who the New Jersey veteran feels is the best of the best in the garage area.
“There’s a lot of self-satisfaction. I can’t say enough about all of them. They do a great, great job no matter if they are waxing the car, scaling it or anything. Our pits stops have been awesome. They do an absolutely all-around great job.
“This is truly a championship-contending team. These are guys who have won championships with me in the weekly series and guys who have won with Curt Chase and Sheba Racing.”
BLEWETT WINS, AND GOES TO VICTORY LANE, AT NHIS by Mike Twist
New Jersey Driver Sweeps Mod Tour Events at Magic Mile
The record book will show that John Blewett won July’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at New Hampshire International Speedway. But you’ll be hard pressed to find any victory lane photos documenting the victory. James Civali actually was directed to victory lane in that event, but a late race caution caused a scoring review. It was 15 minutes after the checkered flag when Blewett was declared the winner. By that time, he was on a golf cart heading for a plane to take him to Wall Township Raceway (NJ) to run (and win) yet another Modified race.
So on his next trip to NHIS, for Friday’s New Hampshire 100, Blewett made sure that he won again. This time though, Blewett and his #66 team got to enjoy the full victory lane experience.
“We got to [go to victory lane] this time,” said Blewett. “It was nice for the guys because they work so hard to get up here. When you don’t get to enjoy it at the end, it’s kind of frustrating. By the same token, I’ve been there a couple of times, so after a while a win is a win. But for the guys to win up here…it’s special. It’s big for them.”
The most enjoyable part of the experience for Blewett is that he has hand-picked the #66 team and it represents
These aren't toy cars - it is actually a wide shot of the large lead pack during the Mod Tour race.
John Blewett got to go to victory lane this time at NHIS. (Jim DuPont Photo)
got stacked up in a chain reaction crash and Lia had an engine expire in his #18, but the rest were still there at the end.
What they didn’t count on though was the strength of Blewett down the homestretch. After struggling early, Blewett took the top spot with seven laps to go from Christopher and even pulled away a little bit on a day when very few drivers could.
“I had a good run coming off the corner and the smartest thing for me to do was to dive underneath him and I had some help. I think at that point, he just wanted to get in line anyway before he got shuffled back more. We just caught it all with the right timing.”
Marquis made an attempt to take the lead on the final lap, but it was too little and too late.
Blewett came on strong in the closing laps of the race, but early on he was not one of the obvious choices for the victory. The score card shows 17 official lead changes among seven drivers. The key there though is that it only takes into account lead changes at the start-finish line. There were really dozens and dozens of times that someone would nose ahead for the top spot through the race at various other points on the track.
Ted Christopher, Jerry Marquis, Todd Szegedy, Eddie Flemke, James Civali, Donny Lia, Mike Stefanik, Reggie Ruggiero, Zach Sylvester and Tony Hirschman were the racers in the lead pack. Any of them could have won the race. A few ran into trouble before the finish. Szegedy
Ted Christopher (#36), Mike Stefanik (#16) and Jerry Marquis go nose-to-tail for the top spot. (51 Photo)
“He had a run on everyone else and he was able to pull away from the pack,” said Marquis of Blewett. “That is pretty difficult to do.”
Blewett wasn’t biding his time by taking the lead late. His car had been handling very erratically.
“I wasn’t waiting for anything,” said Blewett. “I just couldn’t get going in the beginning. I was way too tight. There at the end, we freed it up and freed it up too much. [The lead pack] got away from me. Then I was catching them and I was good by myself. I caught that pack of cars and then I was loose again. But I stayed in line and didn’t get crazy. I made a few passes for the lead and then I was good again. The car was neutral and I didn’t have any issues.”
The final pass for the lead was a clean one, which might have surprised some fans. Earlier this summer, Blewett and Christopher were battling for the victory at Thompson when Blewett found the backstretch wall courtesy of Christopher’s front bumper. After the race, Blewett vowed revenge. But this wasn’t the time or the place for it.
“You don’t use the bumper up here,” said Blewett. “If I held a grudge with Teddy, this isn’t the place to take it back. Teddy and I have raced a long time against each other and I don’t think that you are going to find two people who want to win more than us, except maybe my brother. When you’re racing hard, sometimes you go over the edge. That Thursday night, maybe he went over the edge. The guy is racing for a championship and I’m just here part-time. I don’t want to get caught up in all of that. In the heat of the moment, you say things that are in the back of your mind.”
There were a few hard feelings after the race, but they weren’t between Blewett and TC. James Civali was the
Christopher (#36) and Blewett (#66) race clean. (Ken Spring Photo)
most popular driver after the event, gathering the ire of Christopher and also earning a visit from an agitated Tony Hirschman for his style of driving. Speed51.com talked to all parties involved and will have more on their perspectives in our Leftovers later this week.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will visit Waterford Speedbowl (CT) next for a stop there on Sunday, September 24th.