Derek Griffith earned his fifth career Short Track Draft pick Thursday night, continuing a steady climb up the draft rankings. Breaking onto draft boards with the 49th pick in 2016, Griffith earned the third-overall pick in the 2020 Short Track Draft.
Before this year, Griffith’s best selection was 12th in 2018. The 23-year-old New Hampshire native has been a standout for several years in the Northeast, winning the Pro All Stars Series National Championship in 2018 and the Granite State Pro Stock Series title in 2015.
However, a trip south this February earned Griffith widespread acclaim. At the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing in New Smyrna, Griffith won the Super Late Model championship and turned heads with a second-place finish in his ARCA Menards Series East debut with Chad Bryant Racing.
That ARCA performance allowed Griffith to find backing for a full campaign with the series, where he could further improve his stock with strong performances throughout the year. The runner-up finish at New Smyrna did plenty to catch the eye of Short Track Draft voters.
Griffith scored nine first-place votes out of the more than 50 industry experts who submitted ballots. Only number-one pick Sam Mayer had more, with 13 first-place votes. Griffith led all drivers in top-five votes (30) and was less than one percentage point behind Mayer in quality votes.
So, what kept Griffith from one of the top two spots in the Short Track Draft? Only 42 submitted ballots included Griffith, compared to 43 for Sam Mayer and 48 for number-two pick Hailie Deegan. Those omissions, especially with Mayer and Deegan posting similar metrics in other categories, prevented the New Hampshire driver from scoring a higher draft position.
What might have prevented Griffith from scoring votes with more panelists? There are a couple of factors to consider.
While Griffith unquestionably shined in his ARCA Menards Series East debut, it was his first appearance in a stock car. Mayer and Deegan have both gained experience in the heavier cars over the past couple of years, scoring wins and a championship in Mayer’s case.
Short Track Draft voters tend to weigh success in stock car series such as the ARCA Menards Series or what is now ARCA Menards Series East and West, considering it a precursor to the vehicles raced in the upper echelons of NASCAR.
It’s also worth noting that, for whatever reason, Northeast drivers as a whole have not always gotten their due in the Short Track Draft with voters. Yes, New York’s Christian Eckes was number-three in the 2019 Draft, but that came after years of success competing with both ARCA and in some of the biggest races in the South, including wins in the Snowball Derby and the Myrtle Beach 400.
Austin Theriault narrowly missed out on the top pick in 2018, even with the benefit of the 2017 ARCA Championship, as he was searching for a consistent ride around draft time. Even Ryan Preece, now in the NASCAR Cup Series, never managed better than third in the Short Track Draft. To find a top pick from the Northeast, you have to go back to the very first Short Track Draft, when Ryan Moore was the first pick in 2004.
Fortunately, Griffith is already on course to resolve both of these question marks in 2020. His second-place ARCA East finish after leading the lion’s share of the race showed Griffith can compete in a stock car and earned him a shot at more races during the season.
Should he enjoy a successful year in ARCA East in 2020 when racing resumes, Griffith will undoubtedly be one of the favorites for the 2021 top pick.
Did you miss the 2020 Short Track Draft Selection Show? You can watch the full show, including Griffith’s post-selection interview, now on Speed51 by clicking here.
-Story by: Zach Evans, Speed51 Content Supervisor – Twiter: @ztevans