As Travis Benjamin celebrated his third Oxford 250 victory Sunday night, there was also a subdued celebration going on to his right on the frontstretch at Oxford Plains Speedway. There may not have been loud cheers and bright lights shining on runner-up finisher Derek Griffith, but a second-place finish at a track his team has struggled mightily at was enough to put big smiles on their faces.
After two solid practice days, the 2018 Pro All Stars Series National champion entered the day with a lucky pill draw for heat racing and ultimately turned that into a victory in his heat race. He then proceeded to stay in contention and rise through the field late, taking advantage of late yellow flags to get second place from DJ Shaw, while giving Benjamin a run for the $25,000 winner’s check on a restart with four laps to go.
“We’re so excited, this is like a win for us really in a sense," Griffith told Speed51. "To have a shot at winning it, we were P3 and we got DJ, and we stayed ahead of DJ. I was worried about that last restart and getting freight-trained on the bottom because we were way better on the bottom than on the top. I can’t put it in to words. I was praying just to finish top three with a chance to win this thing, and it worked."
Admittedly, Griffith did grade himself down for the final restart, but he was also happy to just have a shot at all the marbles.
“It took a little longer to clean the track up than I would’ve wanted, I was hoping to hit it right back, because I had too much time to think," the Kulwicki Driver Development Program chauffeur stated. "DJ didn’t fire off that well on that restart, and (spotter) Dolly (Mechalides) was like, ‘Clear low, clear low,' so I crossed. I think I would’ve had a little better chance to get racing with (Benjamin) a little harder if I eased into the bottom, but I panicked and dove to the bottom there.”
Naturally, Griffith was quick to credit the entire Louie Mechallides led LCM Motorsport 12G crew, who have stuck by Griffith since he made the move to Super Late Models/Pro Stocks in 2015.
“I can’t thank my guys enough. We’ve struggled here for years and they believed in me long enough to tough it out here and try to do well. I think tonight is a pretty good step forward, especially here, because we’re going to be racing a lot here in the future."
"A lot has to do with the Fury race car we’ve been running, we’ve been working on it all year. We’ve been making small gains all year with it, and we’re starting to get pretty comfortable with it. Louie Mechallides knows what to do when it comes to it. We work really well together. I tell him what’s wrong, he fixes it and from there it’s all glue. We glue together. That last pit stop, we changed a bunch of stuff, and man it was a rocket ship, just not as good as Travis.”
With such a strong performance coming out of the Oxford 250, Griffith and the LCM team are looking to another 250-lap marathon, this time north of the border for $75,000-to-win in the Canadian Short Track Nationals this coming weekend at Jukasa Motor Speedway.
“It’s been a long weekend and we had a lot of fun. Oxford, like I said all week, has beaten the crap out of us for five years. To finish second in the 250 for us, we’re going to hold our heads high, and move on to Jukasa next weekend now that we’re in one piece.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Melissa Strahley