As the NASCAR Xfinity Series begins to wind its regular-season down Saturday at Kansas, Alpha Prime Racing (APR) will have Howie DiSavino III, one of the team’s many promising young talents, back behind the wheel of the No. 44.
The 21-year-old is currently in the midst of his maiden season in the Xfinity Series, having run events at Martinsville and Loudon. At Loudon, DiSavino placed 17th, after a hectic event and a double disqualification from two drivers inside the top five.
In an interview with TobyChristie.com, DiSavino dove into the details on the start of his racing career, where it sits at the moment, and his goals and aspirations for the future of his career.
“I’m largely just a good old, regular country boy,” DiSavino said. “Grew up on a farm ever since I was about four years old in Chesterfield, Virginia. I’m from the same place as Denny Hamlin, basically taking the exact same steps. Going through arena racing, and late models, I had his crew chief for late models.
“He was a pretty big influence in my life, want to say he probably is my favorite driver, but I definitely have a lot of respect for him coming up through the ranks,” DiSavino continued. I have always been driving vehicles since I was young whether that’s tractors, four-wheelers, dirt bikes, side-by-sides, I have always wanted to go fast. With that being said, we kind of took it and ran with it ever since 13-years old.”
Most race fans’ spark gets ignited the first time they visit a racetrack. In DiSavino’s case, it started his racing journey.
“The dream really started when I was eight, I went to Richmond and I begged for about four years to race and we finally got to a race car and we started to race,” he said. “Picked up a lot of top-10s and one win, I only have one win in my whole career, but that’s alright, it’s only been my eighth or ninth year racing. I’m still learning any time I get into a race car.”
It’s all about starting somewhere within NASCAR’s top-three divisions, yet the schedule that DiSavino has crafted for this season is extremely tough on consistency. However, it’s a stepping stone to where he wants to be and is meant to build a foundation for his aspirations later in his career.
“Always the plan is to run the full season,” said DiSavino. “But one of the hardest deals is to lock down partnerships or sponsorships. We are working as hard as we can to potentially run a full season or half season next year. We would love to stay in the Xfinity Series or if we do have to go back to Trucks then we’ll go back to Trucks. The long-term goal is to be a Cup driver full-time, I think that’s pretty much everyone’s goal from a young age and race with the top dogs.
“That’s probably one of the biggest deals for us, show up make it happen and make it work for us. That’s the long-term goal, short term goal is just to focus on this year because I have to race these last three races like they’re my last three races ever. Funding is everything in this sport and I don’t think a lot of people understand that. A lot of people think just because you’re in NASCAR, you made it. Unfortunately, we have to work as hard as we can to make it work for us.”
DiSavino’s sentiment mirrors that of Alpha Prime Racing co-owner, Tommy Joe Martins, who now operates as a part-time driver in the Xfinity Series, where he took those opportunities to be able to get behind the wheel of a race car. Despite it not being a full-time ride, it goes back to just getting every chance to learn.
On top of Martins, DiSavino has a network of help as he navigates his way through this season and the specific parts that a driver has to work through during a weekend.
“I really rely a lot on Tommy Joe [Martins],” DiSavino stated. “Talking about how to qualify better, how to get out your own head and how the tracks going to transition throughout the whole day. I really rely a lot on him, I rely a lot on Austin Theriault. Joey Coulter, with DriveRefine.”
“I have a lot of good guys in my corner, I work out at Pit-Stop Performance. I have Spencer Boyd that has raced in multiple series, I think all three series. Ryan Vargas who has very good runs a mile and halves, so I have a lot of guys that are in my corner that that help me out and on top of that, I try to give back to them as much as possible and more than anything that I know as well.”
For this season, Alpha Prime Racing’s diverse driver lineup – featuring eight different drivers from multiple different backgrounds – has given DiSavino a number of different perspectives to lean on.
“I personally knew Sage [Karam] from Jordan Anderson Racing when I was running Trucks,” said DiSavino. “I’ve known him for quite some time, he’s still getting his teeth into the Xfinity Series and even Trucks. I do talk to him a lot, I work closely with Rajah Caruth as well… I’ve talked to Ryan Ellis a lot, he has a lot of experience in these cars. He explains a lot to me as well.
