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Derek Griffith Loves Berlin Raceway, Expects to Have Speed

After making some NASCAR appearances, DG12 is all-in on short trackin’

Jeff Brown

It was probably pretty easy for Derek Griffith to turn the page on most everything that happened on the track last season. Sure, making six appearances in the NASCAR Xfinity Series felt like an achievement for one of the most respected short track aces in New England, but several of those starts were also plagued with misfortune.

Worse yet, the misfortune bled over into his usually sure-handed Super Late Model program, which hit something that felt like rock bottom when he failed to qualify into the Snowball Derby. The two-time World Series of Asphalt champions then struggled to fully get right with a new car they took to New Smyrna in February.

It was a grind, to put it lightly.

But things have started to turn around lately. There was a third-place finish in April at Thompson Speedway in PASS competition followed by a win at Thunder Road. The performance looked familiar. Now, the No. 12 team returns for a fourth trip to Berlin Raceway in Michigan for Money in the Bank, and does so with a lot of confidence and excitement.

“I love that place,” Griffith told Short Track Scene on Monday. “It has a lot of character. It’s got a gritty surface, produces great racing It reminds me a lot of the tracks we have back home so I took to it pretty quickly.

“We’re taking the car we won with at Thunder Road. We struggled a bit in Speedweeks and with our Super program in general. But I feel comfortable there. We led both practices last year but got caught up in a crash and broke a control arm. More of that bad luck. But we should be fast and I’m looking forward to it.”

READ MORE: Money in the Bank Entry List

Having just turned 26 in February, Griffith is hardly old, but knows it would take a Josh Berry or Ryan Preece situation for him to return to the national touring scene. He hasn’t shut the door on it, and is open to the conversation for any potential partner who wants to enter some races, but it always comes down to funding.

He has the six starts in the Xfinity Series, one in the Truck Series, and a handful across the ARCA system.

“I take it all day-by-day,” Griffith says of NASCAR goals. “Like anyone, I’d love to have the deal in North Carolina, driving really good race cars and making a lot of money. That’s the dream.

“Ideally, the next step for me if it presents itself, is getting in a car that has a lot of speed or they’re on a hot streak and me driving it a place where I have a lot of experience.

“One Xfinity Series race is about a full Super Late Model schedule and it’s just easier to put something together locally right now, with local companies and a local track where it’s easier to make a connection, but I still want to race on Sundays someday.”

READ MORE: Derek Kneeland Opens Racing Campaign at Berlin

To wit, he is also monitoring the exploding popularity of pavement Late Model racing between ASA STARS and CARS Tour. That could be a bridge too.

But for now, his PASS stars and the occasional trips to the Deep South or Midwest, is what is first and foremost on the radar. Griffith says he races at Berlin because promoter Jeff Striegle knows how to give teams a good time.

He and their team love the frontstretch bar and grill, the infield hospitality and Michigan race fans. And again, most importantly, he likes the track and feels like it’s a place he can go win against the likes of Bubba Pollard, Erik Jones, Carson Hocevar and track champion Evan Shotko.

“I really think so,” Griffith said. “If our car is as good as it has been lately, I really think so. Last year, that was as good as I have felt in a race car as anywhere. P1 in both sessions on tires we practice on the day before too. Hate that we couldn’t race that one out.

“This is a good chance for us to win.”

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Matt Weaver is the owner and founder of Short Track Scene. Weaver grew up in the sport, having raced himself before becoming a reporter in college at the University of South Alabama. He also has extensive experience covering NASCAR, IndyCar and Dirt Sprint Cars.

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