Two Local Drivers Race to Glory in North Carolina
By Kevin Rice
Special to The Sun
CONCORD, N.C. -- Jon McKennedy of Chelmsford and Derek Griffith from Hudson, N.H. both reached milestones racing in North Carolina on Saturday.
McKennedy brought home the first-place trophy in the 16th annual North-South Shootout 125 for pavement Modifieds at Concord Speedway, while Griffith secured the Pro All-Stars Series National Championship with a second-place run in the Mason-Dixon Mega-Meltdown 200 Super Late Model event at Hickory Motor Speedway.
For McKennedy it was his first win in the prestigious event, which combines the best southern Modified drivers against some of the best from the northeast. McKennedy set fast times, led the first 43 laps, and later the final 21 laps, passing Hampstead, N.H., driver Andy Seuss for the lead on a lap 104 restart.
“We led a lot of the race and obviously had a really good car,” McKennedy said, reflecting on the accomplishment. “The three years prior to this we’ve been really fast. I think we’ve led the most laps of anyone. We were always up front, but could just never capitalize on it. Today we were able to do that.”
To win the race, McKennedy had to beat some of the best, including six-time Shootout winner Matt Hirschman. The Pennsylvania driver’s second-place finish breaks a remarkable streak of seven consecutive major event race wins this fall. Hirschman took second place on lap 123, but he was unable to get to McKennedy in time to steal the win away.
“Hirschman came out of nowhere at the end,” the Chelmsford driver said after winning for NASCAR Cup Series car owner Tommy Baldwin Jr. “Another few laps and I might have been in trouble, but we got the win.”
Griffith also was involved in a race for the lead with a fellow northerner at Hickory. He swapped the lead with West Boylston’s Derek Ramstrom before settling for second, which was enough to secure the PASS National Championship, a series of races in both the northeast and southeast this season.
Griffith’s day almost ended early, as his LCM Motorsports, Tyngsboro Motors car broke a trailing arm bracket during morning practice. He was able to keep his car from crashing into the wall, and his Tyngsboro-based race team took the car to a nearby repair shop to make the necessary welding repairs prior to qualifying.
“This is just amazing,” Griffith beamed. “The guys did a great job to get the car repaired. I can’t thank Brandon and Dennis (Setzer) enough for letting us use their shop. Ray Christian, my nearest competitor for the championship, he offered to let me use their backup car. I mean, what can you say about that? This has just been a great year and I’m so proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish.”