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Things looking up for Dave Sapienza after first NWMT top-five of 2018

Dave Sapienza had his strongest performance of 2018 on Thursday night in the Thompson 125, bringing home his first top-five of the season.

It’s been a back-and-forth year of sorts for the 53-year-old. Twice this season, Sapienza has failed to finish. However, when Sapienza has made it to the checkered flag, he has finished no worse than ninth.

Thompson was a race the No. 36 team was able to close the deal on.

After showing long-run speed in practice, the Riverhead, New York native showed that he could back that speed up in the race, too. Sapienza was one of the nine drivers who managed to stay on the lead lap on the opening 91-lap green-flag run. Even if a caution hadn’t bunched the field up, Sapienza still felt confident the car had the speed to finish well.

“There was a long green-flag run, and my car was holding up pretty good,” Sapienza told¬†Short Track Scene. “So even if we had to go the distance, I still believed I would’ve finished in the top-10.”

After taking tires on a pit stop under yellow, Sapienza was able to advance through the bottom half of the top-10. With a handful of laps to go, Sapienza finally broke into the top-five thanks to a bump-and-run of Timmy Solomito.

“I might have gotten into Timmy a little bit,” remarked Sapienza of the move. “I was faster, he wiggled, I wiggled him, I got by him.”

“Listen, I gotta get my points back. I had two DNFs this year. Can’t have that. Last year, I finished the year in the top-10, seventh in points. This year, I’m going for the top-five, so I had to make a move.”

Coming up for Sapienza is Langley, a track he feels the team can run up front at.

“Going into Langley, we had a fast car last year,” said Sapienza. “I think we were a top-five, six car in practice. We were running well, and towards the end, we got spun out, or something happened, I don’t remember. Got tangled up in a few things coming through.”

After Langley comes Sapienza’s home track, Riverhead. Just because he came from Riverhead, however, doesn’t mean he likes racing there.

“I went there for opening night [for Riverhead], and this car got destroyed,” Sapienza said of his recent experience at the Long Island bullring. “Riverhead, you’ll learn a lot of bad habits at Riverhead. That’s where I came from. I’m still trying to get rid of those bad habits.”

“I learned there. I kind of walked away from that because, coming onto the Tour, you gotta have respect for the drivers. I want to have respect for other drivers, and this is where I want to stay.”

Should Dave Sapienza keep running as he did at Thompson, he can shift his focus to winning instead of just staying.

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Paul Lambert is an aspiring high school racing journalist. Editor of his school newspaper, Paul's excited to cover the Whelen Modified Tour in 2018. Paul has also been published in Speedway Illustrated and on Autoweek.com.

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