Derek Griffith was expected to bring a fast car to Lee USA Speedway on Sunday. But to the chagrin of the Granite State Pro Stock Series regulars, he brought along the hot streak he has been riding as well.
The Hudson, N.H. racer held off Jimmy Renfrew, Jr. on a late restart to win Sunday night’s 100-lap feature, part of Lee’s season-ending Russ Conway’s Oktoberfest spectacular.
Griffith, second in the Pro All Stars Series North points standings, took advantage of a week off to make his first GSPSS start of the year. The 2015 series champion looked right at home, setting fast time in time trials and winning his qualifying heat.
Starting sixth in the feature after the pre-race redraw, Griffith patiently worked his way to second, stalking Renfrew as the two navigated lapped traffic under a long green-flag stretch. On lap 62, Griffith made his move, getting past Renfrew for the top spot. While the second-year racer would get a chance to battle back on subsequent restarts, the veteran Griffith would never relinquish the lead.
A yellow flag with three laps remaining bunched up the field, giving Renfrew and early race leader Ray Christian III another shot at victory. But Griffith was again strong on the restart, pulling away for the win.
Renfrew won his heat, started fifth, and took the race lead not long after the race’s second yellow flag. The teenager found a rhythm under the green flag and appeared poised to claim his second career GSPSS win before Griffith made his pass. Instead, Renfrew settled for second, his best result of the year and his second podium in the last three races.
Ray Christian III, the early race leader, finished a solid third to keep his championship hopes alive.
Defending Oktoberfest winner Brandon Barker finished fourth, but was fortunate to take the green flag at all. Barker lost an engine in practice, sitting out qualifying and heat races while crews from multiple teams helped to install a spare motor from another team. Barker, winner of two of the last three GSPSS races at Lee, started last in the 24-car field and was able to climb into the top five in the final sprint to the checkers.
The field was scrambled in the closing laps by a crash with three to go, when Seekonk Speedway regular Ryan Lineham sent Jeremy Davis into the turn-three wall while battling for fifth. Davis, his car destroyed, expressed his frustration to Lineham on the frontstretch. Both drivers were parked for their actions, though Davis’ car had to be removed from the track.
Dennis Spencer, Jr. benefited from the wreck to finish fifth, his best result in an abbreviated GSPSS schedule this year. Luke Hinkley, Wayne Helliwell, Jr., Joe Squeglia, Mike Mitchell and 2014 GSPSS champion Dillon Moltz rounded out the top ten.
Points leader Joey Doiron was dealt a bad hand Sunday, when his car dropped off the pace early in the feature. Doiron went on to record his worst finish of the year and only his second race outside the top five. However, troubles for defending champion Devin O’Connell minimized the blow to Doiron’s title hopes. Doiron still leads Ray Christian by a commanding 55 points with two races remaining, while O’Connell has slipped to third.
Polesitter Alby Ovitt made his GSPSS debut Sunday in a second car out of the Renfrew stable. Ovitt, who has dominated New Hampshire’s Street Stock ranks over the past two years while racing for the Renfrew family, drew the front-row start prior to the feature. After winning the 75-lap Street Stock main event, Ovitt’s celebration was cut short to allow him time to strap into his GSPSS mount. Unfortunately for the talented racer, Ovitt had issues on restarts throughout the evening and eventually parked his ride a short distance from the finish.
Derek Griffith’s victory was another high point for his Louie Mechalides-led team in 2019. After mixed fortunes and inconsistency to open their season, Griffith and Mechalides found their stride in August. A runner-up finish at the Oxford 250 was followed by victories in the next two PASS events at Oxford and White Mountain Motorsports Park, giving the team five wins to match Griffith’s output in his three prior seasons combined. Griffith sits only a few points behind defending PASS champion DJ Shaw as he seeks his first series title.
Interestingly, Griffith was winless in eleven GSPSS starts since moving on to full-time PASS competition in 2016. Griffith joins fellow ringers Shaw and Joey Polewarczyk, Jr. in claiming wins from the GSPSS rank and file this season.
The penultimate race for the Granite State Pro Stock Series is Friday night’s showdown at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, kicking off the Connecticut track’s annual World Series weekend. Big-track expert Eddie MacDonald claimed last year’s World Series win in a one-off appearance at the high-banked oval.