Stafford Is a Dream For Blewett, But a Nightmare For Others by Mike Twist
Last Lap Fireworks Between Preece and Szegedy Move Blewett to Victory Lane
Judging by the look on his face, we think that Jimmy Blewett really enjoyed winning at Stafford. (Jim Dupont Photo)
Not at all as it turned out. In fact, NASCAR's actions are what sealed the victory for Blewett.
Entering the white flag lap, Blewett was running third behind Todd Szegedy and Ryan Preece. That is when those two drivers had their races turn into nightmares and led to Blewett's victory.
Up until lap 149, those two drivers dominated the race, leading all but 15 laps up to that point. Only Chuck Hossfeld, who started on the front row, and young Erick Rudolph, who used pit strategy, also spent time up front.
Depending on what number was on the side of your racecar, the end of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at Stafford Motor Speedway (CT) on Friday night was either a dream come true or an absolute nightmare.
For Jimmy Blewett, a somewhat bizarre chain of events that led to his first Tour victory at the track, and fourth anywhere on the Tour, led to pure joy.
“To win at Stafford is a dream come true,” said Blewett. “It's tough to win here. It's not that it's hard to drive the track, but it's so hard on the crew members to get a car to handle here. We've just never really hit the nail on the head here. A few years ago, with Brad LaFontaine, we had a great car. I led until about 10 laps to and my brother (the late John Blewett, III) passed me and won. So it's been hard to get a win here and now to get that burden off my shoulders is a dream come true.”
Blewett considers Stafford to be somewhat of an adopted home track. He's run Tour races there along with plenty SK Modified events. He's had good runs, bad ones and hard hits with the Stafford wall as well.
“That wall doesn't move here,” Blewett said. “I know that.”
So now that he has tamed the track on the Tour, he's a happy camper. For that he has plenty of people to give his gratitude to.
“I need to thank my crew, my engine builder and NASCAR for this win,” Blewett said.
The crew gave Blewett a good car and a powerful engine is needed for a good finish at the track too…but NASCAR? Isn't that an odd thank-you?
Todd Szegedy (Top - #2, Jim Dupont Photo) and Ryan Preece (Bottom - #3, Rick Ibsen Photo) traded the lead all night along. But they got a little too close to each other on the final lap.
“That was just really hard, blow by blow, punch for punch racing,” said Eddie Flemke, who finished second and had a great seat for the action. “It was good hard racing where they gave every inch and took every inch. I didn't see any reason to make a call on it. But the officials have a tough job to make that call.”
With two laps to go, Preece was in front when Szegedy muscled by his going into turn three. Two turns later, Preece got into the back of Szegedy and turned him around. NASCAR immediately ruled the action to be “aggressive” and placed Preece back to the end of the lead lap. Blewett, who was running in third with a little bit of distance to the leaders, crossed the finish line as the winner.
“I saw Todd throw it in there [on the backstretch] and get by the kid [Preece] and then I saw them get together in turn one,” said Blewett. “I hate to see the kid Ryan Preece lose it like that, because he was showing us the way around here tonight.”
“I don't know what happened,” said Szegedy of the incident. “I guess that he hit me pretty hard because it turned me around. I roughed him up a little before that, but it was just hard racing. So he probably got into turn one too hard. I'm really good at saving a sideways racecar, but he hit me so hard, there was no saving it this time. I don't understand it. Ryan and I are good friends…we'll be good friends again after we get through this week, but there was no need for that to happen.”
Preece was visibly upset over what happened on the track.
“That was just hard racing,” said the 17-year-old. “Todd and I are really good friends and I just wouldn't do that to him on purpose. It was nothing intentional at all. I would have rather finished second than to have won like that. I'd never do that to win a race - especially against Todd and I wish that I could change what happened, but I can't.”
Did the penalty fit the crime though? That depends on who you ask.
“I definitely agree with it,” said Szegedy of Preece's penalty. “I can see some contact if we were racing side by side, but not when someone just comes up behind you and hits you like that.”
Jimmy Blewett (#19) and Eddie Flemke (#10) finished first and second after the last lap fireworks. (Rick Ibsen Photo)
Preece wasn't sure what to think.
“I don't know what to say,” said Preece when asked whether he deserved the penalty. “I just wish it didn't happen…I can't make that call [that NASCAR did].”
Finishing behind Blewett and Flemke was Doug Coby, who has a dream-like night himself. Coby won the SK Modified feature race earlier in the evening and then backed that up with a third place finish in his reunion race with car owner Don King. Coby and Woody Pitkat will split the rest of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour schedule in King's #28 car after previous driver James Civali parted ways with the team earlier in the week.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to action on Thursday night, August 14th, at Thompson International Speedway (CT).