In Tour-type Modified racing these days, there is no shortage of enthusiasm between drivers, mechanics and fans. But, one driver that comes to mind for many when it comes to great enthusiasm is Jimmy Blewett. Whether he is racing in his home state of New Jersey at Wall Stadium, on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, or down at New Smyrna Speedway in February, “Showtime” always brings a great personality and tremendous can-do attitude.
Blewett is set to make the trip to Florida for the 2020 edition of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing, which takes center stage at New Smyrna Speedway next week. The 2008 World Series Tour-type Modified champion and four-time SK Modified WS champ from 2006 through 2009, Blewett is one of 36 drivers on the current entry list that will compete throughout the week. It is a continuation of a surge of momentum the class has received since 2017.
“I’ll tell you what, they should give sole credit to Ricky Brooks for bringing the car count back up down there. For a number of years it was kind of a run-what-you-brung down there, and it was hard for people from different series to come down and feel competitive,” Blewett explained on ‘The Bullring’ on Monday morning. “If you had a Tour car and someone had an open engine, you really weren’t competitive. But over the last four or five years, Ricky Brooks got a rules package where no matter what series you ran, you could go there and be competitive.”
While car counts were down for a decade or so, Blewett believes that it was tied strictly to the economic downturn the entire sport of auto racing sustained at the time, and that the interest and passion for the World Series has never wavered for race teams.
“You had guys like Richie Evans, Ted Christopher, my brother, a lot of guys with a lot of history down there. It’s a track that has a lot of history with a lot of greats, not just in Modifieds but Late Models as well. To go down there and even just win a race says something. A lot of people say, ‘It’s just Florida.’ Well, come on down and see if it’s just Florida.”
The World Series at New Smyrna is also one of short track racing’s ultimate tests, not just for the Tour-type Mods, but all the divisions that run the majority of the nine days. It’s a crucible that while costly, can also make a team stronger in the long run.
“It’s a lot of work, it’s a grind. You’re constantly working on the car. You get there first thing in the morning and work on the car to get ready for practice. You run your feature, and when you get out of there it’s a long day. The majority of the time you get out of there 10:30 – 11:00 at night, and you’re right back there at eight a.m. the next day. It’s a lot, but it’s worth it; it’s also a great way to get ready for the season.”
With the majority of Modified teams coming all the way from the Northeast, it has been a challenge for many just to find the time to get down south. But, with a reduction to five races and compaction of the schedule to five straight days of racing, it has also helped paved the road to recovery for Modified car counts.
“A lot of us are just average guys. It’s definitely better now that they narrowed it down, and you don’t have to leave the week before. But, it’s still a lot of fun. I have fun every time I go down there, everybody’s very welcoming, and it’s a great way to start the season for us.”
While not having a concrete plan for the entire 2020 season, this February, Blewett is once again teaming with the Bertuccio family’s Gershow Motorsports, where Blewett raced last season on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He will also have one of the most experienced Modified minds as his crew chief for the week.
“I don’t have anything 100 percent set in stone for myself, besides racing my dirt cars, and going to New Smyrna. As far as Speedweeks goes, I’ll be with Joe (Bertuccio) and his team. Tommy Baldwin is going to be my crew chief, I’m actually going to his shop to get the car setup before we head down there. We’re just going to play it by ear, if Joe wants me to race, I’ll be there,” Blewett said.
“(Joe’s) been like a second dad to me, the last year and a half racing for him has been special. We’ve had a lot of good runs, some ups and downs, but we’ve really enjoyed ourselves, and tried to help Joe with the team as best I can. As far as updating some equipment, Joe hadn’t really gotten anything the last few years, but the middle of last year they picked up a new LFR car and some new equipment. Looking forward to getting there next week, giving the best I can, and helping the team out.”
Speed51 will be on-location at New Smyrna Speedway throughout the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing. Unique behind-the-scenes video content will be available on the Speed51 Network, and updates will be available via our Trackside Now coverage each day.
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51