reduced to 200 laps because of rain showers. That came on top of a nearly two-hour rain delay to get the show started in the first place. It also came after a brief red flag at lap 137 for rain.
The Ugly was the fact that of the 200 laps contested, 86 were run under caution flag conditions. There was another red flag at lap 14; not for rain, but for a major wreck that either involved or blocked in nearly 30 cars (yes, you read that figure correctly). Great passing and wheel-to-wheel competition? Not this time out. The most popular way to get around your fellow competitor at Martinsville was to drive through them.
IT'S THE GOOD, BAD AND UGLY AT MARTINSVILLE By Mike Twist and Matt Kentfield
Blewett Wins One For Charlie J
When the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour visited Martinsville Speedway (VA) for the Whelen Made in America 300 on Saturday night, the race was a combination of the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.
First the Good. Jimmy Blewett won his first-career Tour race. It’s always special when a driver captures his first victory, but this time it was even more meaningful.
Nearly 20 years ago, the Eddie Partridge-owned team that Blewett drives for lost their driver Charlie Jarzombek in a wreck at the same track. Since then, there have been several drivers who have taken Jarzombek’s place in Partridge’s cars, but he has never been replaced. To this day, his presence is still felt - the team carries Jarzombek’s signature red, white and blue #1 on all of their cars and his memory is a motivating factor to win.
“This win is dedicated to Charlie Jarzombek and Eddie Partridge,” said Blewett. “It means more than anything. This is the biggest win of my career. Eddie gave me the opportunity of a lifetime to drive this car. Eddie told me when I started driving this car that more than anything, he wanted to win at Martinsville when we went back. We’re here today and took down a win. This is for him. He’s been in this series a long time, he supports the series. He brings his car to every track no matter what driver is in it. He gave me the opportunity of a lifetime – not one that many people would give me. I need to thank him, thank my crew guys, my sponsors, Ron Hutter [the engine builder] and everyone who helps me.”
The Bad was that fact that the Whelen Made in America 300, which was actually scheduled to be 250 laps [a consolation race of 50 laps, when added to the feature race distance, is what gives the event its proper name], was
One of the traditions at Martinsville is that the race winner gets a Grandfather clock. Jimmy Blewett poses with his new timepiece after the race. (Howie Hodge Photo)
Mike Stefanik dominated most of the race. He took the lead for the first time on lap 33. Over the next 150 laps, Blewett, Jerry Marquis and Zach Sylvester all led briefly, but none lasted more than three consecutive laps out front before Stefanik retook the top spot.
But while Stefanik’s competition wasn’t strong enough to take the lead, one of their front bumpers sure was. On a lap 181 restart, Blewett got into Stefanik and drop-kicked him back out of the top five to take command of the race.
“When we did get the lead there, it wasn’t the prettiest way to take it,” said Blewett. “There was definitely contact and I know that he’s going to be mad at me for it. I got into the corner too hard. I got into the brakes as hard as I could, but I still got into the back of him. The
hole presented itself and, with the rain how it had been today and the fact that it was Martinsville, I had to take the opportunity. It wasn’t the prettiest way to win, but a win is a win.”
Stefanik declined to discuss the incident, telling Speed51.com that he didn’t want to talk because he simply just did not have anything nice to say.
The Blewett/Stefanik incident was unique because in was one of the few incidents during the evening that did not involved Ted Christopher. Last year’s Martinsville winner was in danger of going a lap down to Stefanik just before the race was 100 laps old. TC wouldn’t let Stefanik by and ran him all over the track. Christopher was in desperate need of a caution and on lap 96, made his own by spinning Jim Storace. NASCAR issued a stop-and-go penalty under the ensuing caution, but it was worth it to Christopher, who was now solidly on the lead lap.
The jet drier takes laps as Mike Stefanik's #16 sits on pit road as the leader during one of the rain delays. (51 Photo)
A little bit later, Christopher found out what it was like to be spun when Doug Coby sent him around exiting turn two. Christopher recouped from that to finish second, a position that he gained when he dove-bombed Zach Sylvester going into turn one with less than 20 laps left to go.
Carnage-wise, nothing compared to an incident on lap 13. That is when several cars in the back half of the top 10 got together exiting turn four. Nearly 30 cars were either involved or blocked in by the wreck. Eric Beers took the hardest hit when he backed into the outside wall. He was unhurt, but his #3 Ole’ Blue Modified was heavily damaged. Tony Hirschman, Chuck Hossfeld, Junior Miller, Robbie Summers, Jamie Tomaino and Reggie
Ruggiero were the other drivers who saw their chances of a top finish ruined due to the melee.
All of the red flags and cautions took their toll. Even though it was cut short, the race lasted until 1am and some observers thought the clean-up took much too long.
“I wasn’t having fun at all,” said fourth-place finisher Todd Szegedy. “The track wasted too much time. I don’t know why it took so long to clean the cars up and clean up the mess. They wasted a lot of time and a lot of laps. We could have finished this race if they didn’t take so much time. We need to make laps [under green] and not run around for 10 or 20 laps [under caution]. That was ridiculous, but what do I know? Maybe it’s harder than we think. Who knows?”
The race almost ended during a 15-minute halfway break when light rain fell. Some drivers would have been glad to just walk away at that point.
“I wish that it had been over halfway,” said Szegedy, who was also fourth at that point.
Blewett saw things much differently.
“We were glad that they didn’t call it earlier,” said Blewett. “After we got the lead [though], we were doing a rain dance. We knew that the weather was around us, but we didn’t know when it was going to hit. There were spurts and sprinkles here and there, but nothing bad enough to stop the race. When it started raining that last time, we were playing over the radio. God was looking out for Eddie Partridge and me.”
Finishing behind Blewett and Christopher were James Civali, Szegedy and Coby.
Speed51.com will have more on Martinsville later this week with our Leftovers from the race. The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will return to action next Sunday, as they share the stage with The RoC Modifieds, True Value Modified Racing Series and Sunoco (SK) Modifieds at Thompson International Speedway’s Modified Mania show.
The field pulls down a rain-slicked pit road after 200 laps were in the books. (51 Photo)
Jimmy Blewett keeps Ted Christopher behind him late in the Martinsville race. (Howie Hodge Photo)