By Jacob Hord, @HordRaceWatcher photo cred @AFCS
It’s been a while since Caleb Griffith has been in victory lane. 1,022 days to be exact. July 26, 2019 was when Griffith, in his first year with Jeff Ward Motorsports after walking away from the sport in 2016, found himself in victory lane last. 2020 and 2021 were full of struggles, breakdowns, and just bad luck. Griffith and the 33W machine have had some good runs to start the 2022 season, and on Friday the 13th of all days, Griffith finally shook all the bad luck and snagged his fourth career win at Attica Raceway Park with the AFCS Sprints.
The front row was reminiscent of a mid 2010’s front row with Byron Reed and Caleb Griffith pacing the field to green with Craig Mintz and AFCS points leader Cole Macedo in fourth. Griffith took the lead on the start while Macedo got by Reed for third. Griffith then ran away to a 1.570 second lead over Reed by lap three. Griffith’s lead eclipsed the two second mark on lap five, as he approached lapped traffic.
As Griffith got into traffic, Macedo had caught Reed for second on lap nine and made the pass, which also allowed Craig Mintz to throw his hat into the ring for the second spot. Griffith’s lead had shrunk to 1.330 seconds as he negotiated through traffic. Macedo started to pull away from Reed and Mintz and started closing in on the leader Griffith. By lap 13, Griffith’s lead was down to .825 seconds.
“It’s been a while since I’ve led a race and have even had the opportunity to lose one,” Griffith said with a laugh. “When you’re in lapped traffic like that, sometimes they’re marginally slower, and sometimes the closing speed is not that slow. You can’t get into a hurry, if you try to pull a slider or drop down underneath somebody and you’re too far back, and all you end up doing is losing track position and momentum. I was trying to make sure I was rolling right up on everybody before I tried pulling the trigger.”
They passed the halfway point, and on lap 17, Macedo was ready to strike, only .469 seconds behind. Both Griffith and Macedo were working the top of the track, which was tricky to navigate. It was a game of cat and mouse: Macedo would get a little closer, but Griffith would then pull away in traffic. On lap 24, Griffith was held up by a lapped car, and this put Macedo right on Griffith’s tail. Griffith held Macedo off, and Macedo had a small bobble two laps later.
“A little ways past halfway, I saw Cole roll in under us into turn one. I didn’t want to be the guy who didn’t run the cushion and gave one away,” said Griffith.
That’s all that Griffith needed, and he drove away to a nice $4,000 payday to go along with his fourth career Attica Raceway Park win. Griffith also picked up a good-sized rock that went through the side of his hood, but somehow didn’t do any damage to the motor. Who says Friday the 13th is unlucky?
“I can’t even describe it,” Griffith said. “I wish my wife and my little boy were here. It’s been so long since this has happened. We’ve had a few chances, we had a couple slip away at Fremont a couple years ago, and all of 2020 we ran so bad. Last year we had one at the end of the year where I passed for the lead about halfway through and led until about two to go.”
“You do this for a while, and before I got together with Jeff [Ward], I had some measure of success. I don’t want to say I made it to the pinnacle or anything like that. But, you win some races, and run well in big shows from time to time, and you start to expect that. I told my old mechanic, ‘With lesser equipment, I could almost not try as hard and run better.’ You get to a point where you’re mentally exhausted. You’ve given all you have to give, and you’re still a seventh place car. I think a lot of it here [Attica] is you have to put the whole night together. You have to put yourself in a position to have a redraw starting spot to be up front to make it work. Starting on the front row, you can’t squander opportunities, you have to make it work.”