When the checkered flag waved last Saturday night at Wall Stadium Speedway (NJ), everyone in attendance was holding their breath, utterly flabbergasted after witnessing a vicious crash at the conclusion of the night’s NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour event.
The incident occurred when Dave Sapienza and Timmy Catalano got hooked together on the last lap in turns three and four, with Sapienza crashing head-on into the tire/portable cement barrier protecting track workers and photographers in the infield.
The good news: Sapienza had made it through the crash. However, it was soon apparent that the shunt had taken its toll on him. Earlier in the week, the veteran racer talked briefly about his condition and how his injuries could have been much worse.
“I’m a lot better, I was in some serious pain the past couple of days and it’s finally starting to subside, the lower back. I’ve been in a lot of pain," Sapienza said. "I can’t bend over much. I’m a real physical guy. I go to the gym a lot, which I just started last year. Thank God, because if I wasn’t in such good shape, I probably would have snapped my back in half."
While the Riverhead, New York resident has held up the tough reputation for Long Island drivers in his time behind the wheel of his No. 36 Modified, he made it plenty clear that he would be out of the car for some time. He also indicated that now is not the time to be setting any timetable for a return, not until more details are known and he gets well into the healing process.
“I’m not going to be back for a while," he said matter-of-factly. "The cars are pretty much fixed already; that’s not a problem. But, I’m not going to make Seekonk or Riverhead; I don’t think I’m going to be able to shoot for Loudon, and that’s a month and a half away. It’s a fracture they saw in my back and we’ll need to see how bad it really is.”
In the short term, Sap’s fans won’t have to wait long to see the No. 36 team in action. Late Wednesday, it was revealed that former NASCAR Whelen Southern Modified Tour champion and Bowman Gray Stadium legend Burt Myers will drive the car in the Thompson 125 at Thompson Speedway Motorsports Park on Wednesday, June 5.
“I’m excited, Dave’s a real good friend of mine, and I know what equipment he’s got. I hate that it’s under these circumstances, but I’m looking forward to filling the seat,” Myers told Speed51.com.
Naturally, Myers isn’t going to Thompson to just fly the colors for Sap Enterprises. He is going in with the full intention of winning for Sapienza and the team. ‘The Big T’ has become a favorite track of Myers over the past few years and with the No. 36 team at their all-time best, Myers knows that victory is well within grasp.
“That’s why we’re going. I don’t go to races to just ride around. I go to win," Myers stated. "I feel like with the team they got and with the experience I have at Thompson now, we got a pretty good shot at it.”
Even with his experience and availability that particular date, the main reason for the pairing is the friendship that Myers and Sapienza share.
“We just kind of hit it off when I started running up north and we just stayed in contact with each other," Myers explained. "We try to hang out every chance we get, and he’s trying his best to get down south and come visit us here. I don’t know exactly how long it's been, but it feels like a long time."
Through it all, Myers is also looking to help Sapienza through the process of being out of the car. A scenario that Myers has experienced once in his racing career.
“I shared a story with him about when I got hurt in a Supermodified, and I had to watch a guy drive my car. I tired my best, I did everything I could to try and be in the car myself. At some point, even a hardheaded driver like myself has to realize when to be smart and not put yourself in any kind of harm. So, I know what it’s like to watch a car go around the race track, but at the same time, you get a different kind of pleasure in a different view point. I’m excited Dave asked me to drive and I’m going to try and get a win.”
-Story by: Connor Sullivan, Speed51 Northeast Editor – Twitter: @Connor51CT
-Photo credit: Speed51.com / Rick Ibsen