The following is from Matt Prieur – Speed51.com Midwest Editor
When you think of a driver with a list of accomplishments such as 78 career feature wins, 381 top-five finishes, 556 top-10 finishes, eight track championships and a regional title, that’s enough for anyone’s entire racing career. When you hear that the driver is only 14 years old, chances are you’re going to do a double take.
Jake Griffin and his crew.
Quincy, Illinois teenager Jake Griffin has already accomplished more in his brief racing career than most drivers only dream of. It’s not only on one surface either. It doesn’t matter if it’s dirt or pavement, and in what type of race car it has been, Griffin has been successful.
Now he’ll take his talents to the next level up the short track racing ladder as the Prairie State driver has hired 2012 JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour Presented by Chevrolet Performance Championship winning Car Owner and Crew Chief Scott Neal. Together, they will make a run at the 2013 Howie Lettow Memorial Rookie of the Year title in the JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour.
Griffin’s 2013 racing season kicks off with SpeedFest 2013 at Watermelon Capital Speedway in Cordele, Georgia on January 25-27th where he’ll compete not only in the JEGS/CRA portion of the weekend in the Peach State, he’ll also race in the headlining event of the weekend, the 200-lap main event for the ARCA/CRA Super Series.
“We’re looking forward to the 2013 racing season,” said Griffin. “We have an aggressive schedule planned out with running the entire JEGS/CRA schedule as well as a few ARCA/CRA Super Series races as well, the ones where both divisions are running together.”
Griffin made an appearance at New Smyrna Speedway in New Smyrna Beach, Florida back in November 2012 during the Governor’s Cup 200. Just a day after celebrating his 14th birthday, he impressed everyone on hand with an impressive third-place showing in the Pro Late Model portion of the weekend.
“It was our first time at the track and thanks to Scott Neal, we ran a great race,” added Griffin.
Neal, fresh off of his 2012 Championship run in JEGS/CRA with Series Champion Daniel Hemric, will house all of Griffin’s equipment in 2013 as well as serve as Team Manager during the season. Once SpeedFest is completed, Neal, Griffin and the entire team will reshift their focus on the 47th annual World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing back at New Smyrna.
“Our expectations are high for Jake at SpeedFest,” said Neal. “He will have a full plate all year and (Watermelon Capital Speedway) should fit him really well. He is a shoe and he will have big shoes to fill, but I truly believe the kid is up to the challenge. We are going to Speedweeks with Jake after that and we look forward to it. I think he’s going to turn some heads.”
The 2012 racing season was a busy one for the 14-year-old old Griffin. He ran a total of 150 Feature events and visited victory lane in 12 of those races while scoring an impressive 85 top-10 finishes. Mixing in both pavement and dirt events, Griffin was the youngest driver in United Midwestern Promoters (UMP) history to win an UMP Super Late Model race at the age of 13. Also, he was the youngest driver to win an UMP Modified Feature.
It was last season where Griffin also began his pavement career at Hawkeye Downs Speedway in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. He won the Rookie in the Year honors in both the Late Model and Modified Divisions. Also, he finished third in overall standings in both divisions and scored five feature wins.
With the addition of Neal to the team, Griffin brings a wealth of knowledge to an entire team that is nearly unmatched. Neal, a long-time competitor in what is now the ARCA/CRA Super Series and has one career win in the series to his credit, will oversee Griffin’s entire operation and brings a list of credentials that are staggering. Neal led Hemric to eight JEGS/CRA All-Stars Tour victories and a runaway championship in 2012. Hemric will be pursuing other opportunities in 2013, leaving Neal to pursue new avenues for himself and his Scott Neal Racing team.
“You know it’s a terrible thing that Daniel and I won’t be together this year, but as you can tell, things change. This year we will continue Scott Neal Racing with more info to come very soon. I’ll oversee set-up duties and crew chiefing the No. 08 for Jake (Griffin) in all of the shows where both divisions are racing together. I’m looking forward to SpeedFest with both cars.”
Neal hopes to duplicate past accomplishments this season with a teenager from Quincy, Illinois. It’s not an impossible task, especially with such a young driver with such a bright future ahead of him. If the past is any indication, the Griffin / Neal combination will be a force to be reckoned with in 2013.