REMEMBERING MODIFIED DRIVERS
by Matt Wiernasz
When we go to a race track, we always look back at the fond
memories. You always share good stories. You have a driver you root
for or even idolized. Over the last 3 years, the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour has lost some of the greatest modified drivers in the
Northeast. Last year, John Blewett, III lost his life in a tragic
accident on lap 107. He was only 33 years old. Many people remember
Blewett as a racer’s racer. He drove for great car owners such as
Mario Fiore, Curt Chase, and Joe Brady. A memorable moment for John
and Jimmy was last year at Wall Township Speedway in New Jersey.
Jimmy would end up winning the race and John would come home with a
2nd place finish. His last win on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour
would come at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on September 15th, 2006.
Danielle Ostrander out of Wall Township, NJ raced Legends
cars at Wall Township Speedway. She remember Blewett always smiling.
One night she was upset after her race and ran into Blewett. Blewett
then asked what was wrong and Ostrander told him. Blewett gave her
advice about the track and what to do next time she races.
NEMA Midget driver Joey “ Jersey Jet” Payne out of Fairlawn,
NJ would hang out with Blewett at the track as he would watch both
his sons race. Payne just a few weeks back was with one of Blewett’s
old sponsors at Oswego Speedway in New York. “ It feels like
yesterday to be honest with you. I can’t believe it’s been a year.
We used to goof around a lot.” Payne Said.
One of Payne’s memories with John Blewett was when they were
racing at Atlantic City. Payne ended up winning the race while
Liquid Lou Cicconi came in 2nd and John Blewett was third. “ We
stood there in victory lane together. That was the first time I was
in victory lane with John. It was special.
Payne remembered Blewett at Wall Stadium as a racer’s racer,
bad to the bone and hard core. In the pits, John would always lend a
hand to anyone to get their car better. “ He was one of a kind”
Payne and Blewett would always watch their sons race at the quarter
midget track. Payne would always look forward to that and sharing
laughs with John. John’s son John IV is racing quarter midgets.
Payne would always to see the Blewett’s do something to their cars
that the other drivers would just take their stuff and throw it
Payne would always tell or make a hint to John that he should
drive a modified. Blewett would try to take Payne a ride for the
annual Turkey Derby that would be held each other at Wall Stadium.
The deal would fall through. John would then tell Payne to take
Jimmy’s (Blewett) car out. John would then tell Jimmy that Payne was
taking the car out. “ Jimmy, John and I had a great time. It’s a
tragedy. I miss him dearly. I just hope Jimmy get a tour
championship and dedicate it to his brother.”
Back in 2004, the racing community lost another great
modified driver from the Northeast. Tom Baldwin out of New York lost
his life as he was in an accident on lap 10. He was 57 years old.
Many fans remember Baldwin as Tiger Tom. Back in the 80's. When the
NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour would visit the old Riverside Park
Speedway in Agawam, MA. The track would have a pit competition. The
7ny team was always competitive in the competition with the help of
Tommy Baldwin, JR changing tires.
Adam and Alan Cantor worked with the late Baldwin. When kids
are growing up and racing quarter midgets, to a late model, or even
a modified, they idolize a cup driver. Adam Cantor looked up to Tom
Baldwin as his idol. “ Every time we got to go to Riverside Park or
Riverhead. It was a treat to watch him race. He never left anything
for questioning. He gave it all he had every lap.” Adam Cantor Said.
One of the fondest memories Adam Cantor had was when he was
going to Thompson Speedway to race his midget for the first time. He
called up Baldwin and Baldwin told him to come to the shop. Baldwin
would then draw out the track for Cantor and show him how to run the
place. It helped him to run well at Thompson to this day.
Alan Cantor will always remember the memories at the track or
the shop. Cantor believes it was a joy to work with Baldwin. “ We
were like brothers, family. There were times where would be working
on the car. We wouldn’t have to think what each other was
wondering.” Alan Cantor Said.
If Baldwin and the crew were going to either Martinsville, or
Oswego, to them they were having a great time. When the 7ny came
back to life in the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, it brought back a
good feeling for Alan Cantor. “ It made me real good and I am glad
Bono was able to accomplish that. He did that with Tommy, Jr’s
blessing. It was a good feeling.”
Ronnie Silk was the winner in the Budweiser 150 at Thompson
International Speedway. The next event for the NASCAR Whelen
Modified Tour is Saturday August 23rd at Mansfield Motorsports Park
in Mansfield, Ohio. It will be a doubleheader with the NASCAR
Camping World East Series.