Tuesday August 21, 2007  

By Phil Smith                                                                                           

The 2007 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour was at the Thompson Speedway on Thursday night for the running of the annual BUDWEISER 150 presented by the New England Dodge Dealers. In what was to be a festive night of good hard racing the night turned to be one of sadness as John Blewett III lost his life while battling for the lead with his brother Jimmy. As close to 8,000 fans looked on the Blewett brothers tangled following a restart on lap 107 of the 150-lap race. Jimmyís car, owned by Eddie Partridge, came to rest on top of Johnís family owned mount. It appeared that John lost his life when a bumper came through the window helmet and struck his head. Earlier in the evening during the Sunoco Modified feature Jimmy Blewett hit the front stretch hard as he dueled with brother John for the start. Jimmy's car was towed off the track.

Car owners Eddie and Connie Partridge are extremely close with the Blewetts. John Blewett III was the key set-up man for Partridgeís SK Modified team as well as his Tour Car team. Jimmy Blewett idolized and loved his brother. Jimmy convinced Eddie and Connie to field a second Sunoco Modified for John to race at Thompson so they could be teammates this season. Jimmy had grown tremendously from Johnís mentorship as a result of that decision.

Blewett was 33 years old. The New Jersey native was a throw-back to the glory days of racing, an answer to fans who complained that drivers who become too buttoned-down, too politically correct and too willing to second-place in recent times. Blewettís list of accomplishments in Modified racing was extensive. He had 10 career victories, 42 top five finishes and 76 top 10 finishes on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. Blewett won two North-South Shootout races at Concord Motorsport Park (NC). He was the 2003 and 2006 New Hampshire International Speedway Modified division track champion. He was the 1996 NASCAR Regional Racing Northeast champion.

During a fitting tribute at his home track, the Wall Township Speedway, an emotional mix of cheers and tears filled the stands Saturday as the late John Blewett III's No. 76 car led the ceremonial final lap at the Wall Township Speedway. No. 76, driven by Jamie Tomaino, was then parked in the grandstand area for fans to leave cards, letters and flowers. The ceremonial lap was followed by a memorial service lead by the Rev. Don Rivers of the Racing With Jesus Ministries.

Automobile racing can be one of the most enjoyable sports but can be one of the most dangerous sports. Many great drivers have lost their lives including Dick Dixon, Fred DeSarro, Charlie Jarzombek Tom Baldwin and Richie Evans.

The race was stopped and Todd Szegedy was the leader at the time of the red flag. Tony Hirschman was second with Ron Yuhas Jr, third. Donnie Lia was fourth.

In True Value Modified Series action at the Seekonk Speedway on Saturday night all drivers on hand gathered on the track in turn four and had a few moments of silence in memory John Blewett III. Les Hinckley won the Seekonk event and was followed by Vinnie Annarummo, Tony Ricci, Dwight Jarvis and Kirk Alexander.

In regular Thursday Night Thunder action at the Thompson Speedway Tom Cravenho won the wreckfest that was called the Sunoco Modified 30. Cravenho of Raynham, MA, withstood a number of cautions to score his first victory of the season. Fred Astle, Jr. of N. Westport, MA, continues to run strong in the Pro Stock division winning his second feature event in three weeks. Rick Gentes of Woonsocket, RI streaked to consecutive wins in the Late Model division. Ed Puleo of Branford was another first time winner on the season after taking down the victory in the Limited Sportsman Division. Roger Larson, Jr. of Milford, MA, and Rick Blanchard of Pascoag, RI, added to their win tallies in the TIS Modified and Mini Stock divisions respectively.

Cravenho withstood a number of restarts in a caution-marred Sunoco Modified event to score his first feature win of the season. After taking the lead from pole sitter Buddy Charette, Harry Rheaume took his spot at the head of the pack. Rheaume had plenty of company as John Blewett III dogged the leader from the opening lap. A handful of laps later, John Blewett was the new leader. It was a three-wide battle for the second position with Rheaume, Kerry Malone, and Jimmy Blewett. The trio entered turn one stacked up. Jimmy Blewett shot out of the pack in second. He immediately ran down his brother John. The team cars went wheel-to-wheel for an entire lap before Jimmy claimed the top spot on lap eight. While Kerry Malone slowed on the speedway, Rheaume, who was running third, was punted by Rocco and made hard contact with the outside wall. Rocco was sent to the tail of the field for his involvement in the incident. The Blewett Brothers were vying for the same piece of real estate on the restart when contact sent Jimmy into the outside wall to bring out the yellow. Under caution, Rocco headed to pit road with a broken rear axle. John Blewett headed down pit road as well handing the lead over to Cravenho.

