Across New England, there are a handful of towns that have produced some incredible racing talent. Whether it’s something in the water, the air, or just some kind of magical force, there’s no denying fact.

Milton, Vermont, produced the Hall of Fame Dragon brothers, Beaver and Bobby; Turner, Maine, has been home to generations of talent, including the Rowes (Ben, Mike and Tommy); while down in southern New Hampshire, the little town of Hudson has produced winning drivers since the 1970s.

First, it was ‘Dynamite’ Dave Dion, who tore it up all over the Northeast in his familiar orange No. 29 Fords. Next, a young driver with a difficult last name hit the American-Canadian Tour (ACT). Joey Polewarczyk Jr. won every major race in the region, including the Milk Bowl and the Oxford 250.

Today, another rising star from Hudson is making a name for himself in Super Late Model racing. Twenty-year-old Derek Griffith won the Granite State Pro Stock Series (GSPSS) championship in 2015 before moving on to the Pro All-Stars Series (PASS) circuit last year.

Griffith notched his second career PASS North victory on June 18, winning at Speedway 95 against the best SLM drivers in the business. Things are rolling along nicely in 2017, and Griffith says there are a few reasons for his success.

“I think there are a lot of factors responsible for our improved performance in 2017,” Griffith said. “We have a very good car, for one, and I feel like I’m getting better at giving feedback on handling which helps us adjust the chassis setup.”

With today’s finicky Super Late Models, you’re either right-on, or you’re junk.

“A lot of the guys we race against every week have been running these cars for years,” Griffith explained. “They’ve tried a lot more chassis setups and shock packages than we have in that time. I’m still learning, but I’m starting to get it.

“We’ve had some bad luck and some good luck this year. We’re hoping that win in Bangor can propel us into a strong second half, as well. We’d like to notch another victory before all is said and done.”

Getting that monkey off his back last month at Speedway 95 did a lot to boost team morale and get things headed in the right direction.

“We knew we were a good enough team to contend for race wins,” he said. “But we were also plagued by bad luck for a long while. Things like a water pump belt at Beech Ridge, or bleeder valves sticking at Thunder Road, silly stuff like that.

“To finally have it all work out for us in Bangor was a big relief. The competition level is phenomenal this year. It’s getting very difficult to win in PASS North.”

Griffith has a dedicated race team behind his efforts, one he’s quick to credit for the on-track success.

“I have to thank Louie Mechalides, to start, since he’s been tutoring me since I got hooked up with him,” he said. “He had an incredible driving career, and now I get to learn from him every week. His sister, Dolly, is my spotter and absolutely means the world to me.

“My father bought my first race car for $700 and has done more for my career than words can express,” Griffith added. “We also have Peter MacLellan, who is constantly working no matter what day it is. Danny Whitman at Hitman Firearms and McKennedy Masonry are also great partners. Our team is very much like one big family.”

Not one to wait until the snow melted here in New England to start racing, the LCM squad headed south back in late winter to get a jump on the season.

Two trips to North Carolina brought mixed results; yet the car ran strong overall and the experience proved they could run competitively.

“We led laps at both of those races,” Griffith said. “At Orange County, I think we led 125 laps. I had some trouble with the shifting linkage on a late restart, which hurt our finish. I was leading at Hickory when a lapped car chopped me and tore up the front end.

“Our results didn’t show it, but we actually ran very well down there. Just to run with those southern guys who have the best equipment available is great experience,” he added. “It gave us a boost before we started our season here in New England.”

As the 2017 season moves past halfway and begins to wind down, the focus now, as with most Super Late Model teams in the northeast, will be on preparing for the Oxford 250 and the remaining PASS North points races.

“We’re having a good year, and a solid run in the 250 sure would add to that,” Griffith said. “I know we’ll see a huge field of cars this year, several with big budgets for tires and crew members. We’ll give it our best shot.”

Griffith, like so many other 20-year-old racers, dreams of running at Daytona and Talladega one day.

“I’d like to think one day I’ll have an opportunity to try big-league racing, but I’m really happy with the program I’m in right now,” he said. “We talk about our dream of some day running a Truck in the February race at Daytona. For now, it’s just a dream.

“I’m just thankful for my team, my partners and my family, and promise to do my best for them every time I hit the track,” Griffith said. “It’s been a productive year, and it could get even better. This race team works as hard as any in the pits, I can say that.”

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Derek Griffith
Derek Griffith, of Hudson, N.H., drives his No. 12G entry into the corner earlier this season. Griffith won the PASS 150 at Speedway 95 on June 18 and has become a consistent force on the PASS North tour in 2017. 

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