While many Super Late Model teams in New England are still busy preparing for the 2017 season, a pair of teams recently made a trip south to New Smyrna Speedway (FL). New Hampshire’s Derek Griffith and Maine’s Garrett Hall both competed in the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing during a two-week span in February.
Over the course of the nine nights of racing, Griffith and Hall competed in the Super Late Model division against some of the toughest racers in the country. The New Englanders recorded mixed results against tough competition, but both made their way back to the wintry Northeast having learned a few things.
“It was fun; I wish we could’ve done a little bit better, but we learned more,” said Hall, who recorded a best finish of 11th during the week. “I think that last race, the 100 lapper there, I was running in seventh and that was the best the car was going before a wire burned up.”
Griffith recorded a career-best Speedweeks finish of sixth last Tuesday night on his way to an eighth-place finish in the overall standings. For a driver who had experienced nothing but bad luck in his three previous trips to the World Series, the week was considered a big success.
“It was definitely an improvement from the last couple years we’ve been there,” Griffith said. “The only luck I usually have down there is bad luck. We had some decent runs throughout the week. We unloaded and we were kind of off the pace. We just worked on it and all of the people down there that race are down there a lot more than we are. We tinkered on it and got it to go pretty good. It was better than I thought it would have been after last year.”
While Hall’s results didn’t match up to his career-best finish of ninth in 2016, he still felt that his team improved from their previous trip to Florida.
“I’d say we improved a little bit,” Hall stated. “We had a different car this year so we went down there trying to learn that better and get a better notebook and statistics on what the car will do.”
Bad luck did bite both drivers on two separate occasions during the nine-day event.
Hall, who had converted his race-winning Super Late Model into a Pro Late Model, experienced a hard crash on the backstretch during Thursday’s PLM feature. According to Hall, the car that won at both Thompson (CT) and Speedway 95 (ME) will need a new front clip and maybe more.
“It’s pretty bad. It definitely needs a front clip,” Hall said of the damage. “We’ve got to kind of look at it a little bit closer to make sure it’s not completely junk.”
Griffith’s bad luck came in the form of a crash during the final night of racing. Contact with the outside wall during the 100-lap race knocked the spoiler off of his No. 12, forcing him to retire early and record a 21st-place finish.
“We had a really good car that last night and we kind of got turned around,” Griffith explained. “I nicked the wall just enough to lose the spoiler, so at a place like that you definitely need the downforce so I just pulled it in.”
A few memories from the week that Griffith won’t forget were his ongoing battles with Florida racing legend David Rogers. He compared Rogers to another racing legend from his own region, “The Maine Racing Legend” Mike Rowe.
“Every year we go down he is pitted a couple spots over. He’s always been the same thing like Mike Rowe; he’ll talk to you and help you out in any way he can. He’s like a cool old dude, really,” Griffith said with a laugh.
“He’s got tons of cool stories. One of the first couple night we got together and I ended up climbing the backstretch wall when he was underneath me. It was a racing deal; he came over and apologized after the race. It was cool to race with him and it’s cool to see him do pretty well because I know he’s had some pretty bad luck like us the last couple years at Speedweeks.”
Despite the ups and downs they experienced during the week at New Smyrna, both drivers were able to take advantage of the off days and have some fun in the Sunshine State.
“Sunday, me and the team went over and went go-karting near Daytona and that was fun,” Hall said. “A couple nights that it rained out, it was a bummer because if they didn’t rain out we would’ve been a little bit more ahead at the end of the week.”
“Me and my younger sister almost went to Daytona, but they had that 100-lap Modified race at New Smyrna, so I actually sat up in the stands for once. I don’t get to sit up in the stands too much, so we sat up in the stands and watched,” Griffith stated. “It was pretty wild racing going on with those Mod guys. Other than that, we cruised on the beach and the food down there is pretty good. We had a good time, though. It’s always fun to head down to Speedweeks, even if you have a bad week you can make up for it.”
Both drivers made their way back to the New England region early this week and will now shift their focus to the PASS North season-opening Icebreaker at Thompson. One year ago, Hall won the Icebreaker and Griffith finished second after their early-season trips to New Smyrna.
-By Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com