Two of the Northeast’s best Late Model racers put on a show for the ages Friday night at Star Speedway. Derek Griffith and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. showed the fans in attendance what short track racing is all about, battling tooth-and-nail over the final 17 laps of the Granite State Pro Stock Series Vynorius Piledriving 100. When the checkered flag waved, it was “Joey Pole” taking the win over Griffith by just 0.040 seconds at the finish line.
“It’s unbelievable, really. We’ve been close a lot of times this year and we’ve had great runs, but there’s nothing like winning,” Pole told Speed51.TV. “It had been bothering us a little bit, to be honest with you, that we hadn’t been able to get a win yet. To go up against Griffith, who in my opinion is one of the best in the country right now, to hold him off on the outside like that means the world to me and our team to get a win and do it in that fashion.”
Starting from the pole position, Griffith jumped out to the lead early and showed the way until a Lap 83 restart. Polewarczyk lined up to his outside for the restart and used a good run to quickly steal the lead before the yellow flag waved one lap later.
Perhaps the most important decision of the night occurred prior to the ensuing restart when Pole, as the leader, elected to once again restart on the outside. That set up a side-by-side battle with Griffith that saw the two drivers from Hudson, NH swap the lead multiple times over the final 17 laps.
“We just got the lead on the outside and I had visions back to when I ran Wayne Helliwell here back in the ACT race back in 2013,” Pole said of his decision. “The top really worked for me, so I made the decision to go up there. My dad came on the radio because I didn’t really say anything and with one to go he says, ‘What are you doing?!’ It worked out and I knew if I could kind of take his line away a little bit and get the runs off the corner and stay there so he couldn’t run up on his line that we’d have a shot. I just had to stay there for 17 laps and luckily we were able to do it.”
At first, Griffith was also surprised by Pole’s decision to take the outside on the restart. But after the final 17 laps, he had a good understanding of why he made the decision.
“I definitely was [surprised]. He got me on that restart but he kind of started to roll before I did,” Griffith said. “I figured with me on the bottom it was my time to roll a little early. I tried to roll a little bit early but he was just good up there. He could take my line away. He had a lot of grip up there. It didn’t seem like he could make the bottom work as well as he could make the top work. It seemed like that’s probably where he made up a lot of his ground tonight. But yeah, I wasn’t too surprised after we ran side-by-side for 15 laps. I was like, ‘Man, he made the right choice.’”
For Griffith, the finish to Friday night’s race was one of the closest of his young career.
“I got up off turn four pretty good and it got a little free on me. I saw his nose just peeking out the corner of my eye and he just got me,” Griffith said. “I could tell he got me. I looked up at the scoreboard just in case but he definitely earned it. Props to those guys for sure.”
After battling hard and swapping a little paint during the closing laps, both Griffith and Pole had nothing but kind words for each other.
“It can get a little too tight too quick [at Star], but I can appreciate how well he ran me and he’s run me my whole career really really well,” Griffith said. “I’ve looked up to him a lot over the years, so it’s cool to race side-by-side with someone I consider my idol.”
“I’ve really got to thank Derek. It’s a lot of trust to have someone on your inside here like that because all it takes is one mistake from either of you to screw it up,” Pole stated. “It was good knowing he was underneath me to where we could run hard like that. That’s what fans want to see: good, hard clean racing like that. A little bit of beating and banging but that’s what short track racing is all about.”
Ryan Kuhn recorded a career-best Granite State Pro Stock Series finish by crossing the line in third. Ray Christian III bounced back from a mishap early in the race to finish fourth, while Jake Matheson completed the top five. Full results from the race can be found at the bottom of this story.
Unofficially, Polewarczyk holds a two-point advantage over Christian in the championship standings heading into the series' next event at New London-Waterford Speedbowl next Saturday, September 26.
Video highlights of Friday’s Granite State Pro Stock Series race can be viewed now on Speed51.TV.
-Story by: Brandon Paul, Speed51 Content Manager – Twitter: @Brandon_Paul51
-Photo credit: Tom Morris / GSPSS
Granite State Pro Stock Series Unofficial Results
Star Speedway (NH) - September 18, 2020
|1||97||Joey Polewarczyk, Jr.|
|4||93CT||Ray Christian III|
|13||12P||Bobby Pelland III|