LOUDON, NH--------The NASCAR Whelen modified tour event at
the New Hampshire International Speedway is always the best race of the weekend
and this past Friday at the 'Magic Mile' it was no different as John Blewett,
III won as he did in July, but this time without the controversy. Blewett took
over the lead on lap 93 of the 100-lap event and then held off a third turn
charge by Jerry Marquis to capture the New Hampshire 100.
In the July race, NASCAR mistakenly sent James Civali to the winners circle as
Blewett left the track to race in New Jersey, as he was leaving the speedway,
NASCAR reviewed the scoring tapes and declared the Howell, NJ driver the winner.
"The car was too tight early on so we pitted to free up the car. The longer I
went, the better the car got but we were too loose in the middle." Blewett told
the media of his win worth more than $13,000. "I needed to get in the clean air
and I thought we'd be good." While Blewett scored his fourth win of his career
at the 1.058-mile oval and the 10th of his modified career, when he was asked
about his success here he said it's pretty simple. "Bob Bruneau. I think if you
look back the guys who have won here it's Bob." That is the motor builder that
Blewett has used in his wins and John said he is the main reason.
While Jerry Marquis scored a great run for the Bob Garbarino owned Mystic
Missile, he tried to give it one last shot at Blewett but he couldn't make the
move after getting by Ted Christopher for second on lap 98. "I tried him getting
into three but I knew I couldn't make it so I backed it down and said second is
good." The soft spoken driver from Broad Brook, CT said after the finish, his
best in a modified here while he has secured a Busch East win. "In the
beginning, I was just riding it out and try and stay in the top five." Marquis
said. With about 25 laps to go, Marquis nearly lost the car heading into turn
one and he had the car sideways but made the right corrections to save the car
and get the runner up finish. "I tried to get back in line and I hit the 36's
(Christopher) nerf bar, I didn't see him as I thought I cleared him. I just
started cranking the wheel into it and it corrected." Marquis said with a laugh.
"I am real happy for the team because we have been struggling and the crew did a
good job on the pit stop so second is good today."
For Blewett, this time he was able to enjoy victory lane and all that goes with
it.When asked how his day went, John said for the most part, it was pretty
uneventful. "In the beginning the car was just too tight, we came in and pitted
and freed it up but the car seem to come to me once I got into the top five."
When guys would step out to make a pass, I was able to stay and get the spot.
When I got the lead from Teddy there at the end, I thought for sure that he
would be able to make a run but he didn't'." Blewett started 21st and while many
in practice go as hard as they can, John said he never does. "I never practice
for speed, I generally practice for comfort and I use the mind set to never win
practice and that helps come race time." So while he got to celebrate only in
victory lane, you can be sure that Blewett can hardly wait until next summer
when the NASCAR modifieds
return to the 'Magic Mile."
As the front row of Mike Stefanik and Eddie Flemke, Jr. brought the field to the
green flag, it was Stefanik getting the early jump and taking the lead one lap.
But Todd Szegedy, the 2003 modified tour champion went past on lap two and
stayed there until the 10th lap with several mods lining up behind him. One
driver that all have come to fear at NHIS, is Ted Christopher of Plainville, CT
as he powered by from his seventh starting spot to take over on lap 11 with
Szegedy, James Civali and Eddie Flemke, JR in tow. Todd Szegedy in the Wisk Ford
then reassumed the lead on lap 15 and that is where he would stay the next 22
laps but the battle for second and beyond him was wild and woolly. As the race
continued caution free Ted Christopher in the Ford powered #36 went back to the
lead on lap 37 as the top nine cars were separated by a mere 4/10ths of a
second. The first challenge for the leaders would be on lap 44 when they
encountered several lapped cars all running for position but all the leaders
navigated their way through the pack.
The first caution of the afternoon came out on the 48th lap when Doug Coby
stopped on the track near turn one. That sent most of the leaders to the pits
for tires but several drivers, most notably Tony Hirschman and Eddie Flemke,
Reggie Ruggiero and Chuck Hossfeld stayed on the track. When the track went
green on lap 54, it was Hirschman taking control but Eddie Flemke took over on
lap 60. Now the action that many in the crowd of 18,000 anticipated was taking
place as the bump drafting, three wide racing and lead changes was taking on
urgency with the race heading into the later stages. Hirschman retook the lead
on laps 61 and 62 but Flemke went back past on 63 with Mike Stefanik back in the
lead pack but with the cars running in such a tight pack something was bound to
happen and it did on lap 63.
