Back In Time: Eleven Years Ago The Whelen Modified Tour Lost John Blewett III

Jimmy Blewett (left) and John Blewett III (Photo: Mary Hodge for NASCAR)

On Aug. 16, 2007 the ranks of Modified racing and short track racing in the Northeast were shaken with the devastating news of the death of John Blewett III during a Whelen Modified Tour event at Thompson Speedway. 

At 3:44 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2007 I published the column below on The Backstretch, then the Hartford Courant’s Auto Racing blog. 

I love covering auto racing for the Hartford Courant.

I’m not afraid to say that out loud. I love covering the sport of auto racing, especially at the short track level. I love being at the short tracks around the state.

I also have a passion for covering the big story. I get energized from it, whether it’s auto racing or anything else. There’s truly a high that comes with chasing the story down.

And then there’s nights like Thursday at Thompson International Speedway, nights when I hate covering auto racing, nights when I hate everything that surrounds getting the story.

The reality is being around racetracks too much makes you numb to so much that happens at speed. Wrecks happen all the time and on almost every occasion the driver jumps out of the car, waves to the fans in the grandstands and walks off, ready to come back and race again the next week.

Sadly, John Blewett III didn’t get the chance Thursday to jump out of that car and flash his steely blue eyes at the fans in the grandstands that came to watch the Whelen Modified Tour event at the track.

I didn’t know John Blewett III as well as I know a lot of the racers on the local scene. Over the years I had numerous conversations with John though and he was always engaging and always exuded a passion for the sport that comes with growing up in a family where auto racing is seemingly a genetic driven birthright.

I wish so much that all of us in the press box could have heard Blewett talking about racing his little brother for the win Thursday. I wish we didn’t have to ask the questions that we had to ask when the racing stopped Thursday at Thompson.

See, you know every day and every night that you show up to the racetrack that every driver putting on that show is putting himself or herself at risk. But you put that fact deep in the back of your mind, you know it’s there, but if you think it about all the time you’d go crazy.

And then you’re left confronting that grim fact you’ve hidden straight on. You’re left walking around a racetrack, looking at everything around you, looking at the faces around you knowing that every indication is that tragedy has taken place.

Then you’re left asking the questions nobody wants to be asking. Calling the people nobody wants to be calling. It’s the job right? It comes with there territory right?

Well, it stinks.

I hated writing the story I had to write early this morning from the press box at Thompson. I did my job to the best of my skill, using the abilities I’ve learned over the years for covering the story the right way, and yet I hated what I had to do from the moment I realized something was wrong at Thompson until that final version of the story was done.

It wasn’t the first time I had to do it, and though I hope it’s the last time, I know the reality is it probably won’t be.

I hate being an auto racing reporter right now.

Shawn Courchesne – The Backstretch – August 17, 2007 – 3:44 a.m.


  1. Short tracker says

    When Jan Leaty jumped his left rear at Loudon hands down some of the best mod racin I seen in my 32 years… had the pleasure to park next to Jimmy in 2004 at shangri la b4 it closed class act

  2. wmass01013 says

    Sadly was there to witness and when NASCAR wanted to continue the race after the car was taken off under a tarp all the drivers just pulled off the track 1 by 1

  3. That was a very sad night really didn’t look that bad but look at Earnhardt,wreck that didn’t either always will be missed #77

  4. I was on the fire crew that night doing the 1st turn my self and another fireman where 1st on scene. It was tough but our job had to be done. As we have done before him and even after him. But I still think about it to this day.

  5. I was there. Surprised since it didn’t look too bad. Was also there for Tom Baldwin’s last race.

  6. It’s NEVER easy when a fellow competitor loses their life. The only solace is knowing that they were doing what they loved when it happened. Over the years many have been taken way too soon. In John’s case some good did come from that tradgedy, the Blewitt bar as it’s sometimes now called was added first as an option, but is now mandatory.

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