Story by Short Track Scene |By Jeff Brown
The New Hampshire native scored his second points-paying PASS win of 2021, sweeping the season’s events at the high-banked Connecticut oval.For the second time in a few hours Saturday evening, a driver named “Derek G.” drove to victory at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park. The second one may have been a bit more predictable. Derek Griffith took command just before halfway and survived a barrage of late-race restarts to win the Pro All Stars Series feature of Twisted Tea Saturday, the action-packed second day of Thompson’s 59th Sunoco World Series of Speedway Racing.
Griffith fended off young Austin MacDonald to sweep the season’s PASS Super Late Model showdowns at the iconic Connecticut oval. “Congrats to these guys,” Griffith said in victory lane, gesturing to his close challengers. “They gave me a little run for our money there at the end.” With Griffith’s April Icebreaker win consigning him to a starting spot outside the top ten, the early laps were all about the MacDonalds. Eddie MacDonald, the multi-time Thompson feature winner and big-track expert, started from the pole and led a two-car breakaway in the opening laps. Stalking “The Outlaw” was the other MacDonald, the teenaged grandson of King Racing owner and former driver Rollie MacDonald. Austin settled into a groove quickly, staying close to Eddie’s bumper while Brandon Barker led a distant battle for third. The race pace was slowed eleven laps in by a grinding crash between DJ Shaw and Derek Ramstrom, both contenders for PASS National Championship honors.
Ramstrom’s borrowed car slammed the backstretch gate off turn two, forcing a red flag to remove his battered ride and check the gate. On the restart, Austin MacDonald took charge, beating “The Outlaw” off the restart and driving off from the field. After avoiding the Shaw-Ramstrom incident, Griffith wasted little time picking his way through traffic, working his way from ninth into second by lap 36. Anthony Constantino’s stalled car in turn one erased the rest of Griffith’s deficit with half the race remaining. At the drop of the green, Griffith powered into first, with Cory Casagrande getting past Austin MacDonald and into second. MacDonald pressured the Connecticut native for several laps, but with Oxford Plains Speedway track champ Dave Farrington at his own bumper, the young Canadian was unable to make a serious bid for second. Derek Gluchacki, who claimed his first American-Canadian Tour win only a couple hours before, saw his hopes of a strong PASS run go up in smoke with eleven laps remaining, spinning down the frontstretch and later retiring his Rollie Lindblad-owned mount.
The yellow flag was a reprieve for Austin MacDonald, who cleared Casagrande on the start and turned his attention to the battle for the lead. Austin MacDonald (#13) gave Griffith fits on restarts, but Griffith was able to keep the young Canadian upstart at bay. (Jeff Brown photo) Three laps later, the back half of the top ten was juggled again as Farrington and Johnny Clark made contact in turn three, sliding through the corner as the field dodged the spinning cars. A lap after the restart, Mike Mitchell and Michael Scorzelli wadded their cars up in a hard impact with the turn-four wall. One final incident, a spin for JR Robinson on lap 69, kept the young MacDonald in grasp of his first PASS win in only his third series start. But Griffith was able to make a nice escape from the pack on the restart, cruising home to his thirteenth career PASS North victory. In victory lane, Griffith gave credit to the tight-knit LCM Motorsports team, praising crew chief Louie Mechalides, spotter Dolly Mechalides, and the family and friends who support the small operation.
Griffith’s small team has powered him this year alone to a New Smyrna World Series championship in February, PASS road wins at Hickory Motor Speedway in April, impressive finishes in some of the year’s biggest Super Late Model features, a $10,000 win in August’s Motor Mountain Masters at Jennerstown (Penn.) Speedway Complex, and opened the door for the rising star to run his first NASCAR national touring series event. “My crew is so awesome,” he said. “We’re so lucky to do what we do, and we run really well. Man, I’m just so lucky. I’m amazed on how much success we’ve had the last couple years, and I’ve really got to thank them.”
Austin MacDonald impressed with his runner-up finish. The Nova Scotia native made his PASS debut in 2019 with a fourth-place finish at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. MacDonald was unable to make any starts in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but finished third in a PASS race at Oxford Plains Speedway this summer. With veteran racer Cassius Clark wheeling King Racing entries to two wins in 2021, including August’s Oxford 250, MacDonald was just short of keeping the team perfect on the season in its limited PASS appearances.
Eddie MacDonald was third at the finish, one position off from his result in April’s Icebreaker. The Massachusetts ace is still seeking his first PASS win of the season. Ben Rowe matched his season-best and his April Thompson finish, crossing the line fourth. Cory Casagrande slid to fifth at the finish after putting on a strong performance for his Nutmeg State fans and friends. Ryan Kuhn was sixth at the stripe, with Jake Matheson turning in another strong run in seventh. Former Granite State Pro Stock Series champion Devin O’Connell was eighth, with fellow GSPSS challenger Josh King finishing ninth in his second PASS race. Johnny Clark rebounded from his late spin to finish tenth. Shaw’s crash may have been a death blow to the five-time PASS champion’s bid for the PASS National Championship, with Griffith holding the points lead with one race remaining.
Similarly, Dan Winter’s 13th-place provided Johnny Clark with added security as he seeks his seventh PASS North crown. Two races remain to award the premier championship in New England’s fendered racing ecosystem. Griffith’s win might reinforce his bid for the PASS National Championship honors, but it also gives momentum to a team eyeing one or two more big events this season, including December’s Snowball Derby. In a couple months, that momentum may prove priceless.