Off the track, Dave Brigati runs a recycling company. On the track, his mission is to generate new talent.
A 40-year-old from Calverton, Brigati is one of Riverhead's best drivers. He boasts a chargers championship and second-place season finishes in late models, super pro trucks and modifieds. Just last week he won his seventh modified race, the 35-lap New York State Fraternal Order of Police Night main event, and took home $1,450. He is currently fifth in modifieds, 66 points off the lead, with three top-fives in five races.
Impressive credentials, yet Brigati's true passion is Long Island's racing youth. For eight years, Brigati has owned and operated East End Kart racing, a go-kart club with a 16-race schedule at Riverhead. "If somebody doesn't do it, where are these kids going to get the shot that I got?" Brigati asked. "It's like the minor-league baseball before you get to the big leagues."
One would think racing parents would get their kids involved with go-karting. But Brigati has found kids' participation actually sparks parents' interest in racing. "It's really family oriented," Brigati said. "Where can you go and spend the whole day with your kid? They lose concentration easy."
Brigati has already found Riverhead's next prodigy and Nick Harnage of Smithtown is only 11. "The whole goal is to build a team for him when he's able to drive in three years," he said. "He's the real deal."
Brigati, nicknamed "The Fancy Farmer" because of his family's background in agriculture, isn't ready to hang it up just yet. And with experience in five disciplines, you never know where Brigati may pop up next.
"Just to conquer something else and learn something different in every division is what I enjoy," he said. "I have a car for each class still. Modifieds are great, but they're all fun. Modifieds are born race cars. Charger cars are something you fabricated, so it's never perfect. When you get into a real race car, it's perfect."