As several front runners came off of the fourth turn, Chuck Hossfeld bobbled a
bit and was hit slightly by Szegedy. Hossfeld went around and several others got
tangled up in the mess. Both of them would continue but innocent victims would
include Reggie Ruggiero Ron Yuhas and TC, Ted Christopher would have the nose of
his car slightly damaged.
On the restart on lap 68, Mike Stefanik in the Diversified Metals Chevrolet
would retake the lead but over the next few years he and Flemke would swap the
front spot. As the scoreboard clicked off lap 70, the field was Flemke, Stefanik,
TC, Jerry Marquis, Donny Lia, Tony Hirschman, James Civali, John Blewett, III
and Eric Beers. Christopher would move from third to lead on lap 76 while
Marquis and Hirschman were fighting for the second and third spots. Mike
Stefanik's car then faltered on lap 78 falling all the way to eighth from the
third spot. On lap 79, Tony Hirschman encountered the same deal except Hirschman
was moved out of the way after James Civali moved up the track on him dropping
him to 14th.
While Flemke, Christopher and others were fighting for the top spot, John
Blewett had snuck into the top five and was now setting his sights on the
positions in front of him. Civali would get by for the lead on lap 86 with
Christopher, with the nose bent because of the incident earlier in the race
would set the pace on lap 87 and looked hard to beat as those behind him battled
for position. Blewett now showed his strength as he went into third on lap 90
dispatching Donny Lia and into second two laps later getting by Civali. Now he
set his sights on the season sweep and he did so getting Ted
heading into turn one on the 93rd circuit.
The driver everyone else was now watching was Jerry Marquis as he moved into
third with four to go and got by Christopher with two to go but the former
modified tour champion did have enough to mount a final charge. As Blewett
streaked under the checker with Marquis in for second, James Civali got into TC
heading off the fourth turn to finish third with Mike Stefanik fourth and former
champ, Todd Szegedy fifth. The rest of the top ten was Ted Christopher, Ed
Flemke, JR., Zack Sylvester, Eric Beers and Tony Hirschman.
MOD TOUR NOTES
James Civali of Meriden, CT capped his first year at the New Hampshire
International Speedway with a third place finish. He was declared the winner in
July here but later overturned by NASCAR.
When asked about his success here, he said you have to be aggressive and that
aggressiveness got him into trouble with Tony Hirschman and Teddy Christopher.
"You have to drive like crazy here." James said, "I drive hard naturally, that's
my style but Eddie (Flemke) has helped me out a great deal." When asked about
the incident with Hirschman, which sent Tony over to Civali's car on the tech
line, he said, "He was lifting a lot earlier in the corner than I was and I got
into him. I walked the car up the track and got into him, and that sent him into
the marbles, it wasn't intentional."
Christopher later also had harsh words for Civali after he moved Ted out of the
third on the last lap and that dropped the points runner up to a sixth place
finish as he lost a few more points to Mike Stefanik. Blewett with the win also
captured the Lincoln Electric modified tour championship and will collect $5,000
at the annual track Christmas party in mid-December. Unofficial James Civali was
second and will collect $3,000 while third, again, unofficial was Mike Stefanik
and he will get $2,000.
While the weather forecast for Friday was iffy at best in New Hampshire, the day
turned into a sunshine drenched afternoon. The modified tour race started
exactly at 5:10, the starting time on
the entry blank.
Rain-washed out the qualifying on Thursday for the modified tour and the Busch
East Series. 41 cars were on hand for the 40 car-starting field and once again,
Bob Bahre and his staff proved what great promoters and people they are when
they decided to start all the cars for the modified event.
The Busch East series had 46 cars and Bahre also started all of them so no one
needed to go home.
The NASCAR modified tour race at the 1.058-mile oval was the 44th all time for
the open wheeled machines at the track located about 20 minutes from the capital
Tony Hirschman leads all drivers with seven wins at the track while Reggie
Ruggiero and Mike Stefanik are tied for second with six wins.
The NASCAR Whelen modified tour heads to the Waterford Speedbowl on the
Connecticut shoreline for the 150-lap event. The event in July was rained out
and postponed. The show is a one day show with the feature starting about 5:15
p.m. Sunday night.
Photos By Fran Lawlor