NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR NEWS AND NOTES: 22nd ANNUAL STAFFORD 150
For Immediate Release
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour News & Notes: Stafford
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (July 30, 2012) – 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 on Friday, Aug. 3. 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.”
RACE: Stafford 150
The Procedure: The starting field is 31 cars, including provisionals. The first 26 cars will have secured starting positions based on two-lap qualifying. The remaining five spots will be awarded through the provisional process. The race is scheduled for 150 laps (75 miles) and the race tire change rule is three tires, any position.
The Track: A half-mile, slightly-banked oval, Stafford originated as a horse racing track in the 1870s. After seven decades as a horse track, the dirt oval started holding automobile races following World War II. Stafford became a NASCAR track in 1959 and was paved for the first time in 1967.
Race Winners: There have been 31 different race winners at Stafford all-time, led by Mike Stefanik’s 20 victories. Ted Christopher won this race last year while Doug Coby has taken the checkered flag in this season’s first two events at the track.
Pole Winners: There have been 40 different pole winners at Stafford, led by Stefanik’s 17. Coby earned the pole for this event in 2011. Ryan Preece set the track qualifying record in the first race there this year, the Spring Sizzler, at 17.924 seconds (100.424 mph) and Bobby Santos was the pole winner in the second event this year.
STAFFORD RACE NOTES
Rocco Injured: A 42-time winner in NASCAR Whelen All-American Series action at Stafford, leading Whelen Modified Tour Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Keith Rocco sustained a broken and dislocated wrist in a crash at Thompson International Speedway on Sunday, July 29 in NWAAS Sunoco Modified practice. His status for the Stafford 150 and Stafford’s SK Modified race this Friday is to be determined.
Coby Looks to Continue Stafford Surge: Doug Coby has had the car to beat at Stafford in 2012. The season points leader won both of the tour’s previous appearances at Stafford this season, and will look to become the first driver to win three races in a row at the track since Christopher nabbed four-consecutive checkered flags in 2001-02. Since joining forces with car owner Wayne Darling, Coby has posted five top 10s in six races at the track.
Santos Back for Stafford: 2010 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion Bobby Santos will attempt to make just his fourth start of the season in the Stafford 150. A two-time winner at Stafford, Santos earned the pole for the TSI Harley-Davidson 125 at the half mile in May and led the first 117 circuits before settling for a runner-up finish to Coby.
Pitkat Making the Most of Part-Time Opportunities: After a mostly full-time slate from 2009-11, Woody Pitkat’s schedule has been dialed back this season with his new team, the No. 11 owned by John Lukosavage. Pitkat has made the most of his opportunities, however, with three top 10s in four races, and a tour-best start-to-finish average improvement of plus-10 positions. Pitkat has 61 career NASCAR Whelen All-American Series wins at Stafford, and will look for that success to pay off with his first Whelen Modified Tour win at his home track.
HOME TRACKS: Rocco Once Again Leads Connecticut
LAST TIME OUT: Riverhead
NEXT TIME OUT: Thompson