It’s not often one spots Jimmy Blewett at a pavement race track anymore. The man known as “Showtime” usually sticks to the dirt racing scene these days. However, there he was on Saturday night, wheeling his red No. 18 asphalt Modified into victory lane at New Jersey’s high-banked 1/3-mile paved oval of Wall Stadium Speedway in the Woody’s High Banks 105.
Blewett, who turns 35 on Wednesday, is a muscular guy, and he usually only comes to Wall to flex those muscles in the bigger, longer distance races. Saturday was just the fourth time he’d raced at the track all year long, and was his first pavement win since he won at the Turkey Derby back in November of last year.
Even though Blewett, from Howell, New Jersey, races almost exclusively on dirt now, he said the transition back to asphalt isn’t a difficult one.
“It’s actually comfortable because I have so many laps,” Blewett told Speed51.com powered by JEGS. “That’s my comfort zone. Dirt is not my comfort zone, but that’s what I’ve chosen to do with my grandfather because it’s a really good challenge. I like that challenge. When you step back into the asphalt car you just take a deep breath because you know what you’re getting yourself into.”
One of the aspects of asphalt racing where Blewett is the most comfortable is saving tires, especially at Wall Stadium where he has made so many laps throughout his career.
“We timed 13th because the track was dirty when I went out for time trials,” Blewett said. “I tried as fast as I could to get to the front. I think by lap 30 we were up to second. It was all about tire management after that, and also figuring out what we had to do to get around Eric Mauriello.
After taking the lead, Blewett had to deal with a bunch of restarts as the laps wound down, including five restarts with five laps to go, but Blewett was able to hold strong and score another win at the Jersey Shore oval.
Now he heads back to the dirt. He races Tuesday night in the Jersey Rush V at New Egypt Speedway, and then he’ll follow that up with a trip to the southern part of New Jersey for a race at Bridgeport Speedway.
Blewett is already a winner at New Egypt this year, but 2015 on the dirt side certainly hasn’t been easy. He rolled his red, white, and blue No. 76 Modified earlier in the year and had to take a couple weeks off. He got the car back to where it needed to be and won again soon after the flip. But now he has to make sure that the track hasn’t changed too much when he gets back to New Egypt on Tuesday night.
“Dirt is so tough because it changes so much,” he said. “One minute the track could be heavy and then a couple minutes later it could be a dust bowl and you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off trying to change the car. That’s why when I go to Wall I have somewhat of an idea of what the track is going to be like and I what I need for the car setup.”
Blewett is unsure of the next time he’ll be racing on pavement instead of just driving to a track on black-top. It’s not so much that he doesn’t race pavement much anymore, although that is true, but he just isn’t racing too often in general anymore.
“There were years when I ran with TS Haulers that I ran 100 races,” Blewett said. “This year we are maybe at 20 races and that might be a lot.”
The reason behind the cut-back is simple: Family. Blewett has a seven-year-old son, James, and an 11-month-old daughter, Kayla that he likes to have family dinners with as much as possible. But to be able to support two kids and be able to race at the competitive level he’s used to, Blewett has to work a lot.
“In order to spend time with my family I can’t race the way I used to,” he said. “We all work long hours, especially since the economy took a dive a few years ago. You have to put more hours in yourself, and that’s the main reason we stopped running the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. It got a little too expensive to take the time off.”
-By Rob Blount, Speed51.com Northeast Editor – Twitter: @RobBlount
-Photo Credit: Pete MacDonald