It was actually an appropriate end to an ugly 150-lap race
that included a 17-car pile-up, three-wide battles that didn’t work, a normally mild-mannered driver running down pit road to “discuss” another driver’s actions, one red flag, 10 caution periods, several wars of words and too many bent racecars to count.
Late in the race, it was apparent that Christopher and Blewett had two of the best cars out there. Fans wondered if the ghost of races past, specifically a July event at Thompson where Christopher won after Blewett ended up in the backstretch wall, would surface.
BLEWETT/TC BATTLE OVERSHADOWS REG’S WORLD SERIES WIN by Mike Twist & Denise DuPont
Two Drivers Fight it Out As One Smart & Quiet One Wins The Race
Thompson International Speedway’s blockbuster season finale of racing, one with dozens of feature events including a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event, has always shared a name with another big sporting event. But after this year’s running of the World Series, you have to wonder if maybe another title should have been substituted.
Based on what took place in Sunday’s race, the names “Wrestlemania,” “Smackdown” or “Royal Rumble” might be more appropriate.
With two laps to go, Ted Christopher was leading the race with John Blewett, III in his mirror. Entering turn three, the two made contact. Christopher spun into the outside wall, while Blewett followed with the right side of his nose going into the concrete first. Depending on where you were sitting, you might call it payback, blocking, karma, dumping or just racing. The end result though was that both men were left with twisted racecars and no chance at winning the race.
Christopher (#36) leads Blewett (#66) down the backstretch with two laps to go. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Ted Christopher (#36) and Reggie Ruggiero (#41) race together early. Both would have different fates in the race. (Jim DuPont Photo)
“I was racing for the win. I made a move that I thought was clean. I didn’t push him up to get under him. I raced him down the backstretch and turned under him. He just needed to give me a little room. At one point, do I get just 10 feet of the racetrack?”
Christopher laughed off Blewett’s accusations.
“I didn’t just turn left,” said Christopher. “I was running my line. Run your line and try to get by me. I didn’t chop the guy. He must be on drugs. You know what? There’s a guy with like a grammar school education and it shows. I was sitting in the car and didn’t know if my knee was broken or not and he comes over and yells at me like a scumbag. That’s a guy with no education whatsoever. He’s a junkyard dog and that’s where he belongs all of the time – in a junkyard.”
clean move on him. I didn’t bump him, I didn’t slam him out of the way. He kept coming down until I was down in the dirt. How far are you going to run a guy down until he is out of racing room? I just don’t understand it. He wrecked his car, he wrecked my car, he took away any shot at winning a championship and he hurt himself.
TC and Blewett both ended up in the fence a few moments later. (Jim DuPont Photo)
“He was smoking and I didn’t know what the deal was,” said Blewett. “I didn’t know what was going to happen with Reggie. I was trying to save a little something for the end. We were catching him little by little, but he was too far away.”
Then, inside of 10 laps to go, the #06 of Billy Pauch, Jr. spun and the caution came out. It was then a whole new race.
The feud between the two drivers isn’t close to being over yet either.
“Tell Grandpa Blewett to take out his checkbook, because I’m not done,” said Christopher’s car owner, Eddie Whelan.
“If he wants to drive like there, I’ll just keep fixing my car. We’ll race like that until the cows come home. We’ll do it until he gets tired of it. I’ll fix it all day long. It’s whatever he wants to do.”
Christopher limped from his car and may have suffered a knee injury in the wreck.
The early indications were that the past would stay in the past. With less than 30 laps to go, Christopher rocketed into the lead when Blewett bump-drafted him by the #12 of Jimmy Blewett.
Racing does make strange bedfellows sometimes.
“This was a guy going for a championship,” said John Blewett. “He deserves respect on the racetrack.”
The two raced close for a little bit and then Christopher pulled ahead to a comfortable lead. A faint trail of smoke appeared from Christopher’s #36 car, but it seemed to go away after a few laps. Without a caution, it looked like TC would simply cruise to victory and keep his title hopes against Mike Stefanik alive.
With five to go, the green flag came back out and Blewett closed to Christopher’s bumper. With two to go, he tried to make his move going into turn three. The two touched, spun and hit the wall.
“I was leading the race,” said Christopher. “It was up to him to pass me and not just take me out. I don’t care if I pinched him a little bit or not. I was leading. I passed all of those other guys fine without doing anything to anyone. All day, we raced side-by-side with no problems.”
“We got that caution there and I got a run on him down the backstretch,” said Blewett. “He just kept coming down on me and I just don’t understand it. I made a
Will the Blewett team have to deal with an army of #36 cars in the future? (51 Photo)
“My knee really hurts,” said Christopher. “I’m really good at padding everything in my car. This is the first time that I had a new steering shaft in it and I didn’t put the padding up high enough. When I hit with the left side, that shot my knee up and smashing it into a bar. That wasn’t good.
“I get hit and turned into the wall with the left side. That’s the worst way to hit. Thank God I’ve got a good seat in it.”
Nearly lost in all of the mayhem was the fact that the second winningest driver in Tour history, Reggie Ruggiero, navigated through the mess left by Christopher and Blewett to score his first victory in over two years.
“We got lucky today, but the fastest car doesn’t always win the race,” said Ruggiero. “I saw them sparking down the backstretch. I just waited. I gave them some room and they took each other out.”
Before they took each other out, both drivers had to get by Ruggiero late in the race. Ruggiero was running near the front as Christopher and Blewett were marching up there with newer tires on their racecars.
“The car was too tight at the end,” said Ruggiero. “I let Teddy and the #66 [Blewett] car by me. I was going to settle for third and on that restart I knew that John was faster then Teddy. He went into the corner over there and John sent it in the corner on the bottom. Teddy turned down on him. They both went into the fence. That was what I saw and I was right there.”
With Blewett and Christopher now out of the race, it put Ruggiero into the lead with John’s younger brother Jimmy Blewett right on his tail for a green-white-checkered finish.
“Anyways, then I said well I know that Jimmy is anxious so I have to just get a good restart and hold my own line,” said Ruggiero, who held off Blewett easily to score the victory.
Even tough Ruggiero hadn’t won since the Wall race in the summer of 2004, that statistic is also a little bit misleading. His Dick Barney-owned #41 team only runs a limited schedule of races on the Tour and it has been close to winning several events earlier this year, but bad luck has taken those potential victories away.
“We never really left,” said Ruggiero. “We always finish up front, we just haven’t been winning. Tonight we sealed it up.”
We’ll have more from Ruggiero later on in our World Series Leftovers
Stefanik rebounded from a mid-race incident to finish fifth. After Christopher's problems, that pretty much assures Stefanik of the title. He has already qualified for the rain-delayed Fall Final at Stafford in two weeks and a last place finish in that event would mathimatically clinch the championship.
There were other incidents during the day and we’ll also have news of those later this week in our World Series Leftovers. Stay tuned.
There were plenty of other wrecks in the race at Thompson. (Jim DuPont Photo)