John Blewett, III: RIP

While checking my e-mail in Dakar, I can across some bad news that most short track fans in the Northeast have probably heard. John Blewett III passed away following a crash with his brother on Thursday night at Thompson Speedway in CT. While I always thought John III was a great driver, he was never my favorite even though with him being from New Jersey I did like to see him beet the New England boys. John will always be known as an aggressive racer. No matter how much you like, or don’t like, a race car driver, it is always difficult to hear about a fallen driver, and when it is someone you have meet and talked to on many occasions, it is even harder. I wouldn’t even go so far as to say we were acquaintances, but he was always nice when I did talk to him before or after a race. My condolences to his family and friends. May he rest in peace. BTW: 51sports racing has put up a nice tribute page that you may want to check out.

New Egypt Speedway, June 27 2007

On Wednesday night, June 17, I returned to New Egypt Speedway for a special 358 modified race. Because of the recent problem with the track condition, including word that on the previous Saturday night racing didn’t end until after 1:00 AM and the track conditions were as bad as ever, I was reluctant to attend. However, by the time I left work, it was really too late (and too hot) to do anything around the house, so I figured I’d head to the track. I made it to the track just before the 7:30 starting time, however, I could have stopped and had a nice meal and still caught the first heat race that started over 50 minutes late. There is just no excuse for this! However, once they got started the racing was pretty good and enjoyable. The track held up pretty good, but I think that was more of a factor of a lot less cars on the track than on a normal Saturday night. One reason why I decided to go to this race was because it was a two division show and I figured they would be able to run it off relativity quickly and the track might be able to stand up better then normal. Despite the late start, we still got out of there about 10:30, which wasn’t too bad but three hours still too long for a two division show, only one of which that required a consi. If they started on time, though, I would have been very happy and home before 10:00. There wasn’t much passing towards the end of the race, but there were some good charges through the field early. I don’t think the reason for lack of passing late was the track (the track was till rather racy), but the cars just kind of fell into place based on how good they were running. While not too many people were running low late, Rick Laubach was and he was gaining on Jimmy Horton (who finished third) so the low groove was still fast. Jeff Strunk got the win over Duane Howard. All-in-all, a good race that would have been better if it started on time. I really do like two division shows that run off quickly, and if it wasn’t for that late start, that is what I would have seen

My 2007 race stats after the New Egypt Speedway 38 Modified race on June 27 are:

Races: 21
Tracks: 15 (11 new) (161 lifetime)
States: 13 (7 new) (42 lifetime)

Elkins Speedway, Elkins WV, June 23, 3007

Elkins Speedway  (West Virginia)

If there has been one state that has been on my list to get to sometime soon for a race the longest, it would be West Virgina, The main reason is it is one of the closest states, if not the closest, I haven’t seen a race in, and they also have some good dirt super late model racing – one of my favorite divisions. Well, I finally rectified the situation on Saturday, June 23 and made West Virgina the 42’nd state for me to see a race in. The track I went to was Elikins Speedway. They were have a rare (for them) Saturday evening show. The occasion was the 7th Annual Chuck Gear Memorial – a 75 lap super late model race. The ride to the track down US 219 from I-68 in Maryland was pretty nice, although you could tell that the income levels in this area where not very high. Still, a huge crowd paid $15 each for the race and fireworks show that was to follow. The race I saw before this at New Egypt was dusty, but I think Elkins had New Egypt beat in the dust category. Luckily there was no wind or we would have been unable to see the track. The track itself was very nice and fast for a 3/8’th mile dirt track thank to the banking. The late models time-trialed which I normally don’t like but is still understandable for a bigger show ($5000 to win, $500 to start).

The lights were pretty good except an additional light might have been nice in the infield pointing towards the backstretch but it was fine without it. The grand stands are basically a grassy hill and most fans had lawn chairs. There where a few benches, but I wish I had my lawn chair in my car (I forgot to put it back in last time I cleaned out the trunk). If you go to the track, remember to bring a lawn chair. The food lines seemed to be a mile long, but I still managed to grab a couple of tasty chili dogs for only $1.75 a piece. I assume the lower prices are a sign of the economy in the area. The late model race was a a good one with the #12 of Ricky Williams taking the win. The highlight though, was the charge from 9’th to 4’th by Robbie Scott in the last 12 laps after a restart. If Scott had another couple of laps he might have made it into second, but without a caution I don’t think he would have caught Williams, let alone past him. Scott actually started up front, but had to go to the rear as a result of contact with another car that caused an early race caution.

