JIMMY BLEWETT WINS RICHIE EVANS MEMORIAL 100 by Matt Kentfield
Young Star Does It for the Evans Family
Before Friday night’s Richie Evans Memorial 100 at New Smyrna Speedway, Richie Evans’ kids Richie, Jr. and Tara talked to their longtime friend Jimmy Blewett and told the young driver to go out and win the race named after their legendary father: as if Blewett needed more motivation to win the Evans 100 after a week filled with bad luck in the Tour Type Modifieds.
The New Jersey native befriended Evans, Jr. when the two were racing at Wall Speedway together. Growing up in an area of the country where Richie Evans was and is a racing hero, Blewett was fully aware of the iconic stature that Evans has in the Modified racing world. As he crossed the start-finish line on the final lap, Blewett’s emotions showed when he realized that he had won the Richie Evans 100.
“Richie was the best, that’s all there is to it,” said Blewett. “It’s unbelievable to win a race that has his name on it. I don’t even know what to say or do right now.
“I’m good friends with his son and his daughter and I’m happy to win it for them. They asked me before the race if I’d go out and win it for them and it means so much that I was able to do it. That gave me some extra motivation. Richie, Jr. came and lived with us for three years and raced with us a bunch. We became close friends after that. To win a race that’s in honor of his dad is really special for me.”
Blewett won the race in dominating fashion, something that Evans himself would’ve been proud of. He timed the pole in qualifying but had to start the race deeper in the field after the redraw. It only took Blewett four laps to get back to the lead.
Jimmy Blewett got an emotional win on Friday night. (Howie Hodge photo)
The lead was the right place for Blewett to be. An early caution ended the chances of victory for several race favorites including last year’s Evans Memorial winner Donny Lia, Chuck Hossfeld, Eric Beers and Thursday night’s winner Mike Andrews, Jr.
Blewett continued withstand several mid-race cautions and jumped to a sizable lead. Robby Summers and Ted Christopher chased Blewett down and began putting pressure on Blewett’s #12 in the closing stages. A caution with 10 laps to go set up a final shootout for the win. Christopher, who was running third when the caution flew, came into the pits for new tires. Christopher restarted deep in the field but had caught Blewett and Summers in a matter of five laps. Blewett wasn’t worried about Christopher and his new tires, however.
“All I was thinking was be smooth and don’t overdrive the car. If I could do that and protect the bottom then I could win. That’s all I was thinking about those last few laps. Nobody’s going to pass on the outside that late in the race. Everyone’s used up their tires by then.”
Christopher peppered Summers’ bumper over the final laps to the point where Summers was sent out of the groove and lost the second spot. That left Blewett next on Christopher’s radar. The final three laps provided some of the best racing of this year’s Speedweeks, as Christopher looked for every possible lane to get by Blewett, but he couldn’t make the move. At the fall of the checkers, it was Blewett who made the emotional trip to victory lane.
“This is mission accomplished I guess. I just have an awesome crew. Eddie Partridge, Brad Lafontaine, Greg Narducci; everyone that touches this car does such a great job. My guys really hung tough all week. We’ve had good qualifying runs, but a lot of bad luck in the race all week long. Everybody just stuck behind me and I can’t thank them all enough. They helped me out so much and they really kept my confidence up when I was struggling out there.”
Between being a friend of the Evans family and the emotions of winning in New Smyrna, Blewett was at a loss for words in victory lane. It’s rare to see Jimmy Blewett speechless, but winning the Richie Evans Memorial 100 was a surreal experience for the young star.
“This is the greatest win of my career. I wanted to say something to the guys on the radio after the race but I was speechless. I was trying to pinch myself to see if this was real. There’s no words that can explain this.”
NIGHT EIGHT NOTES: MODS
TC GETS A NEW RIDE…
“I just have to keep my head small and go out there tomorrow and keep doing what we’re doing. We’ve got a bunch of top five finishes but we haven’t won yet. We’d really like to win before the end of the week. I never thought I’d say this but we may have to points race tomorrow. I’ve never been in that situation before. I’m going to go out there and stay out of trouble and stay away from guys that might be gunning for me after some conflicts on the track. Hopefully we can stay out of trouble and keep it in the top ten and we should be alright. I’d still really like to win the race.”
