JIMMY BLEWTT GETS ELUSIVE FIRST 2007 TOUR-TYPE WIN by Matt Kentfield
Younger Blewett Takes Over Where Older Bro Left Off
Jimmy Blewett has been a frequent visitor to New Smyrna Speedway’s victory lane during Speedweeks 2007. Four-straight dominant wins in the SK Modified division have put him in a solid position for the championship, but he has been facing fields of a dozen or so cars each night, with only three or four being capable of challenging him.
Donny Lia (#18) and Jimmy Blewett (#19) put on some of the best racing of the week. (Jim DuPont photo)
Blewett still had an itch that only a win in the Tour-Type Modified division would scratch. He had been watching his brother John dominate the previous two nights while fighting mechanical gremlins in his own car in the first Tour-Type races of the week.
On Wednesday, however, it was finally Jimmy’s turn. The extra-distance 50-lap race looked like most of the SK Modified races so far this Speedweeks, with Blewett taking the lead early and never relinquishing it until the checkered flag.
“It feels great winning tonight,” said Blewett. “I’ve been winning a lot of SK races, but they don’t amount to winning a Tour race like this. There’s a bunch of great guys to race against in these cars. My brother’s been winning and I’m glad to see him win because there’s nobody I’d rather see win. It just feels good to get one of my own.
“It feels even better to do it for the guys that have been working on this car. They’re
such hard workers and I can’t thank them enough. We’ve fought power steering problems the first three nights. The first night, the power steering pump went, then the next two nights I drove it with no power steering.”
With his #19 car fully operational, Blewett finally had the ride he had been hoping for since leaving New Smyrna as the Richie Evans Memorial 100 champion during last year’s Speedweeks. Wednesday night, he had clear sailing in front of him and a familiar foe in his rear-view mirror, so he knew he was going to be in good shape for the win.
Eric Beers put the pressure on Blewett for the lead throughout the race, but rather than make a risky move that could potentially end both of their nights, Beers played it safe and watched his good friend go to victory lane.
Blewett visited Victory Lane for the first time in the Tour-Type Modifieds.
“I got one good run on Jimmy getting into one,” said Beers. “He came down a little bit, but I probably could’ve thrown it in, but I might have ended up in the fence. I was hoping to get another run on him coming off of two, because there’s a lot more room getting into three, but I could never get a good run on him.
“I’ve known Jimmy, John and their family all the way back to the Flemington days. We’ve always raced each other clean, so why change now.”
In the most competitive Tour-Type Modified race in Speedweeks thus far, Donny Lia showed the way early, but “Showtime” made a power move beneath Lia for the lead on lap 14. Lia was later sent to pit road after officials spotted him leaking oil, so it was left up to Beers, Joey Logano and Ted Christopher to battle for the win, but nobody was going to top Blewett this night.
MOD NOTES: NIGHT SIX
Three Not the Magic Number for JBIII
The Blewett roles were reversed on Wednesday night. Whereas in the first nights of Speedweeks 2007, Jimmy Blewett struggled with mechanical issues and John Blewett III was chasing victories and winning Monday and Tuesday nights’ features, Jimmy found his way into victory lane Wednesday while John broke early.
“It looks like we had a left front spindle break,” said John. “I was just trying to get out of the way and guys behind me were running into the back of me. It just wasn’t our night.
John Blewett III (#00) had a spindle break, which ruined his shot at three-straight wins. (DuPont photo)
“We were running good and I was just kind of riding there in fourth for a while. I was a little worried about tire wear, so I was biding my time, waiting until about 15 to go. We were coming up to that point where I was getting ready to get up on the wheel when the spindle broke. It’s a shame because you don’t have control over parts. You can put the whole thing together, but you can’t control parts.”
Blewett has been around this racing game for long enough to know that nights like Wednesday are going to happen when a driver’s been dominating the way he has lately in the Modifieds.
“When you get wrecked, you get pissed, but when something happens with something you don’t have control over it, you don’t have much you can do about it.”
Even with the disappointment of not winning his third-straight feature, Blewett left still atop the point standings and happy for his kid brother.
“He did a good job tonight. He was up on the wheel tonight. His guys do a great job, too. He had the best car tonight. I don’t know if I would’ve had much for him at the end, but I think I would’ve had something for Eric for second.”
