Daytona International Speedway Grounds Supervisor Selected to Alumni Hall of Fame

Episode 100

April 3, 2016

Daytona International Speedway's Grounds Supervisor and Woodland, Maine native Jason Griffeth at the 24 Hours of Daytona. HTF Motorsports photo

Daytona International Speedway’s Grounds Supervisor and Woodland, Maine native Jason Griffeth at the 24 Hours of Daytona. HTF Motorsports photo

Griffeth Recognized for His Hard Work

Jason Griffeth, son of Robert and Lona Griffeth of Cross Lake, was selected to be one of the six inaugural inductees into the Caribou High School Hall of Fame. Griffeth graduated from Caribou High School in 2000.

He graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2004 with a two-year degree in Turf Management and a B.S. in Plant & Soil Science with a concentration on Turfgrass Management.

In a March 23, 2006 interview I did for the Bangor Daily News Sports,  Griffeth said, “In December 2000 with help from Mary Owen, an extension educator at UMass, I started calling the new Director of Grounds at Fenway Park, David Mellor, about the possibility of an internship at the park. I was so persistent about calling dave that he took me on as an intern for the 2001 season.”

“I can remember how excited I was the first time I reported to work with the sight and sounds of that first game. I think I stayed for every inning of every home game that first season.”

Griffeth spent the summers of 2002, part of 2003, and 2004 as an intern at the park and was named Mellor’s second Assistant Grounds Crew Director in 2005.

When Griffeth interviewed for the intern job, his boss, Dave Mellor developed an instant like for the hard-working Aroostook County man who continues to this day. In 2006 Mellor said, “Jason’s been with me pretty much since the time I came to Boston. He is a pleasure to work with. He is a valuable asset to the red Sox organization. He is very thorough and very persistent.”

I suspect some ten years later Mellor would say the same about Griffeth. He was reluctant to let him go but in the end gave him his blessing.

When Griffeth noticed the opening at Daytona International Speedway he applied. He is an avid motorsports fan. While in Boston you would find him at Stafford  Springs Speedway, Seekonk, Thompson Motorsports Park, or New Hampshire Motor Speedway during an off weekend. It was at one of his trips to Daytona that he fell in love with what is arguably one of the most famous motorsports venues in the world.

Griffeth began his new job in November 2015 and immediately became immersed in preparation for the largest event on the Daytona calendar, the Daytona 500. He and his crew worked hard to assure that the stadium area at the start/finish line and the hundreds of acres of outlying parking areas looked good for the fans.

It's Speedweeks 2016 at Daytona! Every time I see someone sliding across this famous stretch of grass I think Jason Griffeth of Aroostook County and crew will be taking care of that. HTF Motorsports photo

The start/finish line at the grand opening showcasing the $400 million renovations at Daytona International Speedway in January at the 24 Hours of Daytona. HTF Motorsports photo

Since Speedweeks 2016 the stadium has hosted a series of motorcycle events as part of Bike Week.  Griffeth and crew recently sprigged the stadium area with a newer variety of Bermuda grass called Celebration.

The low-cost ChumpCar World Series 12 hour enduro was in town for their race this past weekend. The new grounds supervisor is gearing up for several smaller events and is looking forward to the 2016 Country 500 Concert May 27-29th and of course the Coke Zero 400 July 2nd.

When asked about his selection to the Hall of Fame Griffeth said, “I got a phone call last week and it said 207 on the caller id so I figured I needed to answer it in case something was going on back home. When I answered  the caller said ‘Hello Jason this is Kenneth Atcheson and I am pleased to say that you have been selected to the Caribou High School Hall of Fame. I am excited to get a fellow Woodchuck selected ‘”. (Both Griffeth and Atcheson were graduates of the Woodland Consolidated School and Caribou High School graduates)

“I was not sure of what he meant until Mr. Atcheson explained what was going on.  I was blown away,” said Griffeth.

Also selected were Olaf P. Pierson who was credited with much of the modern french fry business, Four Star Admiral Gregory H. Johnson, NASA astronaut Jessica Meir, Senator Susan Collins, and Cary Medical Center CEO Kris Doody.

The induction ceremony will take place at the Caribou Performing Art Center May 21st at 7 pm. According to a report in the March 30, 2016 Aroostook Republican newspaper, Atcheson said about the Hall of Fame, “It was not just for the athletically talented, but it’s for individuals who made a success in their life, and are good, happy, productive citizens in the field or endeavor they have chosen. They don’t have to be world famous but they have shown that graduating from Caribou High School takes with it what you can do to make yourself into a success.”

Pinewood Derby Regionals

Regional Champions in the Cub Scout/Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby l to r first place Brock Gagnon Pack 184 Caribou, second Jack Lamoreau Pack 170 Mapleton, third Joseph Stubbs Pack 184 Caribou and fourth Austin Grant Pack 205 Patten. Photo by Nicole King

Regional Champions in the Cub Scout/Boy Scouts Pinewood Derby l to r first place Brock Gagnon Pack 184 Caribou, second Jack Lamoreau Pack 170 Mapleton, third Joseph Stubbs Pack 184 Caribou and fourth Austin Grant Pack 205 Patten. Photo by Nicole King

Gravity Powers Pinewood Derby

Saturday at the Aroostook Centre Mall in Presque Isle regional champions were crowned in the Annual Pinewood Derby. It was my first time witnessing the event. The gravity powered racers traversed the 35 foot long course in under four seconds with the faster ones hanging around the mid 2 seconds to 3 seconds time.