SYLVESTER STILL STRUGGLING
Since showing up to New Smyrna at the halfway point of Speedweeks, Zach Sylvester and the #79 Hillbilly Racing crew have had nothing but bad luck. In each feature Sylvester has been involved in crashes that were not of his own doing, including a trip into the wall on Friday night. His tough luck has left him frustrated about his 2006 Speedweeks experience.
“These guys are animals,” said Sylvester. “You try and race side-by-side with someone and have some fun and they are bound to get into you. You try and slow down for a wreck and someone turns you the other way. I don’t know. I just can’t catch a break. I’m getting caught up in a wreck or the motor is popping or something. There is never a dull moment, but I wish it was better than this.”
BEERS’ NIGHT ENDS BEFORE IT STARTS
Seuss looked to perhaps be suffering the same fate as Hossfeld and Beers, however. The early incident that took out many of the leaders heavily damaged his #70 car. The cleanup from the melee was extensive, so it allowed Seuss’ team time to repair their racecar. When the field went green, another crash deeper in the field gave the Seuss crew even more time to fix the car. With the caution laps not counting, Seuss spent a long time in the infield while his car was being fixed but he never lost a lap. His crew got him back on the track and Seuss recovered to a fifth place finish.
“It wasn’t me, it was all the guys that got me to where I am now,” said Seuss. “I can’t believe it. We got into some trouble out there, came in and got it fixed. I mean, the rear end was broken and they fixed it and we didn’t even lose a lap. That’s what it’s all about. We lucked out with another caution right on the restart. We don’t like to see misfortunes for anyone but it definitely helped us out in points tonight.”
Seuss now holds a 13 point lead going into the final night of Speedweeks racing Saturday night.
Not even this spin with Zach Sylvester (top, DuPont) and a trip to the infield pits (bottom, 51 Photo) could stop Andy Seuss
Blewett with Richie Evans Jr. (left) in Victory Lane. (Jim DuPont Photo)
While Jimmy Blewett (#12) led, Rob Summers (#19) and TC (#80) got into it. (DuPont)
Summers was the first to feel Christopher’s pressure as TC’s #80 was pounding on the rear bumper of Summers’ #19. Christopher bounced Summers out of the way and went on to finish second, while the contact sent Summers back to fourth. Summers then took his frustrations out on Christopher by slamming him on the cool-down lap after the race. The two continued their feud as they banged each other until they both almost hit the turn three wall before returning to the infield.
“We came in and put on new tires and got behind Robby,” said Christopher. “He jerked me around for a little while then I got into him. If I could’ve gotten by him earlier then I know I could’ve gotten by Jimmy.
“After the race he just slammed me in the back. Yeah I got into him and moved him out of the way but I needed to because he wasn’t going forward or anything. He was mad I guess but I had to do it, that’s all.”
Summers looked back on the incident as just typical short track racing, something that both he and Christopher have been doing for years.
“I was just trying to save my right rear for the end,” said Summers. “Teddy came in the pits and got new tires and before I knew it he just kept banging my back bumper. With about five to go he just was banging the heck out of it. That killed my momentum with Jimmy.
“It was typical New Smyrna racing. It’s so tough to pass here. Plus he and I have nothing to lose. We’re not points racing here. We probably wouldn’t have raced like that if this was the Tour. If I had new right side tires like he did I probably would’ve done the same thing.”
SEUSS SITTING PRETTY FOR SPEEDWEEKS CHAMPIONSHIP
Going into Friday night’s Evans Memorial 100, Andy Seuss was third in points behind Chuck Hossfeld and Eric Beers who were tied atop the standings. With Beers and Hossfeld both having damage and mechanical issues as a result of on-track incidents, a door to the championship was opened for Andy Seuss.
