STAFFORD SPRINGS, Conn. – One of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour’s drivers to watch on a race-by-race basis just a handful of years ago, Jimmy Blewett has rededicated himself to the sport and is returning to form in 2012.
Following a rainout last week at Riverhead (N.Y.) Raceway, the Whelen Modified Tour will return to action with the Stafford 150 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway Friday. This week’s event will provide the next opportunity for Blewett, from Howell, N.J., to continue his comeback.
Blewett – known as “Showtime” – won the Stafford 150 in 2008, and returned to victory lane there in the May 2009 race. Those are the last of his five career Whelen Modified Tour wins, the later coming a span of 27 starts ago.
Blewett stepped away from the sport – as a full-time driver – midway through the 2009 season to start a family and assist with the family business.
In 2010-11 he competed in 16 of 30 events between the No. 14 modified of Richard Barney and his own No. 76 team. Of those 16 races, half saw Blewett not able to finish the race due to mechanical failure or accidents. He was in contention to win just twice, the May Stafford race and the September New Hampshire event, both in 2010.
“The 14 car, they had real good equipment and I felt like they had everything they needed to get the job done, the chemistry just wasn’t there,” Blewett said. “We had a couple really strong finishes, we almost won a couple really big races … things just weren’t working out. Me and the Barney family, we’re still great friends, and they understood that I just wanted to step aside and kind of do my own thing.”
The return to the Whelen Modified Tour on a full-time basis in 2012 has been a turning of the page for Blewett. Through the season’s first six races he’s posted an average finish of 10th with two top fives, and has finished on the lead lap all but one outing. Blewett’s previous career-best points finish was eighth in 2007. He ranks fifth so far this year.
While he hasn’t yet contended for a checkered flag, the reinvigorated Blewett is excited about how the team is running, even with a couple of incidents in recent races.
“We started off really strong this year, and I felt like we were heading in the right direction,” Blewett said. “You don’t make your own luck, whoever said that was crazy. A little bit of bad luck is no big deal. At least I know I had a top-10 car every time we hit the race track this year. To see what we’ve done so far this year – I’m really proud of my team.”
Blewett’s improved performance on the track actually started this past offseason when the soon-to-be 32-year-old rededicated himself to physical fitness. He lost nearly 80 pounds and now feels much better conditioned to get behind the wheel of his No. 76 John Blewett Incorporated/Ling Trucking Chevrolet.
Added responsibility has also changed Blewett’s focus, he now maintains his own cars and is involved in all facets of the team operation, including driving the hauler to the race track.
“I had to build up enough courage to take on my own role,” Blewett said. “There are not many people that do everything on their team. I make the decisions for the most part, it’s overlooked by my grandfather, but he let me step up to the plate and make the decisions.”
Blewett looks toward this week’s Stafford 150 as a potential opportunity to get back to victory lane and end the longest drought of his career. He finished fifth and ninth in the first two Stafford events this year. This time around he’ll have Ed Bennett as his crew chief, a change that was made since the Whelen Modified Tour’s last race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
“I feel like Stafford has always been one of my strong points,” Blewett said. “We’ve got good power, a really good team, and hopefully Ed Bennett is the missing piece of the puzzle that we needed. I’ll keep my fingers crossed and keep driving as hard as I can.”
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