BLEWETT PUNCTUATES TOUGH 2005 WITH NORTH-SOUTH WIN by Matt Kentfield
This One Is For His Family & Friends
John Blewett, III is known as one of the toughest and most fierce competitors on the East Coast Modified racing scene. His aggressive nature and heavy right foot have put him in many a victory lane throughout his career.
At Saturday night’s Third-Annual North-South Shootout at Concord (NC) Motorsport Park however, a different driving style won the Howell, New Jersey driver his second NSS victory in just three years.
“It was a matter of being patient and we knew we have a shot at the win,” said an ecstatic Blewett, the inaugural NSS winner in 2003. “We had a car that was capable of winning, but there was a lot of traffic to deal with and whoever got through the traffic the quickest was going to win, and thankfully it was us.”
Blewett had to work his way up to the front from his 13th-place starting position while polesitter Donny Lia set the pace early in the 100-lap event.
Lia, the 2004 North-South Shootout Champion, was chased early by Zach Sylvester and Todd Szegedy. The three Northerners ran nose-to-tail in the opening laps, but a caution on lap 36 slowed the field and proved to be the turning point for the early favorite Lia.
Under the yellow, Lia jumped to pit road and was followed by several cars including Todd Szegedy, who was running fourth at the time, but the pits were not yet open. On the next lap under caution, the rest of the leaders took service on an open pit road. Lia and the other drivers that pitted too early were forced to the rear of the field.
“One of my guys said they thought they heard the pits were open on
the scanner,” said Lia. “The wreck that brought out the yellow happened right at the entrance of pit road and there must’ve been a wrecker blocking the pit flagman because I don’t remember even seeing one. I figured maybe because I didn’t see the flagman and since this isn’t a NASCAR race, there must not be one. When I was told pits were open I came down, but turns out it wasn’t open. It was just a miscommunication I guess.”
Lia restarted from the 26th position and Pete Brittain, who did not stop under the caution, inherited the lead. Blewett restarted fourth and took the lead when Brittain relinquished the top spot in favor of a two-tire pit stop under yellow on lap 41. Blewett’s advantage was short lived however, as Northerner Doug Coby made the outside lane work to get around him by turn three on the restart. Sylvester followed Coby around Blewett for second, but Blewett was not discouraged about giving up the lead.
“When they blew around me on that restar,t I got a little concerned,” said Blewett, “but I told myself those guys are setting an awfully fast pace. My crew guys were giving me Doug’s and Zach’s lap times on the radio and I knew how fast my car could go to get to the end of the race and stay that particular speed, so I just went that speed for a while.”
After Coby and Sylvester got by him on the restart, Blewett clicked off laps behind the two as the leaders worked steadily through lapped traffic. Blewett used the slower cars to his advantage to pass Sylvester for second on lap 73 after a two-lap, side-by-side battle. Two laps after he took second, Blewett found himself getting the best of Coby to retake the lead.
“I never got any faster,” confided Blewett, “those guys just got caught up in traffic and when they got to the traffic, they had used their cars up so much that they couldn’t maneuver around and I was able to.”
The yellow flag flew for the final time on lap 92 when Pete Brittain looped his once-leading car in turn three. On the ensuing single-file restart Blewett got the jump on Sylvester, Coby, and Whelen Southern Modified Tour regular Brian Loftin, who quietly worked his way into the top-five late in the race. Sylvester gave Blewett one last run on the final corner but was not able to get position.
The win was an emotional one for Blewett, as health problems kept him out of the driver’s seat often in 2005. He looked to his family-operated team help him regroup and get back to the winner’s circle for the second time at the North-South Shootout.
“It’s very special when you win a race and you do it on your own,” said Blewett. “My family told me that if I thought I could do it, they’d put the team behind me. I was in and out of the hospital a few times this year and I only ran about 14 or 15 races and that’s nothing for me when usually I run 30 or 40. I came into this race thinking, ‘man, I’ve only won one race this year, I’m turning into a bum.’ So this is very special.”
John Blewett III earned his second career North-South Shootout win in three tires on Saturday night. (Jim DuPont Photos)
Making the win even more special to Blewett was that he could share it with his grandfather, John Blewett, Sr., a legendary New Jersey Modified driver and a motivating force in the racing careers of John, III and his brother Jimmy who finished sixth in Saturday’s 100-lapper.
A wreck in turn three (top, DuPont photo) might have been what cost Donny Lia (bottom, 51 Photo) the victory.
“My grandfather put a lot of effort into this team. This is his car, his number, his colors; it’s all his. He’s 74 years old now and he’s here tonight and it means so much to me to have him here and to do something special like this for a guy like him.”
At the checkers, Blewett and Sylvester led the charge for the Northern Modified contingent, while Brian Loftin’s third place finish was the best for the Southerners. Donny Lia bounced back from his pit miscue to post a strong fourth place finish, while Doug Coby slid back to fifth over the final laps after leading in the middle portion of the event.
We’ll have more coverage from Concord and the Third Annual North-South Shootout later in the week in Leftovers.
THIRD-ANNUAL NORTH-SOUTH SHOOTOUT
Concord Motorsport Park, NC
1. 76 John Blewett, III, Howell, NJ, 100
2. 19 Zach Sylvester, Lebanon, CT, 100
3. 23 Brian Loftin, Lexington, NC, 100
4. 18 Donny Lia, Jericho, NY, 100
5. 77 Doug Coby, Milford, CT, 100
6. 12 Jimmy Blewett, Howell, NJ, 100
7. 5 Todd Szegedy, Mooresville, NC, 100
8. 50 Chuck Hossfeld, Buffalo, NY, 100
9. 0 Ted Christopher, Plainville, CT, 100
10. 3 Eric Beers, Northampton, PA, 100
11. 70 Andy Seuss, Hampstead, NH, 100
12. 711 Bob Polverari, W. Springfield, MA, 100
13. 41 Jay Hedgecock, High Point, NC, 100
14. 83 Tim Brown, Rural Hall, NC, 100
15. 59 Matt Hirschman, Northampton, PA, 100
16. 2 J.R. Bertuccio, Canton, NY, 100
17. 99 Pete Brittain, Oakhurst, NJ, 100
18. 4 Jason Myers, Walnut Cove, NC, 99
19. 34 Rusty Smith, Oxford, NY, 99
20. 1 Burt Myers, Walnut Cove, NC, 99
21. 07 Frank Fleming, Mt. Airy, NC, 99
22. 45 Wayne Anderson, Yaphank, NY, 97
23. 33 Ken Heagy, Calverton, NY, 94
24. 8 Earl Paules, Kunkletown, PA, 92
25. 25 John Smith, Mt. Airy, NC, 86
26. 81 Brian Pack, Walkertown, NC, 80
27. 15 Tim Arre, Toms River, NJ, 75
28. 99 Jamie Tomaino, Howell, NJ, 41
29. 4 Ryan Preece, Kensington, CT, 41
30. 43 Kirk Alexander, W. Swansey, NH, 37
31. 69 Junior Miller, Pinehall, NC, 36
32. 09 Anthony Sesely, Matawa, NJ, 36
33. 79 Mike Christopher, Plainville, CT, 26
Blewett (#76) was able to hold off Zach Sylvester (#19) late in the race. (DuPont Photo)