Jimmy Blewett’s Speedweeks About More Than Wins And Championships by Jeremy Troiano
There Was Only One Thing Missing This Year For Jersey-Native
Speedweeks at New Smyrna Speedway is a lot of things to a lot of different people.
For some, it’s a vacation. It’s a chance to come to Florida, get to race a little bit and also just get some time away from home and relax.
For others, it’s the start of a new season. Sometimes it’s with a new team or its with a new car in a new division. It’s really like a practice session.
For most, it’s just the start to their racing season. It’s what tells them how the season might go. It’s what gets them off on the good foot.
But for a few select few… it’s about something more. It’s about winning and championships. And it’s about proving something to themselves, to their distracters, to their families, or even to those that aren’t around anymore.
That was the story for three of the Speedweek champions crowned during the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing at New Smyrna Speedway over the last two weeks.
The one who might have had the most to prove was Modified racer Jimmy Blewett. To say that Blewett has been through a lot since last year’s Speedweeks is an understatement.
Last year, Blewett won eight total races (five in Tour Mods, three in SK Mods), yet he only came away with the SK title. He fought all week long with his brother, John III, trying to win more and more races.
However, later in the year, John III was killed in an accident during a Whelen Modified Tour event at Thompson International Raceway.
This year, Jimmy came back to Speedweeks, but alone this time. There was no brother, no best friend, no fierce competitor there to push him even that much harder.
That only seemed to inspire Jimmy. He won a couple of early Tour Modified and SK Modified races. Then, it all came to a head on Wednesday night, when he won the John Blewett III Memorial 50-lap event, which was renamed for his late brother this year.
It wrapped up on Saturday night, when Blewett celebrated both a Tour Modified Championship and SK Modified Championship at Speedweeks. Once again, he won a total of eight events during the week (this year, it was three Tour Mod races and five SK races).
But this year, it all had a different meaning for him. He did it for his car owners. He did it for his team. He did it for his girlfriend. But, he mostly did it for his brother.
“It’s just too bad he’s not here right now,” said Jimmy on Saturday night, after winning another SK race and celebrating his second Speedweeks championship. “When I came down here last year, sometimes I didn’t listen to what my brother told me because I was worried about beating him and this year I took a step back from the way I drove last year and tried to listen to more of what he taught me.”
Jimmy Blewett (bottom) was happy to be in Victory Lane... and he did it for his late brother (top), who won several times in 2007 at Speedweeks.
What his brother taught him worked. Each and ever night on the track, Blewett was the man to beat… or at least had one of the top three cars in the field. Even in the 50- and 100-lappers, Blewett used what his brother had taught him in the past to be right there.
“Like last night for instance, in the (Richie Evans) Memorial race, we rode around in last, we were second to last on the track until lap 76, when we pitted and put new tires on and I blazed through the field. That’s how my brother did it. My brother was a smooth but rough driver. But he was a sleeper; he would wait three-quarters of a race just hanging out in the top five. Nobody even really knew he was running and then he would come in and get tires and - bang - he’s fighting for the lead with four or five laps to go. I was never liked that; I was always the type of guy who burned his stuff up in the first 25-30 laps.”
Each and every night, it showed. Blewett was always right there. The stats at the end of the week speak for themselves, including six SK Modified fastest qualifier awards (out of seven events) and two Tour Mod top qualifying spots.
The only night he didn’t seem to have it was the final night, when he knew that by riding, he could win a championship that would make his brother, who Jimmy will say over and over was his best friend, very proud.
“Words really can’t describe how great this Speedweeks was to me. Coming into this week, my car owner said to me ‘it’s going to be awfully hard to repeat what you did last year, if we come out with just two or three wins be happy with it.’ Last year was like one of them dream Speedweeks.
“I’ve been racing since 2000, so I’ve been racing for eight years. I felt for coming down here for three years, I’ve paid my dues to bring home a championship. To get it just feels tremendous.”
Jimmy took plenty of checkered flags during Speedweeks, including the #12 SK (top) and the #19 Tour Modified (bottom). (Jim DuPont photos)
“When we started off this week, we had a couple problems with the (Tour) Modified and a couple problems with the SK, but we just never let our heads hang. Everybody worked hard together as crews and teams and never gave up. Luck fell our way in a couple instances. I sat on the pole 10 times throughout the whole week (after redraws), which was more than last year and plus we came out with two championships. It’s unbelievable. It just shows that hard work pays off.”
Blewett knows that the credit isn’t just with the guy driving the car. None of it could have happened without either of his crew, either with the TS Haulers team or the Grasso Brothers team.
And again, he benefited from something else John had taught him.
“Just coming here with a team you can work with and knowing that you don’t have to worry about anything when you’re driving a car and know that when you tell them something the car will be fixed.
“My brother always told me to be a firm believer, keep firm belief in your crew, stand behind your crew guys thick and thin, even if it’s not going your way still tell them they are doing a great job and they’ll get it eventually. That’s what went on this week. I never for one instant told anybody the car isn’t handling right blah blah. We just tried to work on our problems and get some positives out of them.
“Early in the week I had the race like the old ‘Showtime;’ a little bit of a defensive end. A couple people were saying he’s just getting the luck of the draw starting up front and he’s just blocking everybody to win. And then we backed it up with a sixth-place start and getting by the whole field on the outside. We passed every single car on the outside. To do that just put a little icing on the cake.”
So even though the old “Showtime” (Jimmy’s longtime nickname) showed his face a little bit, the Jimmy Blewett that showed up at Speedweeks and that left Speedweeks with two titles is far different than the Jimmy Blewett of the past.
Jimmy, the guy that for years was known as a hard ass, has changed a lot in the last year, since losing his brother.
Jimmy took plenty of trophies back to Jersey with him... including two championship trophies.
This year, he was a fan favorite, with the crowd cheering for him louder than almost any other driver in all divisions at Speedweeks each and every night.
He was also a driver that several other talked about in the “veteran” sense. Josh Sylvester, for one, said hearing Jimmy Blewett say good things about him was something that means the world. Ryan Preece also praised Blewett.
“It feels good to hear all of that,” added Blewett. “I haven’t always had much responsibility in my life. We’re just regular people. I don’t have all kinds of money, no big fancy house; I don’t even own my own car. We’re just normal people and like to race.
“Since the passing of my brother, I kind of had to step up to the plate in a lot of ways. In racing too, because I don’t have that guy to go to anymore from a drivers standpoint. Plus he was my brother; we were best friends and brothers. There were a lot of things I could ask him that I couldn’t with anyone else.
“I’m with a crew now, on the Tour; they’re just phenomenal. And I’m with a tour team now that my brother was hoping before his passing that I would end up with them guys. When we were down here last year he was kind of pushing me and Eddie (Partridge) towards teaming up with them guys for next year, and I didn’t know if it was going to happen. A week before my brother passed, we were talking about and hoping we could put it together for this year because he knew those guys were the tools I needed, basically my key to success.”
And while the wins and the success, the championships and the championship calibure team all made Blewett’s Speedweeks a successful and memorable one, it might just be the fact that he knew he made his brother proud by winning the John Blewett III Memorial and two championships.
Teams were very important to Jimmy's success at Speedweeks.
“I just wish here was here, because I know he would be proud of me. That was always very important to me. I wanted to make him proud he has taught me everything that I know.
“I just wish I could have him here to be like ‘hey I’m proud of you.’ I never had that chance, and to have that makes you feel like you’re on top of the world, you know?”