After Resurgent 2020, Dave Sapienza Excited For New Year On Whelen Modified Tour

(Press Release from NASCAR Integrated Marketing Communications)

Dave Sapienza debriefs with his crew following a Whelen Modified Tour practice at the Sunoco World Series at Thomson Speedway in October (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

By Paul Lambert for NASCAR

You could call 2020 a year of redemption for Dave Sapienza.

In 2019, Sapienza suffered a serious back injury in a last lap crash at Wall Stadium last May and was forced to sit out 10 races while he recovered.

While he did get his first Tour victory as an owner when Bobby Santos drove his car to a Musket 250 win, it was still bittersweet for Sapienza to miss out on a full-time effort.

He returned with a vengeance in 2020. Sapienza ran all nine races on the 2020 Tour schedule, and had arguably his best season yet. He set career-highs both for average starting and finishing positions and scored four top-10s, after just one in six starts in 2019. The highlight of 2020 for Sapienza was an impressive second-place effort in the fourth race of the season at Jennerstown, driving a car he called “the best I’ve ever driven in my career,” where he came oh-so-close to that first Tour victory as a driver.

As an owner, Sapienza once again brought Santos aboard at New Hampshire, where the 2010 Tour champion went to Victory Lane for the second straight year.

Perhaps the biggest factor in Sapienza’s improvement as a driver comes in his ability to get the car to the end of the race. 2020 saw Sapienza fail to finish only one race, the first time in his career he’s been able to avoid multiple DNFs. More recently, Sapienza has made it a priority to be more patient behind the wheel, working more methodically. Thanks to help from Santos, Sapienza’s efforts are paying dividends.

“I bounce things off Bobby, because to me, he’s invincible,” Sapienza said. “I don’t want to be known as ‘that guy,’ or a hack… I don’t want to lose a friendship over racing.”

Sapienza thought back to that second-place run at Jennerstown, when he had the opportunity to send eventual race winner Craig Lutz up the track late in the going, but chose not to. Even though he lost the race, Sapienza earned plenty of respect from a lot of people throughout the Modified community.

“A lot of people called me and said: ‘you probably could’ve dumped him or moved him,’ and you’ll gain a lot more respect,” Sapienza said.

As the calendar turns to 2021, Sapienza sees more improvement on the horizon for the No. 36 team. Throughout the offseason he’s already put plenty of stock in improving his equipment, having bought a new LFR car from Rob Fuller.

“It’s probably going to be the highlight of my life this year,” Sapienza said.

And when the Tour goes to a track where there isn’t a notebook for teams to work off of, Sapienza typically does well. Of the five events the Tour held in 2020 that were not on the planned schedule, Sapienza finished inside the top-15 in each of them. There are four events on the 2021 schedule that much of the Tour field has never raced at, at least not for many years. That has Sapienza excited, too.

“I like going in uncharted waters,” he said. “I don’t know what it is, but I just seem to gel. That’s happened to us numerous times.”

At 55, Sapienza knows he won’t be on the Tour forever. But he hopes that in the years he has left, the best of his career is yet to come. Getting a Whelen Modified Tour victory is at the absolute top of his bucket list as a racer.

“The Tour is such a prestigious series. You’ve had hundreds and hundreds of drivers over the years try to get a win, or even a top-three or a top-five. I’ve been close. My goal would definitely be a win before I retire.

“If I don’t win, that will kill me. I’ll beat myself to death thinking about that every day for the rest of my life.”


  1. I can’t wait to see him in VL!!!!!

  2. Would it be in bad taste to say Sapienza’s value to local racing is not so much as a driver because he’s not that good?
    You know all those teams that do the best with what they have? He’s not one. He gets the best of everything and a lot of it. You don’t favor Facebook you’re missing Judy Thilbergs posts that provide a lot of incite into the entire operation. The Sapienza/Thilberg gang do very well thank you in a place where it takes a lot just to get by.
    Make no mistake they are a force. Dave should be happy he fielded the cars that won not one but two Musket’s. You think the guy driving is such a brilliant driver that he can win not once but twice by pure driving talent? No it was the Sapienza Thilberg operation that gave what’s his name the equipment to get the wins. And somehow Sapienza doesn’t appear to put a whole lot of value it that. That’s two career highlights for most racing folks.
    Fact is Dave is not the best driver nor does he have to be. He’s older, reaction times are slower and he’s running against younger really good drivers in their prime. His value is the love of the sport and having hundreds and maybe thousands hoping he does well.
    Dave Sapienza is one of those guys that is loaded with charisma that people love for being genuine no matter what comes out of his mouth. A treasure as far as modified racing is concerned.
    It’s just a shame he has to place all his worth in racing in winning a NWMT race when he has what most people would give their eye teeth for already.

  3. What’s his name? That would be Bobby Santos III. One of the most versatile open wheel race car drivers there is. Amazing you can’t remember his name. Sap hired one of the best wheelmen, put him in the car and he got the job done.
    The teams that have the funding to run up front hire the drivers that can get he job done.

    Sap is chasing a dream, that’s what America is all about and I believe he has the drive and determination to achieve that dream. Good luck Sap and go get that win, it’s coming!

  4. I was just funin with the what’s his name deal. I know the RaceDayCt men gaze in reverence and women swoon when he walks by.
    Chasing the American dream aye. OK, when is waving the flag ever a bad idea?

  5. Doug , I almost took the bait….. What’s his name ….LOL after many many posts off this keyboard about the most talented driver this side of the Mississippi , I was in the gaze with reverence camp … LOL
    Bobby Santos the man who just shows up and WINS…..!!!!

  6. Ok, thought maybe the sometimers was kicking in there. Red white and blue all the way!

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