I skipped the fireworks and left after the race, getting out of the parking lot around 10:30 PM (after all, I had a 6.5 hour ride home ahead of me). A reasonable time which may have been one of the factors in the huge crowd. Although the dust was pretty bad, I still had a great time and would like to go to the track again in the future.

My 2007 race stats after finally making it to a race in West Virginia on June 23 are:

Races: 20
Tracks: 15 (11 new) (161 lifetime)
States: 13 (7 new) (42 lifetime)

New Egypt Speedway, June 16, 2007

On June 16, I decided to risk going to New Egypt Speedway again. I say risk because the track hasn’t been in too good of shape this year under the new owners. They are trying, but there is a need for more then effort, they need expert help with preparing the surface.. The track wasn’t really all that good, even though one of the owners told some of the early fan arrivals that the track wouldn’t get dusty. Despite that reassurance, the track was as dusty as ever. They tried to fix the track with a long delay while digging the the track up. They didn’t accomplish anything besides wasting time and maybe letting the wind die down some. Things got just as dusty once the cars got back on the track. I wouldn’t have minded the dust in the features so much if it wasn’t for the useless delay. Luckily the modified race was a great one which made the night of sitting in the dust and waiting out delays not so bad. I really hope the track crew figures out the surface soon because fans are starting to look elsewhere and it will be hard to get them back. For example, one person I know that has been to almost every race at the track during the last few years says she is not coming back. If they don’t figure it out, they’ll be moere fans that fell that way. Again, I believe the track crew and owners are trying, so I will give then an “A for effort” but they need to start showing some results. I’m not at the point where I’m not going to say I’m not coming back until they fix it, but it probably won’t be my default track any more until they get the track conditions in order.

Back to the modified race. Pat Wall lead most of the modified race but he was battling with Matt Shepard side-by-side over the last few laps. When they crossed the finish line, form my angle I though Pat Wall had the win. The scoreboard also thought he had the win. However, the officials went to the video tape and other evidence and gave the win to MAtt Shepard. I can’t really tell from where I sit, and I have no reason to believe the track made the wrong call, but I sure wish the win went to Wall because he is an underdog compared to the likes of Sheppard, Jimmy Horton, and Frank Cozze

My 2007 race stats after going to New Egypt Speedway on June 16 are:

Races: 19
Tracks: 14 (10 new) (160 lifetime)
States: 12 (6 new) (41 lifetime)

Colorado National Speedway, Erie, CO, June 9, 2007

On June 9’th I visited Colorado National Speedway located about 20 miles or so north of Denver in Erie, Co. The track is a nice 3/8 mile paved oval. There is also a figure 8 track. The track is really nice and fast, and the grandstands are well kept. The main attraction for me on this night was the Rocky Mountain Midget Racing Association (RMMRA). This was the first time I have seen the RMMRA but I have seen a number of their drivers at the Chili Bowl and other events and they have some good racers so I was really looking forward to it. This was so, even though I much rather see the midgets on a dirt track. While the RMMRA races didn’t disappoint, their car count was rather low. There was only 12 midget racers, including invader Micky Gilbert, who has competed in the Indy Pro series. Tony Rossi lead from the start, but Kyle Ray passed him in traffic and went on to take the win. Also on the card was asphalt late models who likewise put on a good show. I’d highly recommend catching a race at this track if you are in the area and like paved short-track racing. If you do show up, you might want to get a burrito from the stand in between turns one and two as my sampling proved to be pretty tasty.

After the regular events where over for the night, they had a School Bus race on the Figure 8 race. These guys where not shy about going through the “X” even if buses where coming the other way, but there was no major accidents. The figure 8’s where entertaining and the school-aged kids loved them The school-aged kids had a chance to love them and go in the pits afterwords since the racing was over well before 10:00 PM. I wish more short tracks could figure out how to put on a full night of racing and still gets fans home at a decent hour.

