It’s been nearly seven weeks since Derek Griffith has been behind the wheel of a race car in the ARCA Menards Series.
The 23-year-old from Hudson, New Hampshire, has been staying busy racing — and winning with his Late Model in his home state. Griffith won the Freedom 300 at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, New Hampshire, over the weekend, and has wins at neighboring Claremont Motorsports Park.
Griffith will look to keep rolling as he returns to ARCA Thursday back behind the wheel of the No. 22 Original Gourmet Lollipops Ford for Chad Bryant Racing at Bristol Motor Speedway.
"I am super excited for Bristol Motor Speedway this week," said Griffith. "First time there, but definitely a bucket list deal. I feel like I have a ton of momentum right now and hope we can capitalize on it Thursday night."
The Bush’s Beans 200 (9:30 p.m., FS1 & MRN) is the 16th of 20 races for the ARCA Menards Series, and also serves as the penultimate race for both the ARCA Menards Series East and Sioux Chief Showdown.
RELATED: Derek Griffith Career Stats
Griffith turned heads in the ARCA Menards Series East opener back in February at Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway. He led 175 laps before settling for second to Sam Mayer. Since then he’s run seven ARCA Menards Series races for Chad Bryant Racing, most recently finishing seventh and fifth in the doubleheader weekend at the end of July at Ohio’s Toledo Speedway.
"I believe the competition is tough everywhere we go, no matter how many cars are racing," Griffith said. "I think we just go into the race with a level head, race hard and see how we come out."
Griffith will also run the ARCA Menards Series finale at Kansas Speedway in October for Chad Bryant Racing.
Wright Eyes New Experience
Griffith won’t be the only Chad Bryant Racing driver looking to keep his positive momentum going at Bristol.
Kris Wright is coming off a career-best seventh at Missouri’s Lebanon I-44 Speedway, and the former road-course driver will continue his oval education at "The World’s Fastest Half Mile" in the No. 12 F.N.B. Corporation Chevrolet.
RELATED: Kris Wright Career Stats
"I realize Bristol is going to be like nothing that I’ve experienced before, but I’m heading there with an open mind and a lot of confidence that I can get the job done for our partners and the Chad Bryant Racing team.
"The more the competition the better I feel like it can help me become a better stock car racer."
Wright will finish the season with races at Memphis International Raceway and Kansas, as well as the ARCA Menards Series West finale at Phoenix Raceway in November.
– Chad Bryant Racing (@ChadBryantRace) September 15, 2020
Deegan, Gray Looking For Wins
Hailie Deegan is coming off back-to-back strong performances at short tracks with her runs at Toledo and Lebanon I-44. She returns to Bristol, where she’s raced three times, includin a ninth-place run last fall in the East series.
"Right now my goal is to win a race by the end of the season," said Deegan. "My DGR-Crosley team has come a long way, especially on our short-track program. I have more experience on short tracks and I know what I need out of my car.
"Bristol is a track which awards aggressive drivers, which is why I run well there. It favors my driving style. It’s easy to get totally lost on the corners because the laps go so fast. I always have to remind myself the wall is closer off one corner than the other end, which changes things up a little."
Her DGR-Crosley teammate, Taylor Gray, is hoping his experience at Dover will pay off. Gray was running in the top five until a late race restart and wound up ninth. He bounced back with a fifth at Toledo.
"These concrete tracks are also really hard on restarts," Gray said. "I was a perfect example of that in Dover. I completely screwed up in Dover and lit up the tires on the last restart there, which messed up my race. You really have to be on your game on the restarts."
Bounce Back At Bristol
Jason Kitzmiller will make his first start at Bristol. The Petersburg, West Virginia, driver has scored three top 10s in six starts. He had hoped to get valuable seat time when he ran the ARCA Menards Series East race at Dover International Speedway, but a practice crash ended his day early.
"This is a huge deal for me to transition from these bigger race tracks and to take on Bristol Motor Speedway," Kitzmiller said. "I had hoped to get some experience at Dover – but Miles the Monster had other plans.
"Realistically, I just have to go into the race this week with a positive attitude and rely on my CR7 Motorsports team for guidance. Two hundred laps will go by quick on Thursday night and my goal is to finish the race on the lead lap and see if we can’t get us a top-10 finish with our No. 97 A.L.L. Construction Chevrolet."
Love To Make Venturini Debut At Winchester
Jesse Love has had an impressive rookie campaign in the ARCA Menards Series West for Bill McAnally Racing. The 15-year-old from Menlo Park, California, has three wins and seven top fives in seven starts and holds a seven-point lead over Blaine Perkins heading into next weekend’s return to The Bullring at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Before he gets there, though, Love will run the Toyota 200 presented by Crosley Brands at Winchester for Venturini Motorsports.
"I really to believe we’ll have a shot," Love told SPEED SPORT earlier this week. "I’ve worked hard to get to this point and I’ve prepared really well for this race. That process isn’t done; I’ll continue to prepare even more before Saturday, but I think that we can put ourselves in position to end up in Victory Lane, for sure."
The Toyota 200 presented by Crosley Brands (3 p.m., TrackPass on NBC Gold & 6 p.m. delayed on MAVTV) will represent the series first trip to the historic oval since 2017.
Love has run three ARCA Menards Series races, finishing fifth at WWT Raceway at Gateway in August for BMR. He’ll be in the No. 20 JBL Toyota that Chandler Smith has driven to two wins and four runner-up finishes in 10 races, and Ryan Repko has two runner-up finishes in five starts.
– Hattori Racing (@Hattori_Racing) September 16, 2020
- The Bush’s Beans 200 will be the third ARCA Menards Series race at Bristol Motor Speedway. The first was held on November 23, 1968 and was won by Bobby Watson. The second was on May 18, 1969 and was won by Ramo Stott.
- There have been 28 previous ARCA races at Winchester. The first was June 30, 1957 won by Don O’Dell. The last ARCA race at Winchester was in 2017 won by Kyle Benjamin.
- ARCA winners at Winchester include: Don O’Dell, Jack Bowsher, Ralph Latham, Bobby Watson, Marvin Smith (2), Tracy Leslie (2), Bob Keselowski, Tim Steele (4), Gary Bradberry, Frank Kimmel (7), Bob Strait, Billy Leslie, Dakoda Armstrong, Alex Bowman, Brandon Jones, Austin Wayne Self, Chase Briscoe, and Kyle Benjamin.
- Tracy and Billy Leslie are the only father-son duo to win ARCA races at Winchester.
- Tracy Leslie, Billy Leslie, Brandon Jones, and Austin Wayne Self all earned their first ARCA Menards Series victory at Winchester. For Billy Leslie and Self, it is their only career win.
We are thrilled to welcome Night Owl Stoneworks as the primary sponsor @KyleSieg39 @BMSupdates. The race will be live on FS1 tomorrow night at 9:30 ET. Kyle will start at the tail of the 27 car @ARCA_Racing field based on points. Thank you to our good friends @TeamNightOwl62 pic.twitter.com/Xj6OKGyhwD
– RSS Racing (@RSS383993) September 16, 2020