It’s back to New Hampshire this weekend. While Loudon is a decent track for NASCAR, the real highlights of the weekend are the Modifieds. The Modifieds are usually incredible at the low banked 1.058 mile oval, hitting speeds so high that the cars require restrictor plates. It’s not rare to have 25 lead changes. The record is 35, but the record for a race that did not end in a green-white-checkered is 30, having occurred in 2000. It was won by John Blewett, III.
In case you don’t know, I’m from New Jersey. Granted, I come from the northern end of the state, but on the rare occasions I do go to races myself, I usually come across many people wearing shirts in tribute to John Blewett, III.
John Blewett, III was born on October 25th, 1973 in Point Pleasant, New Jersey into a family of racers. Both John, Sr. and John, Jr. had many years of experience, and in fact John, Jr. raced in the Winston Modified Tour for a couple of years. By trade, the Blewett family owns a waste disposal company.
John, who considered Howell, New Jersey to be his hometown, began racing in 1984 and moved to the short tracks in 1992. John quickly found success and even won the NASCAR Regional Northeast division in 1996. He swept several divisions in the waning years of Flemington Speedway’s existence and quickly moved full time to the Whelen Modified Tour. Success came with his move, as Blewett finished third in points in 2001 and 2003. Over the course of his career, John Blewett, III won ten events and four poles, and finished in the top ten in about half his races. He ran many different car numbers across his career, though when he could, John usually preferred the #76.
John, however, was most known for his personality. He often worked on his own cars, worked long shifts at his family’s business, and rarely had major sponsorship, or any sponsorship at all besides maybe the aforementioned family business. An extremely fair and outgoing sportsman, John frequently credited his crew members, who were usually handpicked by himself, with his victories, and insisted that the best driver-crew combo almost always won the race. He believed this so passionately that he was once seen looking disappointed for fellow competitor James Civali when Civali lost the Loudon 2006 race due to a scoring error, despite Blewett himself being the beneficiary.
It took effort to anger John, but when mad, John was extremely aggressive, with multiple incidents between him and Ted ‘T.C.’ Christopher reported. In the end, however, John preferred quick capitalizing on mistakes over flat-out wrecking people. John’s racing style netted him the 1996 and 1997 Flemington Speedway track titles, the 1996 New Egypt Speedway track title (New Egypt became a dirt track shortly thereafter), and the Wall Stadium track title in 2006. John also won the 1995 Race Of Champions at Flemington, the 2003 and 2005 North South Shootout Modified race at Concord, and the 2000, 2001, 2004, and 2005 Turkey Derbys at Wall. He is documented as having won 97 races since switching to cars in 1992. Additionally, though it wasn’t a race in the traditional sense, John won a battle with colon cancer in early 2005.
In 2001, Jimmy Blewett, John’s younger brother by seven years, started his career. The two raced together frequently both in Modifieds and the Blewett family’s other racing ventures, which included TQ midgets and ISMA supermodifieds. They even finished one-two, John in front, at Stafford in 2006.
John’s 2007 season was an extremely unlucky one. He frequently ran well, but most of his great runs ended early in crashes. He did finish second to his brother at Wall Stadium early in the year, but besides that his year went poorly. He looked to turn this around at the New England Dodge Dealers 150 at Thompson on August 16th, 2007.
The 150-lap race was utterly punctuated by cautions, with seven in the first 99 laps alone. James Civali dominated most of the race, but was taken out in a crash just prior to lap 100. John Blewett, III took the lead and held it, but on a restart on lap 107, one of the most heartbreaking accidents in all of motorsport occurred.
Jimmy Blewett in the #12 was racing side by side with his brother’s #66 car when a tire blew on Jimmy’s vehicle in the middle of turn one. Jimmy’s car went straight and struck his brother’s vehicle at speed. The #12 car both jumped on top of the #66 and spun back around, fracturing a piece of Jimmy’s rear bumper and sending it flying into the window net. The net, never meant to deal with such large debris, did not hold, and John was struck in the head. Also collected in the accident was the #79 Pontiac of Woody Pitkat. The red flag was waved almost immediately.
Jimmy Blewett, uninjured, leapt from his car, which had come to rest still atop the #66, and ran over to check on his brother. Seeing that he had suffered heavy injuries, Jimmy began yelling for the safety crew to arrive, which they did within seconds. Drivers parked their cars on the frontstretch, then immediately congregated nearby the scene of the accident to see what would become of John. It took about 25 minutes to extricate him, and he was rushed to the Hubbard Regional Hospital in Webster, Massachusetts, three miles away from the circuit. John Blewett, III likely arrived at the hospital at about 10:30 p.m., 45 minutes after the crash, and was shortly thereafter pronounced dead of massive head injuries. The race had passed half distance and could be declared official, and so it was. Todd Szegedy was given the win.
By four the next morning, Jimmy Blewett had returned back to his home in Howell, New Jersey. The Blewett family somehow managed to sleep a couple of hours, and when they awoke, it was to a front yard abound with flowers. The news of Blewett’s death had spread quickly, and fans had placed flowers in the front yard of their home. The family had a service for Blewett at Wall Stadium on the 18th, in which Modified legend Jamie Tomaino drove Blewett’s car for its final lap of the 0.333 mile oval, and Blewett was laid to rest privately. It would only be one month before Jimmy Blewett was back behind the wheel of a race car, and he finished up the year.
Though the Blewett family team left the NASCAR Modified Tour after 2013, Jimmy Blewett continues to race in the NASCAR Modifieds on occasion, and also still races TQ midgets and IMSA supermodifieds across the Northeast. Blewett, whose nickname is ‘Showtime’, has since adopted his brother’s number of 76. He also serves as the driving coach for his nephew, John Blewett, IV, who entered the Sportsman class at Wall in 2017.
Every year, Wall Stadium holds a 76-lap race for John, III, which Jimmy has won at least once. Wall Stadium has also retired the #76 from further use, though the Blewett family is allowed to use it if they so choose. The North-South Shootout at Concord was also renamed for Blewett.
A caring man and a skilled racer, John Blewett, III is the most recent fatality due to a crash in a NASCAR race run in the United States. Let’s hope it stays that way.
John Blewett, III’s entry on NJ Sports Heroes
A career win list of John Blewett, III compiled by Fred Voorhees, available on ARRA
‘Crash at Thompson Kills Driver’, August 17th, 2007 edition of the Hartford Courant
‘Speed kills brother in tragic NASCAR nightmare’, August 18th, 2007 edition of the NY Daily News
‘Conn. crash kills auto-racing star’, August 18th, 2007 edition of the Asbury Park Press