Less than a month after running the most demanding Super Late Model race in the nation, the Snowball Derby, New Hampshire’s own Derek Griffith and LCM Motorsports are not wasting time getting back into action. The 12G crew has arrived in the Sunshine State once again, ready to take on the very first Super Late Model show of 2020: the Red Eye 50/50 at New Smyrna Speedway.
While the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing during Florida Speedweeks in February has always been a go-to event for Griffith, the Red Eye has been an occasional starting point for them as well. In two starts in 2015 and 2018, the two-time Kulwicki Driver Development Program finalist has always been a contender, even against Florida’s most seasoned racers.
Entering the 2020 edition, Griffith is going back with great confidence in his race car and himself. After finding speed in his new race car at the Snowball Derby and notching his first win at New Smyrna in 2019, the New Hampshire native is optimistic about his return to New Smyrna Beach.
“We’re down here already, working on the car right now after the Derby. Really looking forward to getting back to New Smyrna," Griffith told Speed51. "Last time we were there we finally had some success. We can’t wait to go get back, especially after the way we won last February. We didn’t luck our way into it, we just had a really good car, and we raced hard to get the job done.
“The Snowball finish wasn’t what we wanted for sure, but we were definitely better than where we ended up. We just messed up our first pit stop deal. We went 140 laps on the first set of tires and just missed the strategy. We’re not used to figuring out when to pit and when not to pit. But, the car was awesome there, this new Fury car should be just as good at New Smyrna as it was at Five Flags.”
Since finishing runner-up in 2018 at the Red Eye, times have changed for the New Year’s tradition, going away from a 100-lap Super Late Model headliner and transitioning to two 50-lap contests, one for Supers and the other for Pro Late Model teams. With this in mind, Griffith knows that outright speed in both qualifying and the entire race is most likely the path to success this coming Saturday night.
“Speed is going to be key, and we’ve always run alright there. We’ve run the Red Eye a couple of times and always finished decent. Funny thing is my best ever run there was when I was 14. We got to racing with Bubba and got jacked up on a restart when I was third with six to go. Since then, we’ve been chasing to get back to where we were. But after the Orange Blossom last year and the Derby, I think this is our best shot at the Red Eye.”
Perhaps the biggest takeaway for the Red Eye winner, is the right to brag about being the first Super Late Model winner of 2020 in all the land. Personally, from Griffith and the LCM camp, it fits with their annual strategy of not sitting idle and letting their valuable momentum waste away.
“It would be great to be the first winner of the year, plus we plan on doing Speedweeks, but I wouldn’t consider it a test session though. We don’t take too much time off between racing and all that, so it will be good to keep some momentum going. I think the year before, we raced in every month of the year, so I’m looking forward to getting some racing in. I might already be a little rusty.”
Griffith also hopes to use both the Red Eye and the World Series as a spring board into a bold new racing schedule going forward. The tentative plan for the new season will find Griffith outside the Northeast on a regular basis during the warmer months.
“As of right now we’re in some talks with the crew with what we want to do. We want to open up our spectrum a little bit and get more out of our comfort zone. We’ve had some success at tracks we weren’t always great at, like Oxford. We just love racing, we don’t want to limit ourselves to one specific race track. One thing we talked about was Gresham opening back up and going there. There’s places all over to race at. Every year I try to talk the guys into going out west for a big show, and who knows, it might be possible.”
Follow Speed51 this Saturday night, January 4 for Race Day Now coverage of the Red Eye 50/50 from New Smyrna Speedway. On-demand video content from the event will also be available following the race on the Speed51 Network.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Content Specialist/Northeast Correspondent – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51