Showman: Dave Sapienza Turns Whelen Mod Tour Penalty To Entertainment At Stafford NAPA Spring Sizzler

The back panel of Dave Sapienza’s Whelen Modified Tour car Friday at Stafford Speedway (Photo: Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)

STAFFORD – Dave Sapienza might not be a regular visitor to victory lane on the NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour, but nobody can say he doesn’t keep fans of the series entertained. 

Sapienza is a quote machine with almost no filter. Over his seven years as a full-time competitor with the series Sapienza has never been afraid to speak his mind about any topic, even when it means he knows he’s going to raise the ire of series officials.  

And while he may cause headaches for series management, his personality and attitude make him a fan favorite. 

In a sport where many say personalities have disappeared, nobody can ever say that Sapienza doesn’t bring a showman’s quality to everything he does. 

And that was the case on Friday when the Riverhead, N.Y. driver arrived at Stafford Speedway for the Whelen Modified Tour NAPA Spring Sizzler 150. 

Rewind first to April 8 at the season opening event for the Whelen Modified Tour at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. 

Sapienza was involved in a wreck early in the event with Kyle Bonsignore. While the field came around the track under caution Sapienza took two steps away from safety officials and gestured toward Bonsignore as he drove by under caution.

NASCAR briefly suspended Sapienza and fined him $500 for his actions. It was a penalty that came as a surprise to many around the Whelen Modified Tour community. In a poll on RaceDayCT 765 of 856 people polled said Sapienza did not deserve to be penalized for the incident. 

On Friday at Stafford, with his fine paid and suspension lifted, Sapienza made lemonade out of lemons. 

Sapeinza unveiled a new rear scheme on his car that featured a cartoonish character resembling Sapienza behind bars wearing prison garb with a ball and chain on his leg. The character also adorned the rear fenders of Sapienza’s car, pointing the same way Sapienza was pointing at Bonsignore at Martinsville.

“Look at the people that came up to me today,” Sapienza said. “People I didn’t even know came up laughing their ass off. Even though I got in trouble and I got punished, I got my hand slapped, what I did for people to see I think was fun and helps bring entertainment. I think I turned a negative into a positive and everybody had a good laugh. I’m here to have a good time and I want everybody else to have a good time too.”

Sapienza said even Whelen Modified Tour series director Jimmy Wilson chuckled at the graphics. 

Sapienza clearly enjoys his place as the driver in the series never afraid to speak up. 

“It’s funny. there’s a lot of talent here,” Sapienza said. “There’s a lot of past champions, up and coming champions that don’t really speak. A lot of these guys, everybody is scared they’re going to get in trouble. You can’t say that, you can’t say this. Listen, you aren’t going to get anywhere when you don’t say anything. When it comes to this division, there’s so much going on, a lot a lot of money goes into our race cars. Somebody like myself, I don’t make money at this. I spend money. If I didn’t come racing six years ago on this tour I’d be a millionaire. But you know what, it isn’t all about the money. I like the people that I race with, the majority of them anyway. I do like the officials, the track crew, I like everybody. It’s like one big family. But when I get put on a pedestal that I did something wrong, I don’t like that and I’m going to speak my mind.” 

Sapienza said he addressed the penalty with Wilson Friday. 

“There could have been a little leniency, but he stuck to his guns” Sapienza said. “He said I did something that I wasn’t supposed to. I didn’t agree with him. 

“I’m here to have a good time. I like being a fan favorite. The shit I do is pretty funny. I told him, when I’m gone the fun stuff I do is going to be gone too. I told him there was a poll put out there and if I was wrong, let the people say that I was wrong. It goes to show what the people really thought.” 

