Sammy Smith Breaks Through, Derek Griffith Just Breaks

The championship tide suddenly turned with nine laps in the penultimate race.

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Sammy Smith finally broke through in the World Series of Asphalt Super Late Model division, while Derek Griffith just plain broke.

As a result of Smith winning for the first time this week, combined with a rear gear failure for Griffith, the Speedweeks championship is wide open with just one race remaining on Saturday night in the Orange Blossom 100. The difference between them is just eight points.

Smith immediately took the top spot from Ryan Preece on the first lap and drove out to a commanding lead throughout 35 green flag laps. Griffith ran within 1.5 seconds of Smith for the first 20 laps, but an outcome he feared revealed itself in the form of a broken rear gear with nine laps to go.

Griffith found a tooth off the gear just before the race and hoped it would last 35 laps. It didn’t. Fortunately for the two-time and defending champions, several other cars had fallen out of the race and the No. 12 still finished 10th.

But still, that was an 19-point swing from where they entered the race.

Championship matters aside, it was a rewarding triumph for Smith, who hadn’t won yet this past week in a Super Late Model despite winning in an ARCA car on Tuesday night. To prevail on a podium that included both Preece and Bubba Pollard was especially redemptive.

"We came out of the box really fast the first couple of days with a second, second and third, but finished sixth the last two nights and just really struggled with qualifying," Smith said.

"Everything wasn't clicking, and we were left scratching our heads, and our guys they just kept fighting. I got frustrated sometimes, and that's part of racing, but to get it done tonight against Ryan Preece and Bubba Pollard, those are guys I respect a lot and hopefully we can do it again on Saturday night."

Griffith is looking to match Pete Orr with three consecutive World Series championships, which came from 1992-94, but it’s now going to require at least a five-position swing between two drivers that have been on the podium more often than not over the past week.

"We had at least a top three run going tonight and that would have been good going into the last race," Griffith said. "We’ll see what we can do. I know the car is good enough to compete and we should have had a good run tonight, but 100 laps to shake it out."

Preece and Pollard are suddenly looking forward to Saturday too, after struggling with various performance and reliability issues with their twin Port City Race Cars over the past week. Preece promised some ‘razzle dazzle’ on Thursday but wasn’t willing to claim a runner-up finish as that kind of performance.

"It ran a hell of a lot better than it did on Tuesday," Preece said. "Sunday and Monday too. It’s getting there. We have the razzle, but not the dazzle. We’ve learned a little bit of everything. Our car is good on the long run, but I struggle with take off speed so it’s just part of the process."

Earlier in the week, Smith was hesitant to embrace the championship opportunity, instead wanting to just focus on wins. On Saturday, a second win clinches it. But even short of a win, now that he has the lead, is this something worth coveting?

"Yeah, I do," Smith said. "I definitely want it, but it’s going to be tough. (William) Byron will be back. These guys are all going to be here and it’s going to be tough, but we’re going to work hard and try to win them both."

2022 World Series of Asphalt
Super Late Models Race 6

1. Sammy Smith
2. Ryan Preece
3. Bubba Pollard
4. Stephen Nasse
5. Justin Mondeik
6. Jake Finch
7. Justin Drawdy
8. Todd Stone
9. Joey Miller
10. Derek Griffith
11. Austin Thom
12. Jesse Love
13. Steve Weaver, Jr.
14. Brad May
15. Patrick Thomas
16. Bobby Good
17. Hunter Wright
18. Dakota Stroup
19. Michael Hinde