Santerre/MONRO "Back" in Victory Lane Celebration Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Santerre/MONRO "Back" in Victory Lane Celebration
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, qualified 5th and finished 1st in the Pennzoil/Replacement Auto Parts 100 NASCAR Busch North Series event on Saturday, July 10, 1999 at New Hampshire International Speedway.
Santerre, making only his fourth start in 1999 after breaking his leg in the season-opening race and spending five months recuperating, won the 100-lap event in dominating fashion. Santerre started the race hoping to gain some valuable seat time to prepare him for the second half of the Busch Series season, he finished the race ahead of 43 other cars to win his first NASCAR sanctioned event in 1999 and his second with sponsor, MONRO Muffler Brake & Service.
"This is unbelievable," stated an ecstatic Santerre. "We came up here to get me some seat time. We were great all weekend and after the last practice we knew we had something for them. Everything just fell into place and we had an awesome day." Santerre continues, "Three weeks ago after South Boston, I was doubting myself and my ability to drive a race car, I even offered to resign. I guess I assumed I would jump back in the seat after being off for five months and be as capable as I was before. I didn't offer to resign for myself, but for the team. They work so hard and I was the weak link at that point."
George deBidart, the team's owner wasn't pleased with Santerre's offer. deBidart called a team meeting the Sunday after the South Boston event and set the record straight. "I asked Andy if he wanted to drive the racecar." deBidart recalled. "Andy's response was 'Yes.' And in my mind that was it. What kind of owner would I have been if I had let Andy quit after only two races back. He was giving me 110% when he broke his leg and I assured him that if it took the last 16 races to get him back to where he was that he would be in the car all 16 races. He is my driver, I think the world of him and I am behind him 110%."
Santerre and the MONRO Racing crew headed to the Magic Mile hoping to create their own kind of magic. They had nothing to lose since they weren't running for points and the pressure was off. Their plan was to do the best they could and to get to victory lane, together.
"I had never been to victory lane at New Hampshire International," the 30-year old Santerre admitted. "MONRO had never been there, my crew had never been there, George had never been there and I had a lot of fans and family in the stands that had never seen us there. What an awesome time to win a race. I was at my home track, with hundreds of supporters in the stands including my sponsor. My grandmother, who had never seen me race live, was there too. I couldn't imagine a better way to win. Santerre finishes, "My team stood behind me when they didn't have to and I can't tell you how it feels to be in victory lane with them."
Santerre crossed the finish line 4.59 seconds before the 2nd place car of Ted Christopher. It was a dominating performance as Santerre set a record pace lapping all but six cars but the end of the 100-lap event. Santerre's victory was worth $22,675 but so much mentally.
"This is what we needed," Santerre, the 1998 Busch Series "Rookie of the Year," confirmed. "I hit an all time low after South Boston and began doubting myself. The crew was struggling as well. We were doing everything right but nothing was going our way. Finally we broke through and got a win. Momentum is everything in racing and now we have some to carry us through the remainder of the 1999 season."
Santerre, though thoroughly excited about his 8th career Busch North Series victory, reflected for a moment on a fellow Busch Series competitor who won't race again for a long time, "Last week at Milwaukee, Jeff Krogh, a friend and competitor of mine was critically injured in a practice crash. His injury affected Sue and I more than we thought and I want to dedicate this win to him and his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with him for a full and complete recovery."
After the convincing victory, Santerre and the team were treated to an already planned party with 180 fan club members at the Belknap Mill in Laconia, New Hampshire. The event, organized by the Andy Santerre Fan Club, was to honor and thank the members for their support, but it turned into a victory party Santerre and the crew won't soon forget.
"What a night to have a party," Santerre shouted as he entered the overflowing room. "I am overwhelmed. This win couldn't have come at a better time. We planned a night to honor our supporters and sponsors and they in turn helped me celebrate a much needed victory and a comeback."
Santerre and the MONRO Racing team head to Myrtle Beach Speedway this Saturday for the 19th Busch Series event of the season.