Colorado becomes the 41’st state for me to see a race in, and the tracks at Colorado National Speedway become the 159’th and 160’th track on my list.

My 2007 race stats after visiting Located in Erie, the track is a 3/8 paved oval on June 9 are:
Races: 18
Tracks: 13 (9 new) (159 lifetime)
States: 12 (6 new) (41 lifetime)

My 2007 race stats after watching the school bus figure 8 race at Colorado National Speedway on June 9 are:
Races: 18*
Tracks: 14 (10 new) (160 lifetime)
States: 12 (6 new) (41 lifetime)

* If I don’t have to move from my seat, it doesn’t count as a new race in my book, even if it is a new track.

Black Hills Speedway, Rapid City, SD, June 8 2007

After spending the afternoon visiting Mt. Rushmore, Wind Cave, and Custer State Park, I went to Black Hills Speedway. Mt.Rushmore was pretty neat and it is amazing they where able to do what the did carving into the mountain with the tools they had. Custer State Park was really nice because they had different types of wildlife. There was buffalo, wild mules, prairie dogs, pronghorns, turkeys, and big horn sheep. They were all neat to see, especially the big horn sheep. Wind cave is currently ranked as the 3’rd or 4’th longest cave in the world. However, they are still mapping it out, so it may eventually move into 2nd place. The tour of the cave was very interesting. If you are going to go, you might want to look into some of the special tours where you can tour the cave the way people did in the old times, versus the nice walkways they have on the normal tours. Anyway, to the race…

Black Hills Speedway is currently a 3/8 mile semi-banked dirt track. It used to be a big half mile but wa shortened about four or five years ago (or so I was told). The old track was still very much visible and it looked like it would have been super-fast. The shorter track, while not having the same tiop speeds, was condifured in such a way that allowed for good racing. The car counts in the Wissota modifieds and late models where disappointing. The late models had about seven cars competing an the modifieds only three. There was no explanation offered by the announcer for the low late model count except for that “they used to get a lot more of them.” The modifieds, on the other hand, where low because most of the regulars went to a big race in Wyoming. Two of the three modified drivers that showed up put there kids in the car, and the daughter of one of the drivers easily wining the three car feature. The son of another driver flipped. The third car was a B-modified, which I assume had the regular driver, but was underpowered by the faster A-modifieds. There was also some sprint cars racing and they put on a good show ut the field wasn’t too big either. All-in-all the track was nice. I would have liked to see more cars, but it was enjoyable none-the-less. On the thing that I didn’t sample at the Speedway that I would have if I arrived earlier is they have a restaurant above the main grand stands that has a full bar and sells prime rib. If you ever go there and eat, let me know how it is!

My 2007 race stats after visiting Black Hills Speedway on June 8 are:
Races: 17
Tracks: 12 (8 new) (158 lifetime)
States: 11 (5 new) (40 lifetime)

Nodak Speedway, Minot, ND, June 3 2007

After leaving the Plentywood Bump N Run, I headed east towards Nodak Speedway. The June 3’rd race program at modifieds, stock cars, hobby stocks & legends. The track is located on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds, and had a nice big covered grand stand. I was surprised to see how full the stands were for a Sunday evening show, but I think that it proves if you put on a good show, the people will come. The officials ran the races off rather quickly and there was very little down time. The track will host a World of Outlaws sprint car race later on this year, and I’d bet the Outlaws would put on a great race at this track. Despite not having any of what I would consider “head-line” classes, the racing was great. This was one of the few multi-state doubles I have ever done and I’m glad I did it. Only like the previous three tracks, this one wasn’t located in a new state, but it was still a new track to me.

