MYRTLE BEACH, SC - MARCH 16:  Jimmy Blewett, driver of the #21 Gershow Recycling / Blewett Recycling Chevrolet, during practice before the NASCAR Whelen Modified Performance Plus 150 presented by Safety-Kleen on March 16, 2019 at Myrtle Beach Speedway in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. (Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)
(Photo: Adam Glanzman/NASCAR)

Despite tragedy, Jimmy Blewett carries on family tradition of Modified racing

Jimmy Blewett can remember it like it was yesterday.

As a child, joined by his older brother John Blewett III, the two would stand along the fence at race tracks like New York’s Riverhead Raceway and New Jersey’s New Egypt Speedway to watch the best the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour had to offer battle for supremacy.

“I always recalled standing at the fence with my brother,” the 41-year-old Blewett said. “My brother and I were six years apart and basically whatever he did, I was his shadow as a child. He would walk up to the fence, and he’d hold on to the fence, and we’d watch guys pull out on the track for heat races and for practice for the feature.

“Back then, everyone could wear open-face helmets. It was cool because you could see the driver. He could see you, you could see his face, you could see his expressions. You saw guys like my father (John Blewett Jr.), Richie Evans, Charlie Jarzombek, Reggie Ruggiero, Wayne Anderson, all those guys.”

Being able to get an up-close-and-personal look at the best Modified drivers in the country helped both Blewett children fall in love with Modified racing, much like their father had many years before them.

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John Blewett Jr. spent most of his Modified racing career competing at local weekly tracks, but he did make 29 starts with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour. He earned one victory, which came in 1986 at Star Speedway in Epping, New Hampshire.

“It’s one of those things, in our household, growing up there were no pictures of the kid with the baseball and the baseball mitt,” Blewett said. “It was racing. It was family pictures in Victory Lane. It as my brother in his go-kart. We’re a racing family, and I grew up around that my entire life.

“It was something as a child, you want to be like your dad. You hear that song, ‘I want to be like you dad.’ It’s something that my brother wanted to do and I wanted to do what he did and he wanted to do what my dad did. Ultimately that’s what drew me in the direction of racing.”

The Blewett children created many great memories on the Tour. They both joined their father as NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour winners, with John Blewett III earning 10 wins and Jimmy Blewett scoring six of his own.

Brothers Jimmy Blewett (left) and John Blewett III (right) at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey, prior to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on May 6, 2007. (Photo: NASCAR)
Brothers Jimmy Blewett (left) and John Blewett III (right) at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey, prior to a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event on May 6, 2007. (Photo: NASCAR)

On two separate occasions, the Blewett’s swept the top two positions in a Tour event. It happened for the first time at Connecticut’s Stafford Motor Speedway on July 4, 2006, with John Blewett III besting Jimmy Blewett.

It happened a second time a little less than a year later at the Blewetts’ home track, Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey. This time it was Jimmy Blewett who emerged as the winner, with John Blewett III following him across the finish line.

It’s a victory that still stands out in Jimmy Blewett’s memory 15 years later because, despite racing against his brother, the two always worked as a team. In fact, John Blewett III was the person who set up his younger brother’s car that day at Wall Stadium.

“He set the cars up for himself and I,” Blewett recalled. “The car was doing something in practice and my spotter (Freddie Kraft) and we were like, ‘We just need to be a little better right in the middle and we’ll have the best car here.’

“My brother, in my brother’s fashion, came over and was like, ‘Quiet, do this, do this, we don’t have enough time. Do this and this. Put it in the car.’ He looked over at me and said, ‘Now you go out and win.’ Fair enough, fair enough. Put the stuff in the car and who did I beat to win the race? Him.”

What neither Blewett knew at the time was that a few months later, John Blewett III would be gone.

Jimmy Blewett (12) leads brother John Blewett III during a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey, on May 6, 2007. (Photo: NASCAR)
Jimmy Blewett (12) leads brother John Blewett III during a NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey, on May 6, 2007. (Photo: NASCAR)

John Blewett III died when the two brothers were involved in a crash at Connecticut’s Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Aug. 16, 2007.

It was hard for Jimmy Blewett to carry on in the aftermath of the crash. So hard, in fact, that he admits he gave serious consideration to quitting racing altogether.

“Everybody knows my brother was my best friend, my father figure,” Blewett said. “He was everything to me in my life leading up to his passing. He was my guidance. He was my everything to me.

“That night and that day was something that hit me hard. I honestly didn’t know how to take it. I didn’t know if I should just give up altogether and just not ever do anything again or keep going and keep his name alive.”

As time passed and Blewett mourned the loss of his brother, he came to realize that the last thing his brother would want was for him to give up.

“I came to a conclusion in the following weeks that I needed to keep his memory alive,” Blewett said. “I needed to always talk about him. I always feel like he is with me all the time in anything and everything I do.

“I also know that he always taught me to never give up and to be the best and to prove people wrong.”

Now 41, the younger of the Blewett brothers continues to race in his brother’s memory.

Jimmy Blewett during qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Jersey Shore 150 on May 18, 2019 at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey. (Photo: Mike Lawrence/NASCAR)
Jimmy Blewett during qualifying for the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Jersey Shore 150 on May 18, 2019 at Wall Stadium Speedway in Wall Township, New Jersey. (Photo: Mike Lawrence/NASCAR)

Jimmy Blewett has made quite the name for himself at his home track, Wall Stadium Speedway, where he is a four-time track champion in the Modified class. He’s also earned 25 victories across multiple divisions in Wall’s annual Turkey Derby event, including eight victories in the headlining Modified division.

“It’s been a long road. Every time I pull into a track, I have to have that time alone to think about it all,” Blewett said. “At the end of it all, we’re never going to give up.”

The NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to Wall Stadium Speedway this Saturday for the running of the Jersey Shore 150, the eighth race of the 2022 season.

Blewett, who lives minutes from the third-mile, high-banked paved oval, is hoping to defend his home turf while also racing in his brother’s memory.

“There ain’t a race that I enter that I don’t think I can win. And if I can’t do it, you won’t see me at the race track,” Blewett said.

RELATED: Watch the Jersey Shore 150 on FloRacing this Saturday

Recently Blewett has begun to curtail his own racing to focus more on the racing efforts of his 14-year-old son, James Blewett. The plan is for James to compete in several races up and down the East Coast this summer.

If all goes as planned, James Blewett will become the third generation of the Blewett family to race with the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour.

“My son, I call him my angel baby,” Blewett said. “When my brother passed, my wife found out she was pregnant with my son. He turned 14 recently, and he’s growing up to be quite the young man. Fourteen years ago I never envisioned myself having a son, let alone a son as good as him.

“We put him together a crate car and now that he’s out of school — school is the first priority — but now that he’s out of school we’re going to take him racing.”

The future of racing in the Blewett family is bright. That’s exactly how John Blewett III would have wanted it.