Unexpected Berlin Trip is Huge Opportunity for Griffith

One of the most frustrating professional months of Derek Griffith’s racing career produced a bright spot-on Saturday at Jennerstown when he was asked to drive the TK Racing No. 71 on this week for Money in the Bank at Berlin Raceway.

by Matt Weaver/Speed51

The two-time World Series of Asphalt champion had just been involved in a Laurel Highlands 150 crash with Jesse Love when Butch and Johnny VanDoorn asked about his potential availability for Tuesday and Wednesday. Carson Hocevar had just been injured in a NASCAR Truck Series crash at Gateway and wouldn’t be able to race at home in Michigan.

The car was already set-up and ready to go and just needed a capable driver and Griffith accepted the offer.

“It came about at Jennerstown, pre-race, everyone was worried about Carson and his situation and the VanDoorns were asking around for drivers for Berlin,” Griffith said. “We sat on it for a day because we weren’t sure we would want to race after the incident at Jennerstown. It was just a terrible day. But how do you not?

“This is the car that’s won the past two Money in the Banks and to turn that down would be silly. I just hope Carson is okay. Everyone here hopes he’ll be back in the seat soon.”

Although Griffith has never raced with the VanDoorns and Zach Dunson before, he’s regularly conversed with them and there’s always been mutual respect, even in instance where the teams were involved in incidents.

It was a natural fit.

“We’ve always shared words and hellos crossing paths at the race track, even if it was never ‘hey you want to drive the car,’ or ‘interested in swapping over to our chassis’ kind of things,” Griffith said. “For this to happen, for me, because it’s not like we’re buddies and they asked a friend to drive. They chose us because the felt comfortable with us driving with is cool. It’s an honor to get the call and so far so good.”

Is there any pressure in taking over for the driver and team that won this race in both 2021 and 2022?

“There are always a lot of eyes on this car with what Johnny and Carson have done, but even more so with what Carson is going through,” Griffith said. “They beat me last year. So first and foremost, we all hope Carson gets better soon and gets back to this car and his Truck team. But I’m excited to get out there tomorrow and see what it’s like here in this car.”

Above all else, it’s just an opportunity for Griffith to right the ship after suffering two hard crashes at New Hampshire and Jennerstown.

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