My 2007 race stats after visiting Nodak Speedway on June 3 are:
Races: 16
Tracks: 11 (7 new) (157 lifetime)
States: 10 (5 new) (40 lifetime)

Plentywood Montana Bump N Run, Plentywood, MT, June 3, 2007

On Sunday June 3, I drove from Wyoming up through Eastern Montana almost all the way to Canada. My destination was a daytime race at a dirt road course in Plentywood, MT (about 10 or 15 miles south of the Canadian border). The thing that was obvious on my drive up is if you are not on the Interstate, you better get gas when you see a station. Eastern Montana can be pretty desolate. I didn’t know what to expect in Plentywood since I never saw, or even hard much about a Montana Bump N Run race. The best way to picture it is to think about the Dukes of Hazard and how then ran races on dirt roads during the TV show. Just make the dirt road a 3/4 mile dirt road course with tight turns and bumps, and that is what you have. They only had a small set of stands, but in a nice touch in the hot sun, they were covered with portable tent-tops. I watched all of the classes race once and it was quite enjoyable, but not as much as bumping as I expected. All of the classes had another race left on the scheduled, but it looked like rain and I wanted to get to another race in North Dakota that evening. so I took off early. I’m not sure it was worth the long drive from Wyoming (with gas prices and all), but it did enable me to get another new state and it was something I don’t think I’ll get to see in New Jersey anytime soon. It also allowed me to leave with just enough time to make the Sunday night races at the Nodak Speedway locates on the North Dakota State Fairgrounds in Minot, ND. Montana became th e 40’th state for me to see a race in and the 47’th state I have visited overall (only Utah, Idaho, and Alaska left to visit).

My 2007 race stats after the Plentywood Bump N Run races on June 3 are:
Races: 15
Tracks: 10 (6 new) (156 lifetime)
States: 9 (5 new) (40 lifetime)

Gillette Thunder Speedway, Gillette, WY, June 2, 2007

After a day of driving through various parts of eastern Wyoming, I ended up at Gillette Thunder Speedway in Gillette WY. Before I arriving t the track, one of the highlights of my trip was taking a short hike in, and driving through, the Big Horn National Forest. Gillette is listed as a 1/4 clay track and the track’s Web site has some nice photos of the track. The main classes on the night I showed up where winged sprints, limited late models and IMCA-style modifieds. The show was ran well and I had an enjoyable night at the races. The car counts and the quality of the sprint cars where not up to the Central PA standards, but they still put on a good race. The two classes of IMCA-style modifieds put on a very good show as well. All-in-all, a successful trip to the races in my 39’th state.

My 2007 race stats after Gillette Thunder Speedway on June 2 are:
Races: 14
Tracks: 9 (5 new) (155 lifetime)
States: 8 (4 new) (39 lifetime)

Hi-way 92 Speedway, Gering, NE, June 1 2007

On Friday, June 1’st I went to Hi-way 92 Speedway in Gering, NE. Hi-way 92, a 1/4 mile asphalt over was not my original destination. I was hoping to see a dirt late model race at McCook Speedway located in McCook, Nebraska. When I arrived at McCook Speedway around 4:00 PM I saw some people milling about on a nice sunny Friday afternoon, so I went into town to get some food. I didn’t see any race cars, but the pits didn’t open until 5:00 PM so I didn’t think much about it. When I came back around 5:30 PM, I found at that the people milling about had nothing to do with the races and that the races were canceled due to wet grounds caused by heavy rains the day before. I guess I should have talked to someone before eating! Oh well, at least I had a backup plan. The problem with the backup plan is the backup track was just under four hours away! Luckily, it also happened to be in the mountain time zone while McCook is in the central time zone, so I had a extra hour to make it to make it to the track.

I made it to Hi-way 92 Speedway during intermission and was able to watch all of the features. From what I seen of the show, the track was well run. They didn’t have any “top” national classes, but the racing was still good. The track was nice, but small seating wise compared to many tracks I’ve been too. Of course, the track was not in a highly-populated area, so that isn’t really a surprise. However, they still had what seemed to be a nice crowd and I enjoyed the feature events and had a fun time at the track. And, I managed to cross off Nebraska, the 38’th state I’ve seen a race in.

My 2007 race stats after Hi-way 92 Speedway on June 1 are:
Races: 13
Tracks: 8 (4 new) (154 lifetime)
States: 7 (3 new) (38 lifetime)

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