Logano and Chirstopher Battle of the Ages
Joey Logano is a 16-year-old with unlimited potential, and he’s been showing it in the USAR Hooters Pro Cup ranks and now is headed to the NASCAR Busch East Series with Joe Gibbs Racing.
Ted Christopher is inching close to the big 5-0 in age, but he’s been among the most dominant Modified drivers of his generation.
Christopher has made a darn good living in the Modified ranks. Logano is just running a Modified at Speedweeks for fun. That combination of youth and experience made for one heck of a battle Wednesday night at New Smyrna Speedway.
Joey Logano (#6) and Ted Christopher (#36) put on a hell of a race Wed. night. (DuPont photo)
In the closing stages of the 50-lap feature, Christohper and Logano battled bumper-to-bumper and nerf bar-to-nerf bar for third, with Logano coming up with the upper hand.
“That was fun racing with him like that,” said Logano of Christopher. “It was cool, I gave him room and he gave me room. I had a stout racecar for a little bit, but I think I used it up a little too early. I had about five laps too many on my tires. I think my right rear is about gone.
“It was definitely a rough race. There was plenty of bumping and banging going on out there, but the team did great there today.”
Christopher has seen plenty of young talent come and go in his year in the Mod ranks, but something about Logano has caught his eye.
When Donny Lia’s car was dropping oil from his #18 car, it wound up all over Eric Beers’ windshield. In just a 50-lap race with a strong field of cars, Beers couldn’t just come to pit road and have his crew wipe the windshield clean. So he used a little bit of intuition and a well-placed item in his cockpit to make things at least a little bit better.
“Donny was right there in second and his car was pushing oil out bad,” said Beers. “I couldn’t see a damn thing out my windshield. So we had that caution and luckily I had two hats in the car with me. I grabbed a hat and pulled the windshield down and wiped it off as best I could. It was still blurry as hell, though. It was tough in the turns because the lights hit the windshield, so it was tough getting off of two and in the corner, but it was good enough I guess.”
Paules Recovers From Qualifying Crash
“Logano’s fun to race with,” said Christopher. “He’s a damn good racer. It was fun. We gave each other plenty of room, but we raced hard. We need more guys like him on the Whelen Tour.”
TC’s Backup Better Than Expected
Up until Wednesday night, Ted Christopher had been unusually quiet during Speedweeks 2007. He had never been able to get a handle on his #36 machine, owned by Eddie Whelan. So the team decided to go to the backup car for the 50-lap feature, and it proved to be the right decision.
“We probably should’ve unloaded this thing sooner,” said Christopher. “It was real stout.”
Christopher may have even had a chance to get further up than fourth, but contact when the field got jumbled up late in the race cost his car some handling.
“We jammed up there in one and two and I got the left front into the back bumper of one of the guys there. It seemed like the angle of the left front was more than it should’ve been. That messed me up on the entry a little bit.”
Creative Cleaning for Beers
Late Wednesday afternoon, Earl Paules contemplated not running the Tour-Type feature. Who could blame him? After all, #8 machine had slammed nose-first into the turn-two wall during qualifying and the damage appeared to be too severe for repair.
But Paules did not come all the way to New Smyrna from Pennsylvania to give up. He and his team worked diligently to get the car ready for the feature. Even though he had to start at the rear of the field for not even having a lap recorded in time trials, Paules scratched and clawed his way to fifth-place finish.
“When I went in there into to turn one on my first lap in qualifying, there was something on the track that I didn’t see until the very last moment,” said Paules. “It must have been from when they were towing that other wrecked car (of Bobby Grigas III, who slammed the turn-four wall in qualifying just before Paules hit the track) off the track and it was putting fluid down. By the time I saw it, it was too late.”
Fifth place is a good finish for Paules, but considering what the team had to go through to get there, it’s even more respectable.
“The wreck ripped a bunch of stuff off the car. I had to replace all the bars and everything just to get it back on the track. We almost loaded up and went home, but I thought to myself, you know what? We can do this. We didn’t even have a spare driveshaft to put in the car after the wreck, but luckily Jon McKennedy had one we could borrow. That really saved us.”