Derek Griffith has been making the trip from Hudson, New Hampshire to New Smyrna Beach, Florida since 2013. Since that time, he had been unable to find the perfect mixture of speed and luck to put his No. 12G in victory lane. That all changed in a big way Saturday night when Griffith scored one of the biggest wins of his career in the Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna Speedway.
In addition to the victory coming in the shadows of Daytona during Daytona 500 weekend, the win lifted a huge monkey off the shoulders of Griffith and his LCM Motorsports team.
“Oh man, this place has just killed us," Griffith said on FansChoice.TV. "To come home and win this, I think we really won this race; we didn’t really get lucky. We played the strategy right. Everyone was on the radio saying, ‘Calm down, let them drive it out.’ Man, this thing was just fast tonight.
“I’ve been coming down here for six years and every year we just have awful luck. We had a real strong run earlier this week and we’ve been struggling with some tires and stuff. To win the hundred lapper, thank God."
Griffith, the 2018 PASS National Champion, qualified eighth and started on the pole following an invert of eight after qualifying. He jumped out to the early lead and stayed out front for nine laps before giving the lead up to Jett Noland on Lap 10. From there, Griffith settled in and didn't appear as though he'd be a contender for the victory.
Following the only caution of the race on Lap 50, Noland jumped back out to the lead while Griffith mixed it up with Travis Braden for second. After he cleared Braden, Griffith chased down Noland and took back the lead on Lap 76. The 2018 Kulwicki Development driver was unchallenged from there.
"Two night ago, we kind of fell back and the night before we qualified 12th and finished fifth in a green-to-checkered 35-lapper, so we knew this thing was fast all week," Griffith said. "We just needed some luck and it finally came our way. The invert was perfect. I let those guys go and here we are.”
Bubba Pollard, who won three of the previous five races during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, set fast time in qualifying and started eighth after the invert. The Senoia, Georgia driver rocketed through the field in the David Rogers No. 11 and found himself in third, less than a second behind the leader, with 20 laps to go.
At that point, Pollard's charge to the front was slowed as Noland battled him tough for the second position, allowing Griffith to extend his lead up front. Pollard would ultimately take over the runner-up spot, but it was not soon enough to chase down Griffith for a chance at the victory.
“When you race around idiots, you’ve just got to be patient. That’s all there is to it," Pollard said after the race. "All the haters out there, yeah I’m crying because I lost because I had a good car. It’s part of it. We had a car capable of winning tonight. It’s tough to start that far back and only have one caution throughout the race.
“Congratulations to Derek. He’s a good guy. I’m proud he won. They’re good people. Just all in all, a good week. Championship is good. Coming out here, I would’ve like to won. I feel like we had a car capable of doing it, we just needed a couple breaks there. A couple cautions and I think we would’ve had something for them.”
With his second-place finish, Pollard clinched the Super Late Model World Series championship in his first attempt.
“It’s special to these guys," Pollard said. "I wish David a get well and hopefully he comes back soon and gets to drive this thing again here soon. I think we got it tuned up right. We had a couple days to work on it, so I think it’s doing good.”
Noland, a 15-year-old Late Model rookie driving for Jett Motorsports, led more laps than any other driver before ultimately finishing third. Noland's Jett Motorsports teammate Tate Fogleman finished fourth and USAC Midget National Champion Logan Seavey completed the top five.
For on-demand coverage of Saturday's Orange Blossom 100, visit Speed51.com's Trackside Now.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51.com Editor - Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Speed51.com
Orange Blossom 100 Unofficial Results
February 16, 2019 - New Smyrna Speedway (FL)