“It was pretty good for the first time in the car. I have to thank Joe Brady for letting me get in it and come back home. I’ve done a lot of good stuff in this car before especially down here. We’ve won a lot of races together. It’s a good car and a good motor and that’s why we ran so good.”
…THAT TANGLES WITH SUMMERS AT THE FINISH
After Christopher came in for fresh rubber for the final 10-lap run to close out the Evans Memorial, he was immediately on a mission for the lead. With Blewett at the point and Rob Summers closely following the leader, Christopher only needed a few laps to work his way through the field and close up behind Blewett and Summers.
Ted Christopher was noticeably frustrated with the way he was running in the Bear Motorsports #14 Modified at New Smyrna all week. Christopher has never been the kind of driver who would accept mediocre finishes. After Thursday night’s feature, Christopher removed himself from the seat of the #14 and hooked up with his usual Speedweeks car owner Joe Brady. Christopher piloted Brady’s #80 as a teammate to John Blewett, III’s #00 during the Evans Memorial on Friday night.
“I knew I was a 17.5-second driver, but the problem was I had been driving an 18-second car,” said Christopher. “Now I’m in a 17.5-second car. That’s why I switched rides. That other car wasn’t good. It was a f**king bag of shit, actually.
TC switched to the #80 for Friday night. (51 Photo)
Eric Beers' team goes to work on the engine in the pits. (51 Photo)
Before his Evans Memorial could even get started, Eric Beers’s chances for victory were over. After a few hot laps to get temperatures and tires up to snuff, Beers noticed a problem with his family-owned #9 machine.
“We ended up losing a cylinder before the race went green in the hot laps,” said Beers. “We were hoping it was a spark plug wire or something. All the wires were on, so we went out and made a few laps. We came in and they pulled off the valve cover and we have a lifter that was broke. There was no sense in running it. The engines cost a lot more than the purse is.”
Making matters worse for Beers was that the poor result
has taken him out of the points lead with just one race remaining.
“I’m really disappointed. We were going to have one of the best cars tonight. We’ve had one of the best cars all week long. Shit like that can happen before you go green though. We’ll put another engine in and finish the week out. We’ll steal another win tomorrow night and end the week pretty good.”
KEVIN GOODALE HAS BEST RUN OF SPEEDWEEKS
Like Seuss, Kevin Goodale was a driver who had to come from the back of the field after an early incident damaged his racecar. Goodale, however, had to do it on several occasions but it paid off with a solid third place finish.
“We had a good run going at the beginning but we had a left front go flat when Mike Andrews going into one on the restart,” said Goodale. “I didn’t really see anything happen other than Andrews lose it and he smashed my left front making it go flat.
“We came in and changed just that tire then came in later and changed the right rear. That made the car a little too tight with some air pressure adjustments. I thought we could’ve had something there at the end but we still had a pretty good run for having to come from the back a bunch of times.”
MIKE ANDREWS CAN’T REPEAT VICTORY
After winning the biggest race of his career on Thursday night, Mike Andrews, Jr. was hoping for a repeat performance in the biggest race of Speedweeks, the Richie Evans Memorial 100. Unfortunately for Andrews he was the catalyst of the massive pileup that brought out the first caution when contact sent him spinning towards the outside wall.
“It was impatient people, that is all I have to say,” said Andrews. “It is a 100-lap race and people do that on the lap three or four or five? That is not the way I was brought up to race. I don’t know how these other guys were brought up.
"We’ll just come back tomorrow, fix it up and get the guys in a good mood. I’ll come back in a good mood and try to get it going again and try to finish out the week with a win.”
BLEWETT CAPS OFF NIGHT WITH SK WIN
Another big wreck started with Mike Andrews' spin. (Hodge Photos)
It was hard to bring Jimmy Blewett down after his win in the Evans Memorial. His excitement carried over into the SK Modified feature later in the night, as Blewett took his #12 SK to victory, beating Tommy Farrell and Tony Hanbury to the checkers.