BNS: Santerre wins Loudon, Leighton wins championship

LOUDON, N.H. - Andy Santerre led the final 90 laps of Saturday afternoon's Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring New Hampshire 125 to record his second career victory at New Hampshire International Speedway. The win was worth $18,675 to the ...

LOUDON, N.H. - Andy Santerre led the final 90 laps of Saturday afternoon's Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring New Hampshire 125 to record his second career victory at New Hampshire International Speedway. The win was worth $18,675 to the Cherryfield, Maine driver and give him a .500 batting average in the 2000 Busch North Series, with two victories in four starts sandwiched around his Busch Series, Grand National Division schedule.

Brad Leighton placed tenth, his lowest finish of the season, but clinched his second straight Busch North Series championship when a late pit stop relegated his nearest challenger, Tracy Gordon, to 17th.

Three-time Busch North Series champion Jamie Aube chased Santerre hard in the closing stages but settled for second, 0.7 second behind the winner. Raybestos Rookie-of-the-Race Mike Johnson took the checkered flag third, just in front of Dave Dion, while another rookie, Paul Wolfe, completed the top five for his best career finish..

Dale Shaw, who entered the race with slim hopes for the season title, came home sixth, trailed by Mike Olsen, who came all the way from 38th on the grid. Dennis Demers was eighth and Bud Pole winner Martin Truex Jr. ninth ahead of Leighton. Of the 44 starters, 35 were running at the finish, with 23 on the lead lap.

Santerre averaged 88.201 miles per hour as nine caution flags slowed the action for 42 laps. Two of those cautions came just before the finish and extended the distance to 131 laps in order to achieve a green flag finish, as required by Busch North Series rules. The winner started third and dodged a second lap-crash which eliminated outside front row starter Ted Christopher. Santerre took the lead from Truex on lap 6 and swapped it two more times with the pole sitter until both made their only pit stop under caution at lap 27. Shaw and Bryan Wall, who remained on the track, took turns at the lead before Santerre returned to the point for good on lap 42.

Wall, attempting to go the distance without a pit stop, remained a strong challenger after Shaw pitted on lap 72, and was joined at the front by darkhorse Mike Gallo. Aube took third from Gallo on lap 75 and passed Wall for second on the 105th circuit with Gordon close behind. With Gordon running a strong third and Leighton struggling, the title chase looked set to go down to the season finale at Lime Rock, Conn., in October. However, a cut tire would send Gordon to the pits, while Wall and Gallo would require fuel stops which dropped them to 18th and 21st in the final rundown. The series of late-race caution flags broke Aube's momentum, and Santerre sailed to his tenth career Busch North Series win, tying him for sixth on the all-time list.

Santerre captured the Gatorade Front Runner Award, while Olsen earned Flowmaster Star of the Race honors. Truex captured his second consecutive NHIS Bud Pole at 121.421 miles per hour.

While Leighton's 206-point lead puts him out of reach, the runner-up spot in the 2000 Busch North Series championship will be wide open in the Lime Rock season finale on Saturday, October 14, as Gordon leads Shaw by only five points. Leighton also captured the NHIS Busch North track championship by 34 points over Dale Quarterley.

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Series NASCAR
Drivers Martin Truex Jr. , Bryan Wall , Dale Quarterley , Mike Johnson , Ted Christopher