Jimmy Blewett grew up at Wall Stadium Speedway.
The third-mile, banked oval in New Jersey is where he found himself as a kid on Saturday night watching races, where he scored his first career win behind the wheel and where he notched his first championship.
Saturday, Blewett has a home-game on his hands when the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour returns to the historic oval for the first time in 12 years for the running of the Jersey Shore 150.
RELATED: Jersey Shore 150 Entry List
“I’m about five miles from the track, it’s so close to home for me, and a majority of the people you see there on a Saturday night are the people you see in everyday life, at places like the local deli or the local NAPA Auto Parts,” Blewett said. “Like Doug Coby and Keith Rocco at Stafford (Motor Speedway), it’s things like this that give you the feeling of home. When you go to Wall on a Saturday and see kids with red, white and blue No. 76 shirts, there for you, and the comments on the computer during the week, the energy that everyone shows me makes it my home.”
The home track feel is certainly going to be something Blewett will take personally Saturday. In his storied career at the oval, Blewett has more than 70 wins in competition in various different race cars, including Modifieds, where he’s won multiple championships.
Winning his first championship in just his second season of racing there got a ball rolling that hasn’t slowed down since.
“When I first started racing, there were always comments made that if you could run at places like Wall or Riverhead Raceway, you could make it anywhere, and I always took that personally. My brother used to tell me all the time that it was harder to win at Wall than it was 99 percent of the other tracks, and if I could win at Wall, I’d be able to go anywhere and win,” Blewett said. “I started my career at Wall and I wanted to be the best I could be and prove myself before hopefully venturing out and winning a few tour races. My brother and I both were able to do that. You have to crawl before you walk, winning at your home track before you move on towards something else.”
Not only does he have plenty of experience driving during the Saturday night weekly program, Blewett also is one of just six drivers on the entry list who have previous competition at Wall in Whelen Modified Tour action. The series ran three races at the oval between 2003 and 2007, and the Blewett family name won two of them. Jimmy’s brother John won the inaugural event, while Jimmy grabbed the checkered flag himself in 2007 in the most recent stop.
“The setup in my car for Saturday is right out of my brother’s notebook, and some people might think I am crazy, but it is one of those tracks. I’ve won 95 percent of my races with just about the same setup and I’m going back there with it,” Blewett said. “The Tour tire might be a bit different than we run there weekly, but I feel like I’m going to be ahead of the majority of the drivers out of the gate. Hopefully knowing the track and the setup will put me towards the top. There are going to be some guys that do unload and they are going to be fast. Danny Bohn is another guy who knows the track, Doug Coby runs really well there, Justin Bonsignore… there are going to be a number of guys who are going to be really fast right off the trailer.”
This season, Blewett has teamed with Joe Bertuccio and the Gershow Motorsports team driving the No. 21 Chevrolet, with his sights set on the championship. It will be the first time since 2016 that Blewett runs the entire slate — and in the early going — it looks like the combination is working well.
RACING-REFERENCE: 2019 Stats For Jimmy Blewett
He finished third at both Myrtle Beach Speedway and South Boston Speedway to open the season, and even though he finished 10th at Thompson and 15th last time on the track at Stafford, Blewett feels like the team is poised for winning success.
“It’s actually been pretty easy, Joe and his guys are really easy to work with. They understand each other and I understand them. We struggled both at Thompson and Stafford, but at the end of the day, no one gave up and we kept working as hard as we could. I broke a brake line getting into turn one at Stafford and we spun off turn two before they put a quick fix on it before we went back out and salvaged a top 15. It just seemed like nothing we could do that day was right, but you are definitely going to have those days in racing,” Blewett said. “We all realize it is going to take a lot to beat guys like Doug Coby and Justin Bonsignore. These guys are racing these tracks for the last five years straight and I’ve only been on and off. We are just going to keep doing the best we can and with the attitude these guys have, we are going to get better. As long as you struggle and learn from the mistakes moving forward, you are going to be close to the top.”
Even though Blewett was planning to pass on the weekly slate at Wall this year and take some time tearing up the dirt, he ended up back running the Modified weekly after parts for his dirt car didn’t come in when expected. That added experience on the track over the last few weeks could give him even more of an advantage.
“Every time I go to Wall Stadium, if I don’t win, all I hear is people asking me why I didn’t win. Majority of the people don’t get that you don’t win every race you get into,” Blewett said. “But it’s always been my home. It’s one of those things where people are already saying they should just hand me the trophy, but it isn’t near that easy. Guys like Coby, former champion Ron Silk, Dave Sapienza, who won the Turkey Derby last year… they are rolling there thinking to themselves that they are going to win it. As a driver, every time you pull in the gate you better think you can win this race. There is a lot of pressure on me.”
Out of everyone that will be in the grandstands cheering for Blewett on Saturday, his grandfather stands out as the one he will likely hear from the most when the race is over, whether he’s celebrating with the checkered flag or not.
“My whole life, all I ever wanted to do was to go to the races with my family,” Blewett said. “When I started, all I wanted to do was win one race, and prove to my grandfather that I could win just that one race. He was tough on us, and still is, but in a good way. Here I am, second on the all-time wins list at my home track and I’m a few wins away from 150 wins in my career. Everything that came after proving to him that I could do it, it’s just gravy for me.”
NASCAR WHELEN MODIFIED TOUR JERSEY SHORE 150 NEWS & NOTES:
- Saturday’s fifth race of the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season marks the first in a stretch of three races in 18 days at three distinct race tracks. Wall’s high-banks and tight corners begin the stretch, followed by a return to Massachusetts on June 1 and another historic third-mile — Seekonk Speedway, another ‘bullring’ style track that puts drivers up on the edge of their seats. On Wednesday, June 5, the series returns to the .625-mile high-banked Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park, where speeds diving off into the corner are some of the highest of all of the tracks drivers visit.
- Danny Bohn makes his return to NASCAR Modified action driving the No. 1 Chevrolet for Eddie Harvey. Bohn is a former four-time winner on the NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour, where he found a knack for Caraway Speedway and Bowman Gray Stadium, splitting his four wins between the two North Carolina tracks. Bohn drove two races on the unified Whelen Modified Tour for Frank Fleming in 2017, finishing a best of eighth.
- Doug Coby enters Wall leading the championship standings following the first quarter of the season. Coby has two wins in the first four events, including last time on the track at his home track, where he scored his fourth career NAPA Spring Sizzler win. Coby leads by 17 points over Patrick Emerling and 20 over South Boston Speedway winner and former series champion Ron Silk.