Caution Free: Dave Sapienza Not Changing For Anybody On The Whelen Modified Tour

Dave Sapienza (Photo: Jim DuPont/RaceDayCT)

In the world of professional motorsports in 2022 most drivers walk a tightrope when it comes to being careful about saying or doing the wrong things and possibly losing opportunities because of that.

When it comes to NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour driver Dave Sapienza, the Long Island driver rarely worries about the trouble he might face for his actions.

Being an independent team owner obviously gives the veteran a security many other drivers don’t have.

“I don’t need to kiss anybody’s ass,” Sapienza said on the latest episode of Unmuffled. “A lot of these guys do watch what they say and watch what they do because they’re worried about the sponsors, especially in the world we live in now. God forbid you say something wrong with that woke shit that’s going on, a lot of these drivers would be out of ride. You see that happening … in NASCAR’s top echelon. But like me, I can say and do what I want because listen, if you don’t want me in the series, I told them, ‘I’ll buy a boat and I’ll send you pictures every weekend when you’re sweating your balls off at the race track, and I’ll be on my boat. And I’ll be sending you pictures and I’ll be sitting there laughing and giggling.’ … I don’t have to do this, I do it for fun.”

Sapienza’s sometimes icy relationship with Whelen Modified Tour officials has grabbed headlines in recent years, but he said he’s not out to make life miserable for series director Jimmy Wilson. Last season Sapienza was penalized for his actions during the season opening event at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway. After offering some harsh opinions of Wilson, Sapienza showed up at the next series event with a unique paint scheme on his car making light of his bad boy image. He said he got his point across in making Wilson chuckle at the behind bars caricature on his car.

“No matter what they do to me, … I’m going to turn something bad into something real good and make the best of it,” Sapienza said. “[Wilson] thought it was pretty funny. That kind of broke the ice. Me and him, usually generally we get along real well, as long as things go my way. But he’s got a job to do and everybody hates the boss, especially when they get in trouble or whenever punishments are handed down.”

To hear more from Sapienza on a plethora of topics listen to the latest edition of Unmuffled. The Unmuffled podcasts are available for $5 a month through the RaceDayCT Insider Program through Patreon. For 2022 we’ve introduced an all new format for the Unmuffled podcast. Along with the regular interviews, we’ve also added a weekly segment overflowing with topics running the gamut, from opinion to controversy to good old stories and looks at the rumor mill. If you’d like to hear for yourself with no commitment check out Episode 115 with Ben Dodge and Matt Swanson, which we’re offering with free access for a limited time. The RaceDayCT Insider Program allows readers to support the continued professional coverage of short track racing across New England. Sign up now and get access to our new podcasts every week and all of previous podcasts, plus exclusive RaceDayCT Insider news throughout the season.


  1. And this is why we love and need Dave, and many more like him.

  2. If you get the impression that Sapienza is still a defiant outlier ready to threaten more boycotts for perceived injustices you’re going to want to listen to the interview. One of his best ever in my view.
    I took from it what I always take from the guy and that is represented in the Hirschman bonus for the Islip 300. A bunch of fussing and fuming to make sure he’s being noticed. Otherwise he likes the structure and big stage of the NWMT and will be supporting it with numerous appearances if not all in 2022.

  3. Curious George says

    I wonder if he will run any of the four races promoted by Josh Vanada and JDV Productions this year. Dave seemed pretty upset last year when, as it was reported by RaceDayCT (June 1, 2021), “a lack of response from the event promoter when he raised questions about those issues led to his decision”.

  4. Way to much bull crap about this
    . It’s modified racing. really!! A division that can’t even start 30 cars. The whole series has become a joke.

  5. This reaction on social media is just more proof of the total futility of the medium with folks reaction while not having the slightest idea of what was said.
    99 people so far commenting and over 600 thumbs up reacting to the combative headline.
    Here’s the thing. If you listen to the interview Sapienza has nice things to say about the series and he will be supporting it in 2022. The longer distances may put him off but he’ll be at Riverhead with bells on.
    The default is to bash NASCAR and that’s just tradition at this point. But the collateral damage to the drivers and teams that help entertain us can’t be ignored. Essentially it’s saying they’re a bunch of pussies competing at races that are not that bright, masochistic or a combination of the two. We fans that watch it not so bright either enabling such a sketchy series with questionable management.
    Sapienza frames some as sycophants too afraid to speak up. That fits his narrative as a lovable anti hero but why do we take that as gospel when it’s mostly self serving.
    Here’s the gospel for a fact. Sapienza who’s persona is one of the bad boy fighting NASCAR is a staple of the series. He’s one of the best parts of it and I’m betting he knows it and knows Wilson knows it. He won’t be spending most race days on a boat anytime soon because floating on the water doesn’t have the people and excitement a consummate people person enjoys.
    Where he will be is at most NWMT races with a new chassis and fresh power and loving every minute of it. Then like every year he’ll rattle the cage over something, every one will say go Sap trash Nascar and Wilson, he’ll smile then prepare for the next race looking for that elusive first win.

  6. One thing that i and possibly some other readers would like to know is how Dave can be able to to this as a hobby. Is he a successful business man or did he come into some money? He is definitely a colorful character where ever he races>.

  7. JH,
    Dave owns and operates an auto repair/service business in Riverhead, N.Y.

  8. NASCAR is traditionally at odds with northeastern drivers,, this (in my opinion) because NASCAR expects drivers (which in this neck of the woods are from birth,, largely independent thinkers) to conform to their “rules, regulations, and pricing policies” .. Further evidence is recent actions of Stafford Springs Speedways move to independent shows and resistance to NASCAR affiliation.. I also offer that most northeastern drivers fail to fit into established NASCAR team discipline.. Congrats to Dave for inserting humor into his difficulties with NASCAR,, but,, for better or worse,, this is the way of doing business in northeast..

