Eight years ago, a teenager from Hudson, New Hampshire made the move up from Four-Cylinders to Super Late Models with the dream of building a great racing career. Since that time, Derek Griffith has established himself as one of the top Late Model drivers in the Northeast. And now, he’s preparing to take the next step forward in his career.
In an eleventh-hour deal, Griffith will compete in the season opener for the ARCA Menards Series East at New Smyrna Speedway this Monday, February 10, for ARCA powerhouse team Chad Bryant Racing. Griffith is already in town for the entire World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing with his LCM Motorsports No. 12G Super Late Model team.
“We talked to Chad about it a little while back and it didn’t really manifest that much. When we saw him Wednesday night, we just came to an agreement on everything and scrambled to get the deal finished up. Really it was a last-minute deal for us. This kind of started in January, but it just kind of came out of nowhere,” Griffith told Speed51.
While this is not the first opportunity that Griffith has had to run at this level of racing, it is the one that he has favored the most, and it is one he feels he is now ready for.
“We’ve been kind of holding out on doing something like this for a little while, because we felt like the stuff we had been offered before was not really ideal and wouldn’t really benefit me,” Griffith explained. “To do a deal with them is going to be awesome, we waited out long enough that we’ve gotten into a really good spot now. I’m on the more seasoned side of things currently, rather than jumping into something when I was younger.
“Hopefully all of our ducks are in a row here and it works out. I’m beyond excited to be involved with that team, what’s considered to be one of the best teams in that whole series is just really, really good.”
A two-time finalist in the Kulwicki Driver Development Program, Griffith owes his participation in the program to getting the ball rolling for this one race.
“Chad and Paul Andrews, who is Chad’s crew chief for ARCA, I would think he’s going to be here on Monday with us. We sat with Chad at the Kulwicki banquet, Paul Andrews was Alan Kulwicki’s crew chief, to drive a car that is crewed by the same man that did for Alan, that would be pretty fulfilling to say the least,” Griffith said.
“Not that I’m not already grateful for the Kulwicki program, but I would put that down as what got me this ride, and that would be unbelievable. It would be great for the program, too. I’m not the only one benefiting from getting something out of the program other than the championship.”
As for the possibility of races with Chad Bryant Racing beyond New Smyrna, there are no plans at the is time. But Griffith hopes that a solid performance on Monday would help his cause. With a Super Late Model win one year ago in the Orange Blossom 100 at New Smyrna, he has the experience and confidence to back his cause.
“I’d love to do more, nothing’s in stone or anything like that. Again, this is super last minute, and nothing really planned, all that. I’d love to think we could do something in the future, there’s just nothing guaranteed right now. We’ll take it how it comes and whatever happens, happens from here on out. Hopefully Sunday and Monday go smoothly for us, we do well, and we take it from there. I’d love to move on with their program, it’s just all play it by ear right now.”
The ARCA Menards Series East gets the green flag for 2020 with the Skip's Western Outfitters 175 on night number four (Monday) of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway. Speed51 will have Trackside Now coverage along with exclusive interviews on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51