NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - New England Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Budweiser * Blewett Riding High In Return To Thompson * Hirschman To Be Honored At Thompson * Five Questions: Jimmy Blewett * Home Tracks: Blewett Succeeds At...
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes - New England Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Budweiser
* Blewett Riding High In Return To Thompson
* Hirschman To Be Honored At Thompson
* Five Questions: Jimmy Blewett
* Home Tracks: Blewett Succeeds At Thompson
Blewett Riding High In Return To Thompson
As the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour moves to Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway for the ninth race of the 2008 season on Thursday, Aug. 14, Jimmy Blewett will arrive at the track on the hottest streak of his career, showing just how much things can change in a year.
Blewett, the winner of the last two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races, turned a slow start around and improved 14 spots in the season standings in a month's time.
Now up to eighth in driver points at the midway point of the season, Blewett will be looking to extend his win streak at Thompson, but continued upward movement in the standings will not be his only motivation.
Blewett's older brother, John, lost his life following a racing accident at Thompson on Aug. 16, 2007. This year's edition of the New England Dodge Dealers 150 will mark the one-year anniversary on the racing calendar of his passing .
Blewett has been able to overcome the adversity and emotions of the loss to forge ahead in racing and in life. A lot has changed since the loss of his brother a year ago, but he has moved forward in both areas.
"This past year has been full of different things, on and off the race track," Blewett said. "Since my brother passed away I've moved into a new house, started a family and I'm racing three days a week instead of just two. I've just got a lot of stuff going on, but I think that the more stuff you've got going on, and the harder you work at it, the better you'll be."
Currently in the top 10 in both the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour and NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standings, Blewett has had a busy year on the asphalt. Almost as hectic as his life away from the track.
One day after the New England 100 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Blewett's fiance, Katie, gave birth to their first child, James Denis Blewett, on June 29.
Little Jimmy's arrival has proved to be a blessing for the entire family.
"Since the passing of John, not a day goes by that everybody around here doesn't think about him," Blewett said. "To have the baby around is good; it keeps a smile on everybody's face."
The lighter atmosphere around home might have also transferred to the track. Blewett did not have a top five on the season prior to the birth of his son, but since he has recorded finishes of fourth, first and first.
The hard work behind the wheel has paid off for Blewett. In addition to his two NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour wins, he has reached Victory Lane 11 other times in various divisions in 2008.
Despite all the success Blewett has been able to achieve since the tragic accident, the simple act of getting back into a race car was something that he questioned.
"After John passed away, the first thing I thought was that maybe I shouldn't do this anymore, maybe it's too dangerous," Blewett said. "But you can get hurt doing just about anything. You can walk out of your house and get struck by lightning. You can pull out of your driveway and get hit head-on. I'm a firm believer that if it's your time, it's your time. I know if my brother could talk to me now he would want me to keep racing."
Keep racing he has. The schedule is still full with races, but the trips themselves have taken on a different feel.
"John drove the truck and trailer and I drove the motor home, or vice versa," Blewett said. "Every week we went to the races, we went together. It's different when you go to all of those races and you're riding up there by yourself. It makes it a little tough without your right-hand man."
One year after his brother's passing, Blewett would love to win this week's race to provide the ultimate tribute, but he'll also take a realistic approach to the race, exhibiting the kind of patience he might not have had this time last year.
"I'm just going to treat this week like every other week," Blewett said. "I would definitely love to win this race more than anything in the world, but things don't always work out that way. My goal this week is to time up front and put myself in position to win, and if not, get a top-five finish out of it."
The Race: New England Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Budweiser
The Place: Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway
The Date: Thursday, Aug. 14
The Time: 8:45 p.m. ET
Track Layout: 0.625-mile oval
Race Purse: $90,298
2007 Winner: Todd Szegedy
2007 Pole: Todd Szegedy
Schedule: Thursday, Aug. 14, Practice: 2-3:30 p.m., Qualifying: 5:30 p.m.
News & Notes
The Race ... The New England Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Budweiser will be the ninth of 16 races in 2008. This will also be the third of five stops for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour at Thompson International Speedway.
The Procedure ... Starting Positions 1-30 will be set from time trials. The remaining five will be filled through the provisional process. The race is 150 laps (93.75 miles).
The Track ... A .625-mile banked oval that opened in 1940, Thompson Speedway was the first asphalt track in the nation, and the largest in New England until New Hampshire Motor Speedway opened in 1990.
Race Winners ... There have been 29 different race winners at Thompson, led by Mike Stefanik's 14 victories, which is four more than Jeff Fuller. Ed Flemke Jr. won the first race at Thompson this year on April 27 and Ronnie Silk captured the second on June 19. The entry list for this race is expected to include at least 10 drivers who have reached Victory Lane at Thompson before.
Pole Winners ... There have been 35 different pole winners at Thompson, led by Jeff Fuller and Tony Hirschman's 13. James Civali and Bobby Grigas III were able to nab their first career poles at the track earlier this year. Todd Szegedy set the qualifying record at Thompson prior to the 2007 Icecbreaker at 18.457 seconds (121.905 mph).
Hirschman To Be Honored At Thompson
As part of the season-long celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions, five-time NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titlist Tony Hirschman will be honored at the New England Dodge Dealers 150 presented by Budweiser on Thursday, Aug. 14 at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway.
Hirschman, of Northampton, Pa., captured five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour titles during a stellar 11-year span from 1995-2005. His five championships are second-most in tour history.
