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.
“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.
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.
“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.”
“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.
‘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.”
“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.
“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.
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.