Derek Griffith (12g) has been one of the top asphalt late model racers in the country in the last two years. (Adam Fenwick Photo)
Derek Griffith (12g) has been one of the top asphalt late model racers in the country in the last two years. (Adam Fenwick Photo)

Derek Griffith: From A VW To Late Model Glory

Derek Griffith has come a long way since beginning his racing career aboard a Volkswagen Golf GTI at New Hampshire’s Hudson Speedway.

Volkswagen isn’t a manufacturer race fans generally associate with motorsports in the United States, but when you’re a 12-year-old kid looking to get started, you take what you can get.

“They had this division at Hudson called the Thunder Light division,” Griffith recalled. “It was for kids ages 12 to I think 16 or 18. They were supposed to be four-cylinder cars, so basically like a mini stock or roadrunner or whatever you want to call them.

“I think a couple of weeks there were 20 or 25 kids racing. It was pretty cool back when we were doing it.”

These days, Griffith, 24, has upgraded his ride to a modern asphalt super late model built by FURY Chassis. Griffith has become one of the marquee names in East Coast super late model racing thanks a string of strong results during the last two years.

He won back-to-back championships during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway and claimed numerous feature victories at tracks throughout the Southeast and even in his home region in the Northeast. 

Growing up minutes from Hudson Speedway, where his father raced bombers during his childhood, Griffith quickly became infatuated with auto racing. Fast-forward to when he was 12 and his father gave him a choice — football or racing.

“I’m like, ‘Is that really a question? We’re going to race,’” Griffith said. 

Derek Griffith almost always has a smile on his face when he's at a race track. (Adam Fenwick Photo)
Derek Griffith almost always has a smile on his face when he’s at a race track. (Adam Fenwick Photo)

His father purchased the Volkswagen for $600 and helped his son go racing. In his first race, Griffith ended up in victory lane. At that point, his father knew his son was hooked for life.

“From there my dad was like, ‘I knew it was going to be a long career for you.’ He could tell I enjoyed it as much as I did from such a young age,” Griffith said, recalling a conversation with his father. 

Griffith steadily progressed and within a year he went from racing a Volkswagen against kids his age to racing a Mustang against adults. 

“I was 13 years old racing with the adults, which was pretty cool since I was a little kid at the time,” Griffith said. “I know 13 years old pretty much gets you a Cup Series ride right now, but back then, for me, it was pretty cool.”

Eventually, Griffith met the Mechalides family, which he credits for jumpstarting his career when he was 15 years old. 

“We blew a motor and ended up getting in contact with Louie Mechalides to help out on that little Mustang of ours,” Griffith explained. “I didn’t even know, but he and my father made a deal where Louie would build me a car if we went and bought a used car. He would cut it up and make it into what they called an outlaw at Hudson and Star Speedways.

“The Mechalides family is really who I have to credit for going to pro stocks or super late models because I was 15 and they were like, ‘Hey, want to drive our super late model next year?’”

Griffith’s response?

“Uh, yeah!”

So began Griffith’s career racing super late models. He started off slowly, racing partial seasons for the first few years. However, much like he had in everything else he’d driven, Griffith took to super late model racing quickly.

“My first race in a super, we finished second up at Monadnock (Speedway),” Griffith said. “We knew we were kind of in for it at that point. It’s just progressed to what it is today.”

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