Santerre Wrecked Going for the Lead in Closing Laps; Finishes 9th Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, two-time NASCAR Busch North Series Champion and driver of the ...
Santerre Wrecked Going for the Lead in Closing Laps; Finishes 9th
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, two-time NASCAR Busch North Series Champion and driver of the #6 Bessey Motorsports, Aubuchon Hardware/Castle Chemical Chevrolet, qualified mid pack, but after a late race pit stop had the fastest car on the race track; only to have his efforts at his 2nd consecutive win dashed after contact with the eventual race winner down the backstretch with four laps to go in the Pepsi Racing 150 at Thompson Speedway on May 22, 2004.
A cold front settled around Thompson, Connecticut in the late morning hours and caused Santerre's Chevrolet to react differently than planned in time trials.
"I thought the car would have been better than 11th ," Santerre commented after posting a time of 20.901. "Everyone dropped off a half second, but we dropped off more than I would have thought." Santerre continues, "Still, the car was balanced pretty well and I was confident heading into the start of the race."
Santerre raced in the top-10 the majority of the race, slowly working his way into the top-5 by the lap 86 pit stop. The Aubuchon Hardware Racing crew was lightening fast for the second race in a row, beating all the other teams off pit road to put Santerre 3rd on the race track behind the #55 and #8 who had elected not to pit. Santerre came out of the pits with track position, fresh tires and a positive attitude.
"My guys are awesome!" the 35-year old Santerre commented. "We have two new over- the-wall guys and they have been practicing real hard, not wanting to be the weak link in the chain. They were on the money again, I am so proud of them!"
Santerre continues, "We were in the cat bird's seat after that pit stop. I had new tires and I knew the car was coming around and getting better every lap."
When the green flag flew again on lap 90, Santerre lost two positions right off the bat waiting for the tire pressure in his Goodyear Eagles to come in. It took less than 15 laps for Santerre to gain back those spots and one more, passing McCarthy for 2nd with 47 laps remaining.
"We had the fastest car on the race track after my tire pressure came up," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native admitted. "I ran down McCarthy and set my sights on Leighton. I was inside Leighton with 44 to go when the caution came out. I thought I had plenty of time."
The caution flag with 44 to go set the tone for a succession of cautions in the final laps.
Santerre continued to work Leighton over, even getting his nose inside several times before Leighton blocked and closed the door.
"I had the better car," Santerre reiterated. "I would get my nose under Brad (Leighton) and he would block me. I backed out of it several times not wanting to get into him, but with all the cautions, I was running out of time. We went down the backstretch and I got under him heading to turn three and like he had been doing, Brad chopped me and I had no where to go but in the infield. I lost traction and shot up the track in turns three and four and hit the wall."
Santerre finishes, "It is a tough pill to swallow. I could have moved him out of the way several times before, but I am a clean racer and I don't do things like that. I had a nose under him on the backstretch, had a lane and he intentionally put me in the infield, end of story."
Santerre and the crew battled back and managed to stay on the lead lap finishing 9th .
For the first time since August of 2001, Santerre lost the Busch North Series point lead falling to 5th , five points out of the lead.
"I guess 9th on the lead lap after a wreck is not such a bad day. It is not a win like it should have been had I been raced clean, but what goes around comes around. We'll put it behind us and move on."
Santerre and crew will stay in New England for the Lime Rock Test/Media Day prior to the NASCAR Busch North 200 on Saturday, May 29, 2004.