Saving Grace: Bobby Santos III Proves Good Medicine For Injured Dave Sapienza At NHMS

Bobby Santos III (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

By Shawn Courchesne & Denise DuPont

LOUDON, N.H. – When Dave Sapienza decided he would search out a replacement driver for his NASCAR Whelen Modifed Tour ride after he was injured at Wall Stadium in May, he had one particular driver in mind he wanted more than any other. 

“I really would love to get [Bobby Santos III] in that car,” Sapienza told RaceDayCT in May days after the accident on the final lap of the Jersey Shore 150 at Wall left Sapienza with a broken back. 

Sapienza ultimately got his wish and Friday he got to the first chance to see the reality of that wish coming true. 

Santos sat in Sapienza’s car for the first time Friday morning for Whelen Modified Tour practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. 

Just a few hours later Santos was battling for victory in the 35-lap Whelen All-Star Shootout. 

“This was good for me today,” Santos said. “It’s my first time sitting in that car. Just working with [crew chief] Tommy Grasso and Dave Sapienza and this whole team, today was just good to learn everybody and learn my information to Tommy so that he can make the right adjustments for me. Obviously he gave me what I needed today, he gave me a good car.” 

Santos finished second by inches to Patrick Emerling in the event Friday. Though being involved a three-wide battle to the checkered flag with Emerling and Bonsignore may have only been the second most dramatic moment on the day for Santos. 

On lap six of the race Santos and Craig Lutz made contact coming off of turn four. In the low groove on the frontstretch, Santos’ car whipped sideways following the contact. It looked as if Santos’ sideways car was going to surely jerk back and directly into line of the bulk of the field speeding down the frontstretch. Somehow Santos was able to wrestle the car back straight and lose just three positions on the track. 

“I just turned and looked the other way,” Sapienza said. “I said there is definitely a black cloud hanging over our team. But he saved it and I am really happy about that.”

Said Santos: “What went through my mind was: ‘I am going to get fired on lap [six], my first time in the car?’ It was just a racing deal. I think that the [Lutz] came off the wall a little bit and he probably did not know that I was there. I got sideways a little bit and was able to save it.

“The more you do this stuff, the more you run into situations like that. And you learn from those past experiences. With all the different racing that I do, stuff just happens and you just have to know to react and make the right decision. Being calm is just the biggest thing. And today it worked out for me in that circumstance.”

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  1. Everyone likes a feel good story. I just love Sap’s old school racing feel. Santos, a well respected good shoe. I ask, how feel good of a story would it be if Santos puts that 36 in victory lane tomorrow? Probably not a dry eye in the house. Not taking away from any one else’s favorites or picks, but that, would be awesome imo!

  2. Your right Bob, seeing the #36 win would be awesome. Dave is a great guy, and can’t wait to see him back in the driver’s seat butI truly hope he takes the time to heal correctly, even if it means sitting out the rest of the season. Too often drivers don’t take the time to heal, and in some cases they end up quitting driving. Most often it’s for fear of losing their ride, but I doubt Dave would fire himself. Good luck to Bobby, Dave and the 36 team tomorrow, as well as to all the teams

  3. Rob p. Could not agree more on all points.
    Man, is it going to be hot here sat though. Everyone be careful!

  4. Fast Eddie says

    I just KNEW Bobby would be a contender in that car!! Santos is my favorite driver, and Sapienza is also one of the guys I always root for. Bob & Rob, I’m with you on this! Hope the 36 improves by one position on Saturday!!

  5. I’m loving the passion but not a dry eye in the place? Who died? I’d think the win would be a career highlight for Sapienza but there is the perspective that he didn’t accomplish the milestone as a driver.
    Seems to me there is more then one possible ending today that would be emotional.
    Starting with Dowling winning for Tomaino. How about the long suffering Rob Summers almost there but not quite getting LFR help that may put him over the top. A win for Bertuccio in his just purchased LFR would be something wouldn’t it? Preece would never be considered a long shot but if he brings that unicorn of his home in first place wouldn’t that be momentous for Mike Paquette?
    I predict a lot of moisture today coming out of bodies but not tears. Sweat and a a lot of it.

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