Dave Sapienza pointing at Kyle Bonsignore at Martinsville (left) and the character on the side of Sapeinza’s car Friday (right) (Photo: Left – NBC Track Pass video Right – Shawn Courchesne/RaceDayCT)


  1. So the fans said he did nothing wrong did they? In a poll. Well there you have it, there’s been an injustice hasn’t there? Actually no and mainly because fans judging an incident involving a race driver and especially a popular one is like asking students if the teacher was right for for giving Johnny a detention after acting out in class.
    I copy and pasted the rule. There’s no question it was a violation of the rule. So what’s he disagreeing with? Is he saying he didn’t violate the rule which he clearly did or is he saying he did but only in a minor way, he’s a fan favorite and should have gotten a pass?
    I don’t know why a person becomes a ref, ump, race track official or any other person in sports enforcing rules. You’re always the bad guy but ya know what, organized sports are as good as they are mainly because of rules and the people that enforce them. Anyone playing a pick-up game of basketball knows this to be true.
    I’m in the minority here but consider Sapienza the loser. He should have manned up and admitted he violated the rule he agreed to. Then gone on to say it was minor, have all the fun he did with it and it would have been just as good. Instead he’s leaning on the fan favorite thing, sighting a poll, implying he’s bigger then the series and boxing in an official that seems to be perpetually on the hot seat. Tell you what, the reality is Sapienza needs this sort of thing to happen to get attention because his track performance certainly won’t produce the notoriety.
    You done good Mr. Wilson and the sport is better for the decision you made here.

  2. “The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing.” – Albert Einstein

    Indeed, stupidity has to be called out, and Sap did that perfectly.

    People were indeed laughing their asses off at what Dave did, and the attempt at tyranny by the NASCAR weenies.

    “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” – Abraham Lincoln

    Wilson failed the test.

  3. Sap is more popular than Wilson. Wilson is threatened. Abuse of power too follow. This is the way it has played out in history for thousands of years.

  4. Doug:
    Huzzahs and amen!

  5. Score:
    Sap. 1
    NASCAR. 0

    NASCAR seems to forget they’re not the only show in town anymore. Add to that the fact that $500 is pocket change to Sap, and all they accomplished was to embarrass themselves. That rear panel is priceless.
    Maybe Sap can auction it off for charity, that would be cool. Even better if he auctioned it off, and NASCAR matched the high bid as sort of an “olive branch” gesture.

  6. Bernie 20never says

    “But when I get put on a pedestal that I did something wrong, I don’t like that and I’m going to speak my mind.”

    But you did something wrong. It’s in black and white. And it’s not a scorecard type thing. NASCAR set the rule. NASCAR followed the rule.

  7. The rule was made as a knee-jerk reaction to some pothead that was stoned while racing, getting out of his car and attacking another race car that was passing by. It didn’t end well for the pothead. For years, drivers were doing stuff, like pointing, throwing stuff, etc. to send a message to the offending driver.

    The rule is pretty stupid. If after all these decades of drivers doing what they did and having NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies using it in promos, ads, etc. and then after a pothead gets himself killed they invoke a rule to prohibit said antagonizing while waiting for an ambulance/ride off the track, it is very stupid. The rule would not have saved that pothead, he would have got himself run over even with the rule.

    If a rule is needed to tell people they should not run in front off moving cars, Darwin and stupidity will eventually prevail, no matter how many rules. It’s a matter if when, not if.

    Look at the fight that put NASCAR racing on national TV decades ago. Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. That huge fight in the infield after a crash is what launched NASCAR. People watch to see the sensational side shows. That fight that launched NASCAR never would have happened and neither would have NASCAR as we have known it the last five or so decades if this rule was obeyed back then.

    There are laws that prohibit murder, but people still murder other people. This rule is not going to stop some other entitled idiot from getting his/herself killed in the future.

    I wish there was a Supreme Court to review these stupid NASCAR rules that are absurd, and get rid of them. All these stupid rules do is give weenies too much power and authority over common sense.

    I’m thinking NASCAR needs to pay Sap a few hundred grand for the promo value that they used of this event.

    It’s stupid, and not a good thing to suppress the side shows, which is what made NASCAR famous and infamous. And NASCAR needs to stop coming down on criticism of itself. It is deserved and needed to prevent more stupid decisions and tyranny.

  8. NASCAR encourages drivers to show emotion, but when they do, they are penalized, at least some are. You see drivers doing what Sap did allot in Xfinity and cup with no repercussions. I’ve even seen drivers throwing their helmets, and foot shields, but no penalty. Sap did nothing wrong, just glad he can make light of it and have a little fun with it, even though he was singled out.

  9. So what should happen to NASCAR after last night’s debacle at Stafford? I know, I know nothing because that are always correct, perfect and make the “right call”.

    This again got shows how much NASCAR really cares about their bastard red headed stepchild known as the WMT.

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