Civali Comes Out on Top at Turkey Derby by Denise Dupont
Southerner Sets Fast Time and Local Boy Puts Up a Strong Fight, But Nobody Can Beat Civali This Time
Thanksgiving Weekend 2007 was the 34th Turkey Derby race at Wall Township Stadium and there were plenty of teams that made the trip to the New Jersey track to try and add their name to the history of the event. An impressive field off 56 Tour-type and SK-type Modified teams competed in weekend’s events.
The field for the Turkey Derby gets ready to get their race started. (Jim DuPont Photo)
During time trials, Burt Myers came close to breaking the Wall time track record as he tamed the track to set fast time in his #1 Southern Mod Tour Car.
“This is my first time here,” said Myers. “The track really reminds me of a track close to home, Franklin County. It has a lot of banking in it and it is a little tight race track. This place has more banking to it and I love it. It is fast. It is tight.”
Myers car hit a speed of 12.121 seconds or approximately 98 miles per hour. He appeared to take right to the track and that was not a complete surprise.
“Every Northerner that I spoke to said the track was going to suit me just right,” said Myers. “To come up here and set the track record with fast time is more than what we expected. Of course we came with the expectations of qualifying fast and then winning the race. But to come out and actually do it (qualify fast) is kind of a reality check. We did do it. So I think that we have a car that is capable of winning the race.”
Matt Hirschman held the pole with a lap of 12.134 seconds briefly until Burt hit the track.
John Blewett III was honored during pre-race ceremonies. It was announced that his family’s #76 will be retired at Wall Stadium after the 2007 race season.
“Sadly, as all traditions change over time, this year will mark the end of an era,” it was announced. “This is the final appearance of the Blewett Motorsports family owned, Red, White and Blue #76 Modified. Jimmy Blewett will race the car number for the final time in the Wall with the open Mods, and then the car will be placed in the Blewett Automotive Museum. The number 76 will be retired by Wall Speedway. The Blewett 76 has been a mainstay in Modified racing the last four decades. “
Civali and his team in victory lane. (Jim DuPont Photo)
John W. Blewett gave the call for the drivers to start their engines and then the cars were on their way for the start of the 34th Turkey Derby.
Reggie Ruggiero started on the pole with Jimmy Blewett on the outside. When the two cars entered turn one, Ruggiero went up the track and into the wall.
James Civali was in a good spot (third) to see what happened to the leaders at the race start.
“It just looked like cold tires. Reg spun the tires a little bit on the start finish line and the car spun sideways on him up into Jimmy and then up into the fence,” said Civali. “Those kinds of things happen on starts like that.”
James Civali was “The Survivor “as he crossed the finish line to take the win over Jimmy Blewett in the caution filled race.
After a long pit stop during the first caution, Blewett returned to the race and made his charge to the front.
“I feel that if we did not have to pit that we would have had a better chance of winning. We had to use up so much of our tires coming back up through the pack.”
At the end did Jimmy have anything for James?
“No, He was all there. He saved, while I raced and tried to save
but it was not enough in the end.”
“The car was really good the whole race,” said Civali. “Jimmy ran me really clean. He was trying to get by with all he had but I was holding the groove. That is all that I was doing.”
Civali led the race from green to checkered flag. After the last caution Blewett was on Civali’s bumper during the re-start and then faded back a little.
Did Civali think that Jimmy Blewett may have had anything for him at the end?
“You never know. If it was Matt Hirschman, I would have been more nervous because he (Matt) really holds back to the end. But Jimmy he goes hard like I do all the time. I knew that if he could have got me, he would have got me. With about five laps to go I could see that he was really working the car. I knew that if it did not come back to yellow that I had the race.
Jimmy Blewett finished the race in second. On the race start he was on the outside of Ruggiero and he did suffer damage that forced him to pit for major repairs.
“I don’t know if his spotter cleared him or something broke on his car,” said Blewett. “I was clearly on the outside of him and he just came up and went across the nose of me which ended up putting us both in the pits. It was just unfortunate.”
“We started kind of far back,” said Pennick. “We worked our way up and got into the top five and then actually got up into second half way through the race. We ran there for a little bit. I tried to get the lead on the outside on the re-start and I got shuffled back to about sixth or seventh.”
Burt Myers set fast time with his #1 Modified. (Jim DuPont Photo)
Tony Ferrante was the only veteran driver to maintain a top five position in the Turkey Derby this year.
“I have a lot of experience here,” said Ferrante. “I love this track. I have been here forever. We had a good but not a great car.”
“We were thinking about pitting then we but decided that we were out there and we were not beating the car up. We had a lot of double file restarts and I was stuck for a while on the outside where I had to beat the car up, but it came back to us.” This decision gave the #31 team a third place finish at the end of the race.
Rowan Pennick finished the race behind Ferrante in the fourth spot.
Pennick had a clean consistent run with the front runners all race.
“I think that I could have had a chance to win if I had gotten to the lead. I saved my tires a little bit but we got shuffled and had to use the tires up a little bit to get back up there and ended up finishing fourth.”
Burt Myers had a plan going into the Derby’s Modified race, but in the end it just didn’t work out.
“From what everybody tells me this is a survival race. So if we can stay up front and stay out of trouble, I think that we have a shoot to win the thing.”
Myers was not one of the lead survivors though. He finished the race in the 19th position.
The Blewett #76 made its final Turkey Derby appearance, and Jimmy Blewett drove it to a good battle for the victory with James Civali's #88.
Rowan Pennick (#93) and Tony Ferrante (#93) put up strong challenges at Wall. (Rick Ibsen Photo)