebook are going to learn about the organizations we support,” Griffith said. “It was great to work with 50 Legs at the PASS race at Star (NH) Speedway this past week. Steve Chamberlain and his team are doing great work and we’re honored to be a part of it. We plan on continuing our involvement with those guys and we urge all of our fans to support them, also.”
The 2018 season has already been successful for both drivers’ on-track ventures. Griffith has two PASS National Series victories; at Dillon (SC) Motor Speedway and Thompson (CT) Speedway Motorsports Park, along with a handful of top-10 finishes. Farrington picked up the win in the season-opener at Wiscasset (ME) Speedway. Griffith plans to chase PASS points again this year, while Farrington plans to focus on his home track of Beech Ridge Speedway and pick up a few races elsewhere in the region.
“This season is all about having fun for us,” said Farrington. “We are going to take it week by week and see where the schedule takes us.” In his spare time, Farrington is keeping a close eye on the 2018 Kulwicki Cup competitors. “I am always watching; following along on social media and looking to see something new and unique when it comes to community engagement. These drivers have a big task ahead of them, but I’m confident they can build off of what’s been done in the past and do even bigger and better things, Derek included.”
This season marks the fourth fully-functioning year for the KDDP, which was established in 2014 by the family of late NASCAR Champion Alan Kulwicki for the purpose of helping worthy drivers toward reaching their dreams while at the same time keeping Alan’s memory and legacy alive. Griffith, along with Cole Butcher, Justin Carroll, Molly Helmuth, Justin Mondeik, Brett Yackey and Brittney Zamora make up the seven-driver 2018 KDDP class. All drivers receive a stipend of $7,777 and compete for the rich KDDP points championship, awarding the winner a check for $54,439 and the special unique Kulwicki Cup trophy.
The Kulwicki Cup competition goes from April 1 through Oct. 31. The contest’s points system is based on a combination of judging input from members of the advisory board and the drivers’ on-track performance. Drivers are given points for both their success in chasing checkered flags and for community engagement, program representation and social media activities. Seymour, Wisconsin’s Ty Majeski won the inaugural Kulwicki Cup in 2015, while Alex Prunty, of Lomira, Wisconsin, claimed the 2016 KDDP Championship. Marietta, Georgia’s Cody Haskins returned from being a 2016 finalist (finished sixth) to win last year’s Kulwicki Cup title.
The KDDP urges you to keep up with all of its news and activities by regularly visiting Speed51.com, the organization’s official media partner.
-KDDP Press Release & Photo