“I really lean on a lot of the guys that have that experience like Josh Bilicki, Ryan Ellis, and Kaz Grala, all those guys. I do talk to them, but it’s probably not on a regular basis, I don’t see them that much. I more rely on the guys at the gym because I see them pretty much every single day. I rely on Austin [Theriault] because I see him every single day…”
From the on-track perspective, DiSavino has two starts on 1.5-mile facilities in a stock car, with that coming in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series last season. That’s a limited amount of experience on faster tracks and pre-race preparation is bigger than it ever has been before.
“I spent probably 12 to 14 hours on the simulator,” DiSavino explained. “One session was six hours straight. I’ve done the work that we need to get done this weekend, but the true test is when you hop into the race car. The simulator can only help you so much, the talks can only help so much, watching film, watching SMT. That can only help out so much. Once you hop behind the race car, you kind of just to feel it out. I have raced a mile and a half in a truck, but trucks have so much downforce to where it helps out a lot.
“With these cars, they are so top heavy, I’ve heard they drive better on 1.5-mile tracks than they do at short tracks. Just with that insight, I’m looking forward to it, looking forward to ripping against the wall, I guess I have to because the grooves going to be high eventually. It’s just one of those tough deals to where we don’t get much practice but you kind of just have to figure it out.”
Originally, DiSavino’s six-race schedule didn’t include Saturday’s Kansas Lottery 300 at Kansas Speedway, but a shakeup in the race-to-race schedule within the organization has seen him outside of the car for seven consecutive races.
With nearly 20 drivers competing for full-time in the NASCAR Xfinity Series, DiSavino is confident that if he had more opportunities to compete in the second-tier series, there would be a sharp incline in his results.
“Being in the Xfinity Series, the competition is so stout,” DiSavino explained. “It’s hard for a guy that is inconsistent in the race car. I haven’t been in a car for about a month now. I wouldn’t say I’ll be rusty when I go out there, but I don’t get an opportunity to be in the car every two weeks, every week.”
“If I could find the funding to run [full-time], I think you would see a lot more talent because everyone knows if you’re behind the wheel on a weekly basis, you’re going to be better,” DiSavino continued. “If I could have a more consistent ride, I would be a lot better behind the wheel.”
The majority of drivers that are just entering a racing series want to make sure they can complete all of the laps before pushing themselves to the limit. However, in modern-day race weekends, limited on-track time plays into the comfort level of a driver, before the race begins.
“I don’t want any damage on the car, right?” DiSavino said. “I want to bring the car home in one piece and be one of those profitable drivers, right? To where you don’t have to take it to the shop, you don’t have to get it fixed, you just rip the wrap off and you put on a new wrap and you go racing. I would say my approach to these races is how can we get better in owner points. How can the 44 or the 45, whichever car I’m in that week, how can we do better? We get 20 minutes of practice that’s not much time at all, especially when we’re making adjustments and we’re trying to find more speed.”
The opening stages of an event can be a continuous learning tool for a young driver like DiSavino, with the opportunity to get yourself in the right midset to go forward and attack in the later portions of the event.
“The first stages is honestly me just learning the track still and getting more comfortable,” he said. “The second stage, we are off racing, we are going to go racing but I am not going to put us in a predicament to where we can’t be there to the end… The third stage is where I try to hammer down as much as possible and try to get as many positions as possible.”
As a young driver, DiSavino is attempting to establish his position within the series or team, from a financial standpoint, while continuing to develop his racecraft, in which he can look to other drivers in order to emulate their driving styles.
“It’s all the season veterans, right?” said DiSavino. [Noah] Gragson’s been in Xfinity for a few years, Justin Allgaier. Pretty much any of the guys that have been running for two-plus years, they’ve figured it out and they’re fast. Whenever I can get behind someone like that, even Ty Gibbs, this is his first full season, but he’s fast every week, right? If I can just follow behind somebody and go alright if I can capitalize, follow them, see what line they’re running, that’s what I’ll do.
As DiSavino mentioned, parts of getting ready for an upcoming weekend can only assist so much. Nothing is like getting real track time during a practice session, and driving around other competitors that are seasoned race winners.
“If you can just learn from those guys on those lines, where they’re letting off or where they’re picking up. That’s where you can capitalize the most on.”