Wednesday August 22, 2007

By Brian Danko                                              Click On Photo For Full Size Version                            

The news hit like the heat of the desert. That’s what it felt like when my brother, Gary, called me while I was on vacation in Phoenix, AZ. and said that John Blewett, III, had lost his life in a racing accident at the Thompson International Speedway.

I was stunned, sickened and saddened about John’s death and then when I heard that his brother, Jimmy, was the car involved in the lap 107 accident, my thoughts immediately turned to the well being of Jimmy and his family and how they would cope with this racing tragedy but more importantly, family tragedy.

I got to know John when he first came on the modified tour but had followed his exploits running at Flemington Speedway and Wall Stadium and I was impressed with his winning ways at such a early age. John not only won NASCAR track championships but also won the 1996 NASCAR Northeast Regional championship.

I remember a weekly race at Flemington Speedway when he crashed in a late model race and his car was sitting up against the grandstands and many fans were showing him signs he was number one.

I asked him about it and he joking said later that night, “I just haven’t won them over yet.” The thing is he would.

But it was when John began racing for the Curt Chase team on the modified tour that I really got to know and like John.

They say in the business that you aren’t suppose to get to close to the subject, sport or person but for me covering auto racing wasn’t about being a ‘professional’ writer but as someone who loved the sport as a fan and covered it to the best on my ability and I will readily admit that most of the drivers on the modified tour are my friends as are many car owners and crewmembers.

John was a racer. He was made in the same mold of Ted Christopher and Tony Stewart. He was also the son of a racer, a modified racer.

For the son of an accomplished driver like his dad, John, JR. was, it can be hard to duplicate the success of your father but John, III, did it and even surpassed his father, who once finished second to Richie Evans in the national title points chase.

The records will show that John collected 10 modified tour wins in his career and 42 top fives and several of them came at the New Hampshire International Speedway in Loudon, NH.

It will be at New Hampshire International Speedway next month that John will really be missed because he just had a knack for being up front come crunch time. He was also the driver that many media people would pick to win the race.

What impressed me the most about John Boy was that he didn’t back down from any driver on the modified tour and at times it cost John a win(s) but that was the way that he raced. Hard and sometimes stubborn but that is what also made him a winner.

Last year, John had the most wins on the modified tour despite not running the entire tour but devoting himself to running at his local track, Wall Township Speedway on Saturdays.

There is a lot that can and will be said and written about John in the upcoming weeks, months and even years but the best thing you can say about him was that he was a racer.

While this tragedy is another blow to the modified racing community, it is our thoughts and prayers that need to go the entire Blewett family. They are one of the first families of racing in New Jersey and while they will pick up the pieces and continue on, it will take time and it will hurt.

But is it Jimmy that must continue to race and be strong and know that it was a racing accident and that John would want you to continue to race and carry on the Blewett name.

When New York Yankee legend Phil Rizzuto died a couple weeks ago at the age of 89, Yankees owner, George Steinbrenner said, “Heaven must have needed a shortstop.” And using that same phraseology with John, “Heaven must have needed another modified racer.”

Unfortunately for us here on earth, too many modified drivers have joined the driver roster in heaven.

God Speed JBIII. Thanks for the many memories.