RPW Column: The Champ Trail: Looking Ahead To Turkey Derby, Great News For Preece & More…

Column Compiled By: PHIL SMITH / RPW – WESTERLY, RI – The Wall Stadium in New Jersey closes out the 2022 northeast modified season this coming weekend with the annual Turkey Derby on Saturday.

Great news for Ryan Preece. It was announced last week that the former NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour Champion will replace Cole Custer as the driver of the No. 41 Stewart-Haas Racing Cup Series entry for 2023. Preece, who spent the past year as a simulator driver for Stewart-Haas Racing, will make his debut in the No. 41 Ford Mustang during the non-points Busch Light Clash at the Coliseum on Feb. 5 at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum before starting the 36-race Cup Series season at the 65th Daytona 500 on Feb. 19 at Daytona International Speedway.

Preece has 115 Cup Series starts with two top-five finishes and nine top-10’s. He made two Cup starts in 2022. He has two wins, 13 top-five’s and 21 top-10’s in 62 Xfinity Series starts since 2013. He made three Xfinity Series starts in 2022. He has two wins, eight top-fives and 11 top-10’s in 12 career starts in the Camping World Truck Series, including a win and seven top-five’s in 10 starts in 2022. On the Whelen Modified Tour Preece has 25 victories and 81 top-five’s in 171 starts since 2007. He made five Whelen Modified Tour starts in 2022 plus he raced in open competition events at Stafford when his schedule permitted.

New England Late Model racer and Thompson Speedway champion Ryan Morgan has decided to call it a day. In a statement, he said “Well after 23 years of racing I’ve decided to step back from driving at this point in time. First off I’d like to say Thank you to my Dad, my Grandfather and My uncle and my entire family for giving me the opportunity to race and travel across the country to race as a kid. Also everyone that has every played a part in my racing, I couldn’t do any of it without it and I am more then grateful for the opportunities. Jason Glaude and I have been together for the last 13 years and he took a chance on a 15 year old that didn’t know anything other than how to hold the steering wheel. We’ve accomplished so much especially in the last 5 years we really clicked! I can’t thank him enough for everything he has done for me. Thank you to everyone who showed up at the track to cheer us on and also to the crew that made it happend every time we went racing! Lots and lots of memories some good and some bad, but let’s end it on a high note celebrating our Back to Back championships!”

He added, “Thank you to all our sponsors and supporters! A&D Tree Service, K&H Dumpster Division, K&H Construction, Magnus Performance Products, Larry’s Auto Machine, Brooklyn’s Country View Restaurant and Port City Racecars.”

The New Smyrna Speedway has announced the following schedule for their 2023 Speedweeks events:

Thurs, Feb 09, the speedway will open for parking and open practice. Following opening night on Friday will be the Whelen Modified Tour 200 on Saturday night, Feb 11. The World Series Tour type modifieds will be off on Sunday night before taking the green on Monday night, Feb 13 and on Tues night, Feb 14. The tour type modifieds will run the John Blewett III 76 on Wed, Feb 16 and a regular tour type 30 or 35 lapper on Thursday, Feb 17. The Richie Evans Memorial 100 will close out the tour type modified portion on Friday, Feb 18.

On a sad note, John Blewett Sr, patriarch of a racing family that made its mark not only in its native New Jersey, but up and down the East Coast passed away on Friday, Nov 18 at the age of 90. Starting out of their home track, Wall Stadium, the Blewetts made noise wherever asphalt Modifieds raced. Son John Jr. became a NASCAR Modified winner, with grandsons John III and Jimmy following suit. Mr Blewett was the owner of John Blewett Inc, a very successful scrap yard in New Jersey.

John was born in South Amboy, New Jersey and raised in Linden. There was no graduating for John. He worked multiple jobs to save for a vision he had to open a scrapyard. He met and married his loving wife Helen then settled in Howell to make that vision come true. He was the owner and operator of John Blewett, Inc. since its inception in 1953. After nearly 70 years of hard work and dedication, his legacy will continue. John had a love for race cars. He has been well known as the family car owner of the famous red, white and blue 76, that has been a famous icon for years. He was the guy not to mess with for decades at the tracks he attended with his son John Jr. then grandsons; John III, James R., John W. and great grandson James D. With 300+ wins, winning was something he never got tired of.

With the cooperation of the Arute family a book has been published with pictures and biographies of the 50 Greatest Drivers at Stafford.

The Stafford Motor Speedway had become the epicenter of NASCAR Modified racing in the northeast by the late 1980’s. From its dirt beginnings to its lightning-fast asphalt, Stafford had become the toughest and most gratifying track to score a victory. The Arute family which has owned and guided the destiny of the facility commissioned their thousands of loyal fans to name their favorite drivers. In alphabetical order so as not to offend anyone:

Tom Baldwin, Gene Bergin, Brett Bodine, Geoff Bodine, Ken Bouchard, Ron Bouchard, Mario “Fats” Caruso, Rene Charland, Ted Christopher, Leo Cleary, Tim Connolly, Jerry Cook, Corky Cookman, Pete Corey, Fred DeSarro, Richie Evans, Mike Ewanitsko, Ed Flemke, Sr., Jeff Fuller, Rick Fuller, Ernie Gahan, Bill Greco, Bo Gunning, Ray Hendrick, George “Moose” Hewitt, Tony Hirschman, George Janoski, Charlie Jarzombek, George Kent, Buddy Krebs, Randy LaJoie, Jan Leaty, Jerry Marquis, Mike McLaughlin, Ray Miller, Steve Park, Bob Polverari, Bob Potter, Brian Ross, John “Reggie” Ruggiero, Greg Sacks, Ollie Silva, “Wild” Bill Slater, Jimmy Spencer, Mike Stefanik, Carl “Bugsy” Stevens, George Summers, Jamie “The Jet” Tomaino, Maynard Troyer and Satch Worley.

Books are priced at $17.95 each and be purchased at the track at the Novelty Booth or at the Stafford Motor Speedway on line store. Books are also available at Amazon.com and at Coastal 181.

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