  9. NASCAR definitely doesn’t like anyone that stands up to the establishment especially a Yankee!

  10. Gotta love Dave Sapienza. He is someone who will tell you what he thinks, wether you like it or not. He also knows that the NWMT is not the only modified series out there, and he’s not afraid of NASCAR. Hope he broadens his scope, and maybe runs some open shows at Stafford or Thompson

  11. Excepts from the Sapienza portion of the latest Unmuffled.

    “I’m looking forward to it (the 2022 NWMT season)”

    “I know there’s a lot of traveling involved, I kind of like it, it’s a little tough on my work schedule because even though I’m self employed I’m still at the office every day at the shop. You know I’m glad a lot are the one day shows on the weekends, stuff like that it’s not gonna hurt too bad. It seems pretty interesting, ”

    “We’re gonna concentrate on the first few tour shows hopefully I can get back into my rhythm and start producing some good finishes.”

    “The big thing this year is getting out of the horrible slump last year.”

    “I’m looking forward to starting at New Smyrna it’s pretty cool there”

    “There’s a few things that have changed (with his program). All the other guys stepped up their A game and I kinda fell back but that’s all on me. I just gotta pick pick up and focus on what I gotta do in that race car ya know.”

    “Ya know, I know I snapped on a few of these interviews like I said it’s nothing personal toward Jimmy (Wilson) he’s just doing his job. I know people are calling me out too somebody is responsible for my actions including myself”

    “The day we rolled it out at Stafford (the jail bird back panel) he (Wilson) couldn’t keep a straight face”

    “Me and him (Wilson) generally we get along real well as long as things go my way.(laughing)”

    Extensive description of an interaction with Wilson where the drivers meeting was moved back because traffic prevented Sapienza and a couple other teams from getting to the track on time. The same day the 36 given extra time to replace a blown motor for the purpose of qualifying for the race.

    “I really do like a lot of the guys we see on a weekly basis, you know it’s kinda like one big family. As much as there is animosity when it all comes down to it when that motor broke that morning, um, I was like taken back because a lot of other teams jumped under my car there was 10 guys there”

    “When it comes down to it there are a lot of good hearted people in that series, whether they be car owners and drivers, a lot of good people in general in the whole garage area right down to the officials. And you know people make bad calls, people make mistakes and people like me me f__k s__t up you know I gotta accept what happen and move on.”

    “I look forward to having a lot of fun this year. I told Jimmy I’ll be a good boy, I won’t do anything stupid but you know when I’m pushed over the edge I’m gonna retaliate whether that be verbally or whatever. But like I said I’m looking forward, I’m trying to concentrate on what we’ve go lined up and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not going there to cause any conflict or anything like that”

    “To me we’ve got three Riverhead shows and you know I live two mile away. I look forward to that so I don’t have to travel. But I never mind the trips to Connecticut, New Hampshire or wherever else we’ll be going. The long hauls I don’t have a problem with that. I kind of feel guilty about my business”

    “Talking about Tri Track and the other open shows and how good he’s treated by them.
    I kind of like the Nascar structure, the rules are what they are and they say it. You know Tri Track is a little more lenient, some people have some advantages but ya know you talk to them and they work with you. The money they spread around is fairly descent.”

    “I’m not gonna say I’m not going to run those other shows. My main thing is getting to Florida and we’ll run at Richmond, we have a brand new car, my other cars are all brand new and everything is up to date um there only a year old and they don’t have that many races on them. But I’m gonna concentrate on that February 12th race and that whole week after and aim toward the rest of the season”

    Sorry tour modified nation and it’s fans. Sapienza is not the rebel caricature he’s been reduced to. He’s actually the heart of the NWMT. It’s his focus, he spends hundreds of thousands of dollars preparing to race in it. He enjoys the company and respects most of the people he’s doing it with including Wilson and the other officials.
    That’s what I love about Unmuffled. You get to know the whole person and not just the caricature people create from the headlines. You get to know the whole person and his thoughts on everything pertaining to tour modified racing and it’s challenges. He’s been too successful at promoting this rebel/boat BS that he’s got everyone hooked on. He just telegraphed a new program with new equipment with higher expectations and no one noticed.
    Now you also get Courchesnes finally stepping out from behind the veil of journalistic subjectivity and delivering personal thoughts and opinions on his involvement covering the sport.

  12. Sap chided for being a spoiled brat winer by some, last year after a josh vanada promoted event. But sap just being sap. And he took a beating for it here in this forum by some. A brat. A winer.
    I dont think he is a spoiled brat winer at all.
    I think he’s just old school. If you went to that school, you get it. If you are heavily invested, and feel something isn’t right, you speak up.
    He did, and does. Believes what’s right is right.

    Then he has fun with wilson. I love the caricature of him on the rear of his car behind bars, in the convict suit. Priceless.
    Then, he calls out Hirschman. “Incentive” he leads us to believe. And sure. Odds in saps favor he will never have to pay, but, puts his money where his mouth is. You cant make that stuff up!
    I dont know about any of you guys, but i love the guy. Distraction? Winer? Spoiled brat?
    Or, a lover of modified tours, heavily invested, yet pokes lighthearted fun when others would shrink from the non political correctness of it all.
    I once stated that i don’t know if this guy is “Barnum or Bailey”. But he certainly is entertainer, promotor, and in my opinion, a true ambassador of modified racing. While we occasionally may need to endure a few “rough edges”, I for one, love following the personona of what is a dying breed, of “old school” style racing, opinions, after party in pits, and calling things what they are. Wining, or not. I will miss that breed when they are gone, (hard nosed, independent, cowtow to nobody for political correctness) if i am still around to see it. Jmo.

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