2011 CRA Super Series Champion Derrick Griffin got an early Christmas present recently with the news he will get to return to the Snowball Derby at Five Flags Speedway in Pensacola, FL this weekend. The news was important for a young racer that has been on a roller coaster of sorts all year. From the early season struggles of being a rookie on an essentially new team, to eventually claiming the CRA Championship and Rookie of the year honors, to hearing the news that his 2011 team was closing up shop…word of the return trip to the Derby could not have come at a better time.
Veteran driver, car owner and crew chief Bobby Blount has long been a supporter of Griffin, and worked hard to help put together a package to get the 20 year old talent back on the race track for the biggest event of the year. Blount joined forces with former CRA Super Series Champion car owner Jim Winters to put a deal together in an attempt to help further the career of Griffin.
The team’s effort will utilize a race car from GT Products, with a McGunegill Sealed Engine. Support for the Griffin Florida effort is coming from Hendricks County Auto Parts, Advanced Racing Suspensions, GT Products and John Marshall’s Midnight Blue Towing Service.
The car will be a black number 17. Coincidentally, that is the same color and number combination that Winters used with another young champion driver, Chris Gabehart. Griffin supporter John Marshall also won a CRA Late Model Sportsman Championship this year with a black number 17, with his driver Keith Sterkowitz.
According to Griffin, “we got a chance to run some hot laps here at home, but with the cold temperatures, it was more like a shake-down session. Even with that, the car felt very solid and I can’t wait to get on the race track in Pensacola to see where we are at this year. I feel very confident we are taking a strong piece.”
The crew for this year’s Snowball Derby will be a collection of family, friends and sponsor associates. Griffin noted, “I just cannot thank all these people enough. It means a great deal to me that people have come together to help make this young racer’s dream come true. Guys like Jim Winters, Bobby Blount, Chris Terry, Adam Terry, John Marshall and Cory Fillip don’t come along every day, so I feel extremely fortunate and proud they have stepped up to help me. I look forward to thanking them with a great run at this year’s Derby.”
In his first ever attempt at the Derby in 2010, Griffin was able to qualify for the event and wound up finishing sixth after running strongly in the top five in the late stages of the race. “Last year’s Derby was really one of my first template races, and while it went really well, I have learned so much more in the year since then. Battling for the CRA Championship all season long, racing against a great bunch of racers and coming out on top has taught me so much. I am so much better prepared for the Derby this year that I can’t wait to get there!”