There was mayhem on the ensuing attempt at a restart when Ceravolo went spinning at the start/finish line. Danny Cates ended up against the turn one wall with heavy damage. Under the caution, the point leader, Woody Pitkat, headed down pit road for service. The third attempt on the restart was a charm with Cravenho jumping out to the lead. Cravenho immediately stretched his lead while Bert Marvin and Buddy Charette battled for second. Marvin was able to gain the position on a lap 12. Geoff Gernhard was also able to advance his position into third. Gernhard made a power move on Marvin exiting turn two to take over the second spot on lap 15. Cravenho continued to stretch his lead. By the time the caution flew on lap 22, John Blewett had already made his way back into the top five. The incident that caused the caution involved Eric LeClair and Dave Salzarulo. Pitkat and Ceravolo took advantage of the yellow to come down pit road. On the restart, it was all Cravenho leaving Gernhard to hold off Marvin. At that point, Rocco had rejoined the field. The problems for the field continued when James Harrison came to rest on the front stretch. After only a few laps of green flag racing, an incident on the backstretch necessitated the caution. The #16 of Ceravolo came to rest atop the #09 of Brad VanHouten. The final four laps were uneventful with Cravenho stretching his lead. The closing laps also featured one of the best races of the night. The battle for the runner-up position heated up with Gernhard holding second over Marvin and John Blewett. Cravenho went unchallenged over the final laps to earn his first victory of the season. Gernhard had a career day holding on for second over Bert Marvin. John Blewett and Pitkat rebounded from early race incidents to complete the top five.

Rain washed out the Friday night action at the Stafford Motor Speedway.

In NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at the Waterford Speedbowl Dennis Gada passed Diego Monahan on lap 12 of the 35 lap SK Modified feature and went on to score his 54th career win at the shoreline oval. Monahan ended up second and was followed by Don Fowler, Zach Sylvester and Bo Gunning.

In other races, Bill Leonard edged Seth Duval to win the 25-lap AllStar Race Truck feature, Dennis Botticello won the 30-lap Late Model feature, Jim Procaccini captured the 20-lap Sportsman feature and Danny Field won the Mini Stock 20-lapper.

In TV land this week and for the remainder of the season NASCAR Now on ESPN2 will be in the 6:00pm time slot. This weeks viewing on the Speed Channel begins on Wednesday at noon with the July 29 NASCAR Grand National Busch East Edge Hotel 150 that was run at the Adirondack Intl. Speedway in Beaver Falls, NY. At 3:00pm the Aug 4 World of Outlaws late models from the Charter Raceway Park in Beaver Dam, WI follows. At 5:00 itís the Aug 11 USAR Hooters Pro Cup event that was run at the South Boston, VA. Speedway. At 6:30 the action moves to Bristol TN for taped delayed coverage of NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series qualifying. Pre-race is at 7:30 followed by live coverage of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series OíReilly 200 at 8:00pm. Thursdayís action begins at noon with last Saturdays NASCAR Busch Series Carfax 250 that was run at the Michigan Intl. Speedway in Brooklyn, MI. The NASCAR Nextel Cup 3M Performance 400 also run at Michigan Intl follows at 3:00pm. Speed goes live at 10:00am on Friday with 90 minutes of Busch Series practice at Bristol. If thatís not enough to make you dizzy there will be a 90 minute practice starting at 11:30 for the Nextel Cup cars. At 2:00 its NASCAR Live from Bristol followed by NASCAR Nextel Cup qualifying at 3:00pm. Busch Series qualifying follows at 4:30. The cup cars get their final practice session at 6:00pm. The action moves to ESPN2 at 7:30 for the Busch Series Pre-race show followed by live coverage by ESPN2 of the NASCAR Busch Series Food City 250 at 8:00pm. Saturdays coverage starts at 3:30 pm with live coverage by HDNet of the NASCAR Touring Whelen Modified Series Mansfield 100 at the Mansfield Motorsports Speedway in Mansfield, OH. At 4:00 itís NASCAR New England on NESN. NASCAR New England presents features and highlights from the Stafford Springs Motor Speedway and at 5:00 on HDNet it will be the NASCAR Grand National Busch East Mansfield 100 at the Mansfield Motorsports Speedway in Mansfield, OH. Meanwhile on Speed at 4:00pm itís a special edition of NASCAR RaceDay. A two hour segment of RaceDay goes at 6:00pm. ESPN presents a one hour pre-race show at 7:00 followed by live coverage of the NASCAR Nextel Cup Sharpie 500 at Bristol. On Sunday at noon on Speed itís the World of Outlaws late models from the Eldora Speedway in Rossburg, OH. Wrapping up the weekend on the Speed Channel is The Speed Report at 7:00pm, NASCAR Victory Lane at 8:00 and Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain at 9:00.

On the Speedway Stock Market scene last week two of the three speedway stocks ended the week on the plus side. The International Speedway Corporation went up 1.31 to 48.30 and Dover Downs went up 0.27 to 6.00. Sprint/Nextel dropped 0.53 to 18.32 while Sun Oil dropped 1.11 to 66.34. Goodyear took a huge jump as they went up 5.44 to 27.69 while DIRT Motorsports showed a no change at 0.59. In the drug sector Pfizer dropped 0.05 to 23.94 and Bristol Meyers-Squib dropped 1.16 to 27.66. The home improvement sector was also down as Home Depot dropped 2.61 to 33.31 and Lowes dropped 0.89 to 26.87. The parcel carriers had an off week. Fedex dropped 1.04 to 108.00 and UPS dropped 0.43 to 76.32.

Thatís about it for this week from 40 Clark St, Westerly, R.I.02891. Ring my chimes at 401-596-5467 E-mail

Phil Smith has been a columnist for Speedway Scene and other publications for over 3 decades.

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