NORWALK, Ohio (November 6, 2013) – The year was 1990. A then 27-year-old Daryl Griffin was just getting into the world of drag racing when he did the unthinkable, winning the IHRA Hot Rod World Championship in only his third year behind the wheel.
Now, 23 years after winning his first title with the International Hot Rod Association, Griffin has returned to the spotlight by pulling off a remarkable repeat, winning his second career IHRA Hot Rod championship more than two decades later at the IHRA Summit Racing Equipment World Finals at Memphis International Raceway.
"This is unbelievable. I never thought I could get here again," Griffin said. "But with my friends, my family and God by my side, here I am all these years later. After winning the first one I got married, had a child, so you prioritize. But a few years ago Kent Roundtree called me up and asked if I wanted to drive the car and the rest is history. Let me tell you, several years have gone by, but the competition is just as tough."
To add to the excitement of Griffin's weekend, his win at the World Finals was his first victory of the 2013 season. Despite winning the Summit Pro-Am championship in Division 9, Griffin had yet to find the winner's circle after four runner-up finishes in four finals this season.
But, as they say in show business, Griffin saved the best for last.
"I have been in the finals four times this year and I have been runner-up all four times," Griffin said. "I told Brett Nesbitt that I have to get this demon off my back and assured me that there was no way I was going to finish runner-up five times in one year."
Looking to avoid a season without a win, Griffin entered the final against South Carolina's Robert Robertson hoping to turn his luck around.
With his first Ironman of the year on the line, Griffin attacked the tree with his fourth consecutive reaction time of .016 or better with a solid .014 light in his 1969 Camaro. He finished off the run with a 10.926 second elapsed time at 144.40 miles per hour in the 10.90 index class, while Robertson broke out by -.004 to finish runner-up in the battle of the Camaros with his 1985 model.
"It is just awesome to win this thing. We unloaded, made a couple of good runs and then today just followed that up with another spectacular day," Griffin said. "The car was repeating all weekend and has been deadly on the tree. I put a lot of pressure on myself in that final, especially with my son at home really wanting me to bring home this win, and it all just seemed to work out. The man above let me have this one today."
Griffin, the Division 9 Hot Rod champion this season, had wins over Robertson, Mark Mullen, Mike Frederick Sr. and Keith Mayers to reach the final. Robertson, who finished third in Division 1 on the Summit Pro-Am Tour, defeated William Stepp, Steve Dweck and Jeff Bagwell.
Hot Rod Final – Robert Robertson vs. Daryl Griffin
Griffin was deadly on the tree all afternoon, producing reaction times of .016, .005, .007 and .014. Both his opponents in rounds one and two broke out, while Griffin put together tremendous packages including a .009 package in round two against Frederick.
In the semifinal Griffin took down the reigning Sportsman Driver of the Year Mark Mullen, who received the award earlier in the weekend, with a .007 reaction time and a 10.923. Mullen had a .053 light and crossed the finish line with a 10.934. In the other semifinal Robertson was beat off the line by Stepp with a .014 to a .022, but drove around him on the top end with a 10.919 at 136.77 mph.
"Let me tell you, after years of running in this class, Hot Rod racing is bad ass. It is a tough class and I am proud to be standing here today," Griffin said. "I want to thank the Roundtree family for all they have done, I also want to thank Brett Nesbitt and his family, Chris Dean, Ricky Apple, my son Cody and my wife Debbie at home who supports me. Also a big thank you to IHRA, Summit and all of my sponsors."