MOORESVILLE, N.C. (WFXR) — On Friday night, drivers from NASCAR’s Xfinity Series will race under the lights at the Martinsville Speedway. While the field includes hall of famer Dale Earnhardt Jr., it also includes a relative unknown who is racing for an owner that happens to share the same name as a country musician.
“I don’t know if it’s set in yet but it’s starting to become a little bit more of a reality as I stay down here,” said racer Derek Griffith.
Griffith is a newcomer to NASCAR’s Xfinity series. The New Hampshire native made his debut at Richmond last week and now is preparing for the half mile of mayhem at Martinsville.
“I made the choice between either football or racing when I was 12 years old and I think I made the choice that fit me the best and I haven’t looked back since. I’ve been really happy. Get to do a lot of really cool things with my family friends and extremely lucky that I’m able to do this,” said Griffith.
The 25-year-old gained his racing credentials driving super late model cars. Griffith eventually found success in the ARCA Menards Series and impressed his owner, Sam Hunt (no, not the musician).
“It was a funny a few years ago when it first started. It’s kinda been beaten like a dead horse but always a good icebreaker with anybody I talk to,” Hunt said. “…I get a lot of his fan mail through my inbox of people writing me thinking it’s him.”
As for Griffith, Hunt sees star potential in him.
“Super easy working with him, it’s been enjoyable. It’s been cool to give an opportunity to a guy like Derek, whose really earned the opportunity to race at this level,” said Hunt.
“Eight hundred miles away from home, he gives me a key to his house to stay in while I’m down here,” Griffith said. “Sam is very relatable such an awesome guy and I think the fit was like two puzzle pieces falling together. It was perfect.”
Now, Griffith hopes to elevate Sam Hunt Racing and his career to a new level by taking on a competitive field in the Xfinity Series race on Friday, April 8 — that includes 26-time cup series winner Earnhardt.
“It’s hard to contain the excitement and the overwhelmingness of the situation, but I guess at the end of the day when we strap our helmet on, it’s go time and we all get into that mode where we do what we do,” said Griffith.