Starting ramp for the Pinewood Derby racers. This is where they begin their rapid descent obtaining  speeds that scale up to 200 mph. HTF Motorsports photo

Starting ramp for the Pinewood Derby racers. This is where they begin their rapid descent obtaining speeds that scale up to 200 mph. HTF Motorsports photo

Three lane track at the finish line where electronic timing determines time  and the race placement to hundreds of a second. HTF Motorsports photo

Three lane track at the finish line where electronic timing determines time and the race placement to hundreds of a second. HTF Motorsports photo

Northern Maine Karting Association at the Aroostook Centre Mall

The Northern Maine Karting Association made its debut at the Aroostook Centre Mall Saturday . Over a dozen race  karts were present with representatives from each of the three classes racing this summer present. More about the NMKA in a later episode. Photo courtesy Lloyd Racing

The Northern Maine Karting Association made its debut at the Aroostook Centre Mall Saturday . Over a dozen race karts were present with representatives from each of the three classes racing this summer present. More about the NMKA in a later episode. Photo courtesy Lloyd Racing

More of the Northern Maine Karting Association race karts at the Aroostook Centre Mall. JRT Customs photo

More of the Northern Maine Karting Association race karts at the Aroostook Centre Mall. JRT Customs photo

Cyriuous Racing Reveals 2016 Paint Scheme

Gene Cyr of Crouseville unveiled his paint scheme for the 2016 drag racing season before towing the car to downstate storage. Cyrious Racing photo

Gene Cyr of Crouseville unveiled his paint scheme for the 2016 drag racing season before towing the car to downstate storage. Cyrious Racing photo

Rear view of the Gene Cyr Mustang with its fresh paint from Mike Cowett Auto Body and Towing. Cyrious Motorsports photo

Rear view of the Gene Cyr Mustang with its fresh paint from Mike Cowett Auto Body and Towing. Cyrious Motorsports photo

I am certainly looking forward to reports on the racing exploits of this County drag racer I reported about earlier this year.. I hope to keep you up-to-date on his progress.

Catherine Crawford, lead engineer at Panoz Deltawing Racing based out of Atlanta, Georgia was hospitalized after emergency brain surgery. Photo courtesy Deltawing Racing

Catherine Crawford, lead engineer at Panoz DeltaWing Racing based out of Atlanta, Georgia was hospitalized after emergency brain surgery. Photo courtesy DeltaWing Racing

Panoz DeltaWing Lead Engineer Hospitalized

In an official statement from the Panoz Team, “It goes without saying that we were all devastated by the news, as we are a very tight-knit family, just as everyone is in the entire racing community,” said Panoz DeltaWing Racing’s Team Manager Tim Keene. “Catherine is such a strong and feisty woman, and I have all the confidence in the world that she’ll overcome this and come back to us all stronger than ever. We will continue on in the upcoming races, but her presence will always be with us as she makes her recovery.”

“On Tuesday, March 29, 2016, our daughter Catherine, engineering manager at Crawford Composites and lead engineer at DeltaWing Racing, underwent emergency surgery in Rome, Italy for a brain tumor,” her parents, Max and Jan Crawford, said in a statement. “Catherine and her husband Russ were on a business-pleasure trip to Italy when she suffered a severe headache and more serious symptoms were immediately evident. The surgeons have praised Russ for his swift action in getting Catherine to hospital – something that positively affected the outcome.
“Our family is here in Rome at present supporting Russ and Catherine. We acknowledge that the road to recovery will be a long one but the surgeons are encouraged by the progress Catherine has displayed already.
“We want to thank all who have expressed their support and love and at this time we respectfully request privacy.”

I did not personally meet Catherine at the 24 Hours of Daytona, however, I do know that she has been credited with the improved performance of the unique looking Panoz DeltaWing car that races in the IMSA prototype class. I am sure the Crawford family would appreciate the continued prayers for Catherine as she continues on the road to healing.

100 Episodes and Counting

As I wrap up the 100th episode of UpNorth Motorsports I find it hard to believe that I have had the privilege to write about some of the characters covered in these months and now years.

When I started this adventure with the urging of Bangor Daily News Sports Editor Joe McLaughlin, I was worried that I would run out of material for the column. Turns out the thing I most often run out of is time. Either to interview someone in motorsports or attend an event.  By no means are these folks the only ones with a story to share. For each one there are probably three or four more waiting in the wings to share their story with you.

I seek your input on people or events to be featured in future episodes and do so with the understanding that I cannot guarantee coverage. As mentioned, time and yes money dictate some of what goes into each episode.

Next week the Honda GRC car and WAR goes to the Dyno. First however I want to close with this quote from AJ Allmendinger made available by Chevrolet Racing after his second place finish in today’s STP 500 from Martinsville Speedway. I think you will agree that Sprint Cup racing is not just about business.

AJ Allmendinger post race comments, “Man, I hope the fans enjoyed that. Thanks for coming out. It was a lot of fun. I passed Jimmie Johnson like five times at Martinsville. That is pretty fricking cool. I just can’t thank everybody on this team enough. Randall Burnett (crew chief), Ernie Cope (competition director), Brain Burns (engineer), Tony Palmer (engineer) for embracing their new roles and everybody really stepping up together, especially Tad and Jodi Geschickter (team owners) for putting all this effort into this team. “

Let’s go racing,

Tom Hale

Soli Deo Gloria

Tom Hale

About Tom Hale

Tom wrote 14 years as freelancer for the Bangor Daily Sports covering motorsports in Maine. Now blogging and concentrating on human interest stories about people and places in racing.