The Chrome Horn News



• Blewett Looks To Continue His Winning Ways At NHIS
• Civali Excited About Going Back To New Hampshire After A Second And Third Last Year
• Ted Christopher To Be Joined In The Field By Twin Brother Mike

   John Blewett III (No. 66 Blewett Motorsports Chevrolet) was just about to hop on a plane last year when he got the official news: He was the winner of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour race at New Hampshire International Speedway.
    Blewett and James Civaili (No. 28 Ramer-Hall/Liberty Limousine Chevrolet) were running neck and neck when the caution flag flew on the final lap. While NASCAR reviewed the finish, Blewett had to bolt from the track. He had a private plane waiting for him at nearby Manchester Airport to take him back to his home state of New Jersey. Blewett was in the hunt for the NASCAR Whelen All-American Series title and wanted to get back to Wall Speedway to race that night.
    He followed up his good news from the track by winning the Modified feature at Wall. And when he came back to NHIS for the fall race, Blewett took his time in Victory Lane after picking up his second straight win on the mile oval.
    “I was lucky last year – my family put me in some really great equipment,” Blewett said. “Up there, the engine, the car, the driver – all have to be in tune. We just seemed to hit on it last year.”
    Blewett had been to Victory Lane at NHIS twice before driving for owner Curt Chase. And while he said it took nothing away from his wins with Chase, last year was something special.
    “To go up there and prove I could do it on my own,” Blewett said. “There was a lot of self-satisfaction there.”
    Blewett and Civali will be among more than 40 drivers that will attempt to qualify for Saturday’s New England 100.
    Despite the disappoint that accompanied having to hand the trophy back to NASCAR officials last year, Civali can’t wait to get to NHIS.
    “Real excited, actually,” said Civali, who finished third in the fall race last year. “It should be really good. We’re really psyched about it.”
    Civali is second in points, just 19 behind Donny Lia (No. 4 Mystic River Marina Dodge), despite the fact that a flat tire midway through the rain-shortened race at Thompson (Conn.) International Speedway last week left him with a seventh-place finish in a car he thought was capable of winning.
    Civali suddenly found his groove at New Hampshire last year. He and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series champion Tony Stewart put on some of the most impressive passing and drafting during last July’s event. The secret, according to Civali, is to be able to relax on the high-speed track.
    “Your car doesn’t have to be that fast,” Civali said. “You just have to race well, and draft and pass. It just takes a little bit of comfort. If you’re comfortable with the track, you’re going to be fast.
    “You really have to look around and pay attention to the race and not just what your car is doing. That’s a race where you can go from 15th to the front in two or three laps.”
    Civali compared the scenarios that play out when drafting in a Whelen Modified Tour car at New Hampshire to NEXTEL Cup races at Daytona and Talladega.
    Blewett agreed.
    “I’ve lost four or five races there on the last three laps,” Blewett said. “You try to get yourself in position where you can be there in the final three or four laps. Sometimes leading is not the best place to be. Other times, it is.”
    For Blewett, “being there” represents a chance to continue his dominance. Between 2000-2003, he had two wins, three 3rds and a fourth in seven races at the track that is the highlight of the Whelen Modified Tour schedule.
    In the next two years, though, he had only one finish in the top 20 – a 10th in 2005 – while Ted Christopher (No. 36 AI-Lee Installations Chevrolet) was winning four straight.
    “Teddy replaced me as the guy to beat,” Blewett said. “Now I’ve seemed to have got that back.
    “New Hampshire is a race that pretty much anybody in Modified racing looks forward to, whether you’re a race fan, a driver, even a car owner. … They did such a great job with the racetrack up there. I don’t think there’s ever been a bad Modified race there.”
    Blewett still plans a busy weekend. He will qualify the Whelen Modified Tour car at New Hampshire Thursday afternoon and then drive to Thompson for the weekly feature there Thursday night. Saturday, the early afternoon start may preclude a trip back to New Jersey but his sponsor that helped him out last year, Specialized Machinery Transport, is on stand-by just in case.
    “(Last year) I didn’t have much choice but to get the hell out of there,” Blewett said. “(This year) we’re going to play Saturday by ear.”


    Christopher's Back On Track … Ted Christopher is coming off a season-best second-place finish. He will be joined in the NHIS qualifying effort by his twin brother Mike (No. 82 Ferguson Dodge), who is making his first Whelen Modified Tour start of the season. It would mark Mike’s first race since April 23 at Stafford (Conn.) Motor Speedway. Mike finished second to Ted in the July 24, 2004 race at NHIS.
    New Experience … None of the top six drivers in points have a victory at NHIS. Points leader Donny Lia had just two top 5s – a fourth and a fifth in 2004 – while third-place Jimmy Blewett has none. Todd Szegedy (No. 2 Wisk/Snuggle Ford), who is fourth in points, has finished second three times, most recently to Ted Christopher in September 2004. Last year as rookies, fifth-place Matt Hirschman (No. 59 Furnace & Duct Chevrolet) finished 24th and 13th, and sixth-place Ronnie Silk (No. 19 Major Motion Transportation/Silk Plumbing and Heating Chevrolet) was 10th and 12th. Defending Whelen Modified Tour champion Mike Stefanik (No. 16 Diversified Metals Pontiac), currently seventh in points, has six victories at New Hampshire. That ties him for second at the track with Reggie Ruggiero, while Matt Hirschman’s father Tony has seven wins.

Fast Facts

What: New England 100, NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Race
Where: New Hampshire International Speedway, Loudon, N.H.
When: 1:10 p.m., Saturday, June 30
Track layout: 1.058 mile paved oval.
Distance: 100 Laps, 105.8 miles.
Posted Awards: $164, 095
TV: SPEED (Enhanced replay premiers July 25, noon ET)
2006 winner: John Blewett III
2006 polesitter: Zach Sylvester
Record: Mike Ewanitsko, July 20, 2001, 132.742 mph; 28.693 sec.
Pre-race schedule: Thursday – Practice 11:15-12:40 p.m. ; 2:35-2:45 p.m. Qualifying, 2:50 p.m. Note: All times subject to change.
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Top 10: 1. Donny Lia, 764; 2. James Civali, 745; 3. Jimmy Blewett, 744; 4. Todd Szegedy, 728; 5. Matt Hirschman, 721; 6. Ronnie Silk, 649; 7. Mike Stefanik, 621; 8. Jamie Tomaino, 619; 9. Ted Christopher, 597; 10. Jerry Marquis, 591.
Track Contact: Fred Neergaard (603) 783-4744


Source:  Jason Christley/NASCAR WMT PR
Posted:  June 26, 2007

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