Column By: STEPHEN DURHAM / RPW – HUDSON, NH – This week will be a historic week in Wilkesboro, North Carolina, as multiple series make the trip to the legendary track of North Wilkesboro Speedway.
The headline of the week is the NASCAR Cup Series making it’s return for the first time since late September of 1996, when Jeff Gordon won, Dale Earnhardt finished second, and many other legends were in the field.
This was four months before New England’s own Derek Griffith was even born in February of 1997.
Griffith will be making the trip to North Wilkesboro to compete next Tuesday, May 16th with the ASA Stars National Tour Super Late Models, in the ECMD 150. 19 states and one Canadian province have filed for entry for the ECMD 150, and Griffith is the lone driver from New England.
For Griffith, like many others next week, will be the first time he gets to see the historic track, and for him, words can’t describe how special it is.
“It’s probably one of the coolest short track events, and really even coolest racing event in America,” Griffith excitedly says, “I hope this whole week can continue for the years to come.”
For the Hudson, New Hampshire driver, he thinks there will be a lot to take in and appreciate the event happening for many visiting from all around the United States.
“With is being the inaugural year of the All-Star Race for NASCAR and all the other series going on, I don’t know if people realize how special it will be,” Griffith explains, “I think it’s going to be a lot more special than what we all expect it to be, I think it’s going to go down as a tradition for a long time I hope, so it’s cool to be apart of this first time event.”
With a historic week ahead at North Wilkesboro Speedway, there is a star studded field already entered for the ASA Stars National Tour, with already 55 drivers entered. This list includes NASCAR Cup Series champion Chase Elliott, and NASCAR regulars like Daniel Suarez, Erik Jones, Noah Gragson, and others.
“The week has just bred some of the most star-studded entry lists I have ever seen before,” Griffith says “it’s pretty cool to see, sharing with the talent in the CARS tour the day after us, and then how cool is it that we are a late model division that’s going to be sharing a track with the NASCAR All-Star race within a week of each other, that’s pretty damn cool.”
For Griffith, it will be his first time running with the ASA Stars National Tour and is looking forward to bringing his Fury Chassis super late model to the historic racetrack.
“We have a little bit to learn with how the procedures work with the ASA and how they do things, I know they do stage breaks and pit stops” explains Griffith, “it will be interesting to try and learn and take all those things in.”
Griffith, who usually can be found towards the front of the field when racing with the Pro All Star Series across New England at any given track, will first set his sights on qualifying into the show.
“First thing we will set out for is qualifying into the race, that will be the biggest thing and then take it from there” Griffith explains, “for those in the show, I’m not sure anyone will try and save anything at all with how many times we can stop, I think it’s going to be all out racing from the drop of the green.”
For Derek Griffith, he is coming off his first Pro All Star Series win in 2023 at the famed Thunder Road in Vermont, and will look to build on that momentum at North Wilkesboro Speedway and into the summer.
“It’s been a while since we have gotten back to victory lane around here in a super late model, so it felt good to get that monkey off our back and get back to where we’d like to be,” Griffith says “we want to win so bad and we’ve been so fortunate to have a couple of years of good runs, so to almost go an entire year without winning one, it took its toll on us at times, so definitely looking to keep winning as this year goes.”
DG12 and his team will miss this weekend’s PASS race at Oxford as he heads down to North Wilkesboro early Sunday morning. Griffith is especially thankful for all those behind him that help him get to these special races.
“Big thanks to dad, Louie and Dolly Mechalides, Ricky and Andrea, then all my great sponsors are always behind me, and all those that come and help me, this list could go on forever,” Griffith says.