NEW SMYRNA BEACH, FL – The annual John Blewett III Memorial 76 as part of the World Series of Asphalt Stock Car Racing is special in part because of the silence that grips Florida’s New Smyrna Speedway prior to the race as competitors and fans alike pause to remember Blewett and other fallen heroes of modified racing.
But there was nothing quiet about the race itself once 38 Tour-Type Modifieds roared to life Wednesday night at the half-mile paved oval.
Matt Hirschman, who won Saturday night’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour season-opener Saturday at New Smyrna, found himself in Victory Lane once again Wednesday after winning the John Blewett III Memorial 76 in convincing fashion.
FloRacing: Highlights from John Blewett III Memorial 76
The triumph marked Hirschman’s 200th career modified win. His mind after the race, though, was in the same place many were on an emotional night in central Florida.
“This race is special, because I raced with John,” Hirschman said of Blewett, who was killed at age 33 in a 2007 accident at Connecticut’s Thompson International Speedway. “I was in the race the night John was killed. It would be fitting for Jimmy (Blewett, John’s brother) to win this race, but we were the class of the field. We had a little more late and were able to pull away.
“The Blewett family — I’m thinking of them. I wouldn’t be at 200 wins if John would have raced longer. We were on paths to battle for a lot of wins. When I won my first North-South Shootout win, I’ll never forget him coming and congratulating me. I think he really appreciated a young driver like myself that owned their own car, set up their own car and did the stuff he did.
Jimmy Blewett finished second in the event, which runs 76 laps in honor of his late brother’s car number.
“Obviously wanted to win this one more than anything,” Blewett said. “Like I say every year, I finished second in one of my brother’s memorial races. We’ll keep coming back and trying.”
Jimmy Blewett was involved in the accident that killed his brother almost 15 years ago. At the time of his death, John Blewett III had been racing on the NASCAR circuit for 12 years. He won 10 NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour races, including three in 11 starts in 2006. He finished third in series points in both 2001 and 2003.
The annual Tour-Type Modified feature as part of the World Series of Asphalt at New Smyrna is named in his honor, and it’s among the biggest races during the event’s nine-night span.
Wednesday night’s action featured a loaded field in front of a packed grandstand, much to the satisfaction of the late modified driver’s brother.
“I’m very thankful — and I know I’m speaking on my family’s behalf and everybody back home — that they’re continuing to keep my brother’s legacy alive,” Jimmy Blewett said. “My brother lived a short life. He was only 33 years old when he lost his life.
“To see the turnout, the people and the car count that comes year in and year out, to show the support not only to my family, but to our motorsports family as well, I just want to thank everybody back home who tuned in to watch the race. We’ll never forget John.”
Hirschman’s win marked his third victory in the John Blewett III Memorial 76; he also won in 2018 and 2019. He is now the first three-time winner of the event.
Craig Lutz, Joey Coulter and Patrick Emerling rounded out the top five Wednesday night. Spencer Davis, Tyler Rypkema, Andrew Krause, Teddy Hodgdon and J.R. Bertuccio completed the top 10.