Hirschman earned his first NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championship in 1995, and repeated the feat in 1996. His third title came in 1999 and he was able to earn back-to-back crowns again in 2004 and 2005.
Hirschman, who last raced in 2007, recorded 35 wins, 41 poles, 134 top fives and 199 top 10s in 319 career NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour starts. His win total ranks third in series history while his pole award tally is an all-time record. Hirschman's five NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour championships are second only to Stefanik's seven titles since the tour was formed in 1985.
Thompson International Speedway, where the ceremony will take place, was a very successful venue for Hirschman. Of his 35 career wins, eight came at Thompson. Hirschman's first win at the track was the 1989 World Series and his most-recent triumph came in the August 2005 New England Dodge Dealers 150.
"Thompson always was a good race track for me," Hirschman said. "Four of the five championships came down to the last race, and we won them there. Thompson has always been special to me."
Five Questions: Jimmy Blewett
You had two wins in your first 52 NWMT starts. Now you've doubled that in
the last two weeks. How does it feel?
It feels good. I'm more happy for my team than I am for myself because the guys work so hard every week with the car. Pit stops, at the shop, at the track, everybody just really works hard. The beginning of the year was just a rough start. When we went to Florida we were on top as soon as we started the season, and then we hit bottom and stayed there for a while. It feels good for everyone else more so than for myself.
You guys are on the charge in the season standings. What turned things
We found a good balance in the car, and that's been helping us get in position for wins and good top-five finishes. It seems to me that if you put yourself in a predicament where you might get in a wreck when you're riding around in the back where everybody is beating and banging, 50% of the time you end up that way. But we've been unloading fast race cars and putting ourselves in position to get top fives and win races and that's really a good boost for the points.
You've had success in weekly racing at Thompson. What will it take to win
an NWMT race at the track?
Big power. That's the first thing. Timing and starting up front and being around for the last 40-50 laps is going to be key. Tire management, with those 150-lappers, you've just got to split it into two 75-lappers and don't burn the tires off the car. I think track position is going to be key this week, along with a little bit of patience.
You were 10th in last week's NASCAR Whelen All-American Series standings.
What's your goal in weekly racing?
I race for wins, and if the points are there in the end, then they're there, but my goal when I unload every week is to win some races.
How's the new baby doing?
He's good. He keeps a smile on everybody's face at home. And most of all, he keeps you busy.
Home Tracks: Blewett Compiling Points In Sunoco Modifieds The hottest driver in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour heading into the New England Dodge Dealers 150 will look to continue his success at Thompson International Speedway.
Jimmy Blewett has reached Victory Lane in each of the last two NWMT races, but his success this year has not been limited to the touring series. Through August 5, Blewett ranked 10th in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series national standings, thanks in part to his success in Thompson's "Thursday Night Thunder."
Blewett has won twice in Thompson's Sunoco Modified division this year and is currently fifth in the season standings with seven starts, just 24 points behind current leader Danny Cates.
Bobby Grigas III also competes regularly in Thompson's NWAAS Sunoco Modifieds and is 10th in the standings. Woody Pitkat, a part-time NWMT driver, is eighth in the division.
* Chuck Hossfeld is the current points leader. He has victories at Stafford (5/23) and New Hampshire (6/28).
* Jimmy Blewett has won the last two races at Riverhead and Stafford.
* Ed Flemke Jr. captured the season-opener at Thompson, his first victory since 2004.
* Ted Christopher won the second race of the season at Stafford to move into a tie for fifth place on the all-time wins list.
* Ronnie Silk won the 75-lap green flag-only race at Thompson for his second career victory.
* Matt Hirschman earned his first career NWMT victory at Spencer on July 12.
* James Civali, Bobby Grigas III and Ryan Preece have earned their first career poles in 2008.
* Ted Christopher has 28 career victories. The next win would put him in sole possession of fifth place on the all-time list, breaking a tie with Mike Ewanitsko.
* Todd Szegedy's next win would be the 13th of his career, which would place him in sole possession of 13th on the all-time list.
* Mike Stefanik has 40 career poles. The next would place him in a tie with Tony Hirschman for the all-time lead.
* Jamie Tomaino will extend his own series record by making his 493rd career start.
* Ed Flemke Jr. is expected to extend his record consecutive starts streak to 304.
* Jimmy Blewett will look to become the first driver to earn three-straight wins since Donny Lia in May-June of 2007.
Up Next: Whelen 150 At Mansfield
The next stop for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will be at Mansfield (Ohio) Motorsports Park on Saturday, Aug. 23.
This will be the second trip to Mansfield for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour following the inaugural visit in 2007.
Mansfield is a half-mile asphalt oval with banking between 12 and 16 degrees in the turns and six degrees on the straightaways.
James Civali was the winner of last year's Mansfield 150. Doug Coby and Woody Pitkat registered second and third-place finishes, respectively. Just last week, No. 28 owner Don King announced that he replaced Civali in the car with the tandem of Coby and Pitkat for the remainder of the season. Pitkat is scheduled to be in the car at Mansfield.
Donny Lia won the pole for last year's race. He has since moved on to the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, and registered his first series win in the Ohio 250 at Mansfield in May.
As part of NASCAR's celebration of 60 Years of Modified Champions, six-time titlist Jerry Cook will be honored in a pre-race ceremony.
The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour will share the race bill on Aug. 23 with the NASCAR Camping World Series East. The NCWSE 150-lap race is set to go green at 5:30 p.m., with the NWMT to follow at approximately 8 p.m.