Rising Star Derek Griffith Of Hudson, NH Set To Make South Alabama Speedway Debut In Rattler 250

Derek Griffith, one of the hottest Super Late Model drivers in the country, will be making his South Alabama Speedway debut on Sunday for the 45th Annual Rattler 250.

The 24-year-old native of Hudson, N.H., is coming off his second straight World Series of Asphalt Late Model championship held in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., as part of Florida Speedweeks last month. Just as impressive is he earned seven top-10 finishes in eight starts in the ARCA Menards Series in 2020.

By Jon Johnson, Dothan (AL) Eagle photo by RYAN AND KYLE NUTTLEMAN PHOTOGRAPHY

“The Rattler is just one of the well-known, prestigious of the Late Model races in whole entire country,” Griffith said. “It came up on our radar a couple of years back. We run Speedweeks every year and we’ve never really come out of Speedweeks in a good enough shape where we could run over here and feel like we may be competitive.

“This year we had a killer year over at Speedweeks and just felt like, you know, it’s definitely time to go over to the Rattler and see what we can do.”

Griffith arrived at the South Alabama Speedway on Wednesday and has been putting in practice sessions leading up to Sunday’s race, which is the main event of a three-day race schedule which opens the season at the track located on Hwy. 52 between Kinston and Opp.

Defending champion Ty Majeski is among the 33-driver field for the Rattler 250 that is scheduled to begin at 2 p.m.

“This place is awesome,” Griffith said when asked of his first impressions of SAS. “It’s super, super racey. I can see why a lot of people like running here, for sure.”

Griffith grew up around the local track in Hudson, where his father used to race.

“It’s just a quarter-mile bank race track that’s been there since 1947 or something like that,” Griffith said. “My first time at the race track, I was a couple of months old. I spent my whole entire childhood running something with a motor.

“My first shot at actually racing I was 12 years old and went over to Hudson Speedway with a little Volkswagon Golf GTI (compact car) and made the first start in the kids division class. From there, it just kind of jumped into this thing that we are at now. Every year we moved up a division, or divisions, and kind of picked away at doing more and more and more.

“It all started from a little $600 Volkswagon Golf. It’s pretty dang cool. I’m lucky to have gotten the opportunities I’ve gotten, for sure.”
In 2012, Griffith moved into the seat of a Super Late Model car and hasn’t looked back.

‘I’m 24 years old now and I’ve been doing this for eight or nine years in a Super or what they call a Pro Stock back home,” Griffith said. “The last three or four years stuff has really started to jell – it’s all starting to work really good.”

Driving Super Late Model cars has become a passion for Griffith.

“Nothing feels better than spending three weeks on a banged up race car and going back to where you got banged up and win a race or do real good,” Griffith said.

“I don’t know if it’s that feeling that we always chase or whatever. It was 2012 the first time I probably ever drove a Super Late Model and ever since then you kind of chase that – you want that feeling. You can’t describe it unless you do it.”
Griffith’s father has worked with him all along as part of the four-man team.

“We go to the race car shop every night from 6 to 10 and work on race cars and during the day we work at our regular jobs,” Griffith said. “We all do different stuff. We have a tight little team that’s pushed me to be in the spot we’re in.”

He cherishes the time spent with his father over the years.

“What 18 to 20-year-old son is going to spend every weekend with their father, even racing or whatever, and we enjoyed it,” Griffith said. “Of course we do everything together so we’ll have our moments, but it’s cool to have a really cool relationship with my dad.”

Unlike many young drivers now aspiring to become a professional racer, Griffith wasn’t home-schooled and led pretty much a regular life as a teen.

“My life was pretty normal,” Griffith said. “I had a regular job and went to school. I own my own business now, so we’re still pretty regular people and it’s not too often like that in racing anymore.”
While this will mark Griffith’s first race at SAS, he’s familiar with many of the talented drivers entered.
“I’ve raced with a good majority of the field,” Griffith said. “It’s always interesting to get a bunch of guys who are not from the same area to race together because it could cause mayhem. But I think with the talent level here and how good everyone is, everything should go pretty smooth.”
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