Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the #44 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch North Series, qualified 11th for the Pepsi 150 at Watkins Glen International Speedway and finished 4th after a three-hour rain and fog delay on Saturday, August 14, 1999.
Santerre, the 1998 Busch Series Raybestos "Rookie of the Year," broke his right leg in six places in the season-opening Daytona race and missed the Talladega Superspeedway event in April due to his injury. Santerre, Innovative Motorsports, and MONRO Muffler Brake & Service elected to participate in two televised Busch North Series races to give Santerre more seat time and to help speed up his recovery. Watkins Glen's Pepsi 150 was the second of the two Busch North events. Santerre drove to victory at New Hampshire International Speedway in the first Busch North event in July.
The MONRO Racing team brought our Busch Series road race car to the Glen. It is a great car, but it is Busch South legal. The Busch North Series cars have only to weigh 3100 pounds, compared to the Busch Series at 3300 pounds, so the car was about 200 pounds overweight compared to the rest of the field.
"We could have got the car down to 3100 pounds," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native, explained. "But the crew and I talked and decided it was better to set the car up the way it should be set up at a road course and add the extra weight to get our percentages. It was a disadvantage but I was positive it was a disadvantage we could overcome during the event with pit strategy."
Santerre qualified 11th. He was content with the starting position as he knew he gave it 100% and left nothing on the race track. In fact two of his three laps were within three one-thousandths of a second. Pretty impressive consistency for a road course.
"The car was handling great, it just wasn't as lightning fast as some of the lighter cars," Santerre remarked. "I drove as hard as I could and I was real consistent. My laps were within hundredths and thousandths of each other. On a road course that kind of consistency is virtually unheard of because there are so many corners and turns that you could miss or not hit the line right. That is as fast as our car would go during qualifying, but in race trim, we should be just as good as the other cars." - more -
Race day dawned cool and overcast. The forecast called for scattered showers and right when the race was scheduled to start the skies opened up. Two hours later the track was dry and the field was ready to race when a front of fog rolled in obscuring the view of the track. Another hour and a half passed before the command was issued to start the engines and the race was under way.
Santerre started the field on the inside of row six but lost two positions on the first lap. The field in front of him was pretty racy the first lap and were bouncing off each other, Santerre was cautious as he knew he had to be there at the end. Santerre raced in the top-12 the first part of the race, keeping the leaders in sight at all times.
The crew was within their fuel strategy window when a caution was thrown for a spin in turn one. Santerre followed the leaders into the pit and according to pre-planned pit strategy, took fuel only. The team gained eight positions in the pit and went back on the track 10th as other cars pitted earlier and remained on the track.
"We planned to fuel and go only," commented the former Busch North Series Rookie of the Year. "Some cars changed two tires and a couple changed four, but these bias-ply tires have a longer race life than the radial tires we race in the south and I was confident they wouldn't drop off too bad."
Santerre continued to race and slowly, lap-after-lap, continued to pick a car off at a time. The weather was still threatening and there was a Featherlite Modified race after the Busch North event so at 5:20 PM, the call was made for five laps to go at 5:30. The crew radioed Santerre and told him to let it all hang out, the laps were winding down. However, Santerre couldn't answer as his radio battery was dead. There was a moment of panic until Santerre used hand signals to inform the crew that though they couldn't hear him, he could hear them and he understood there were five laps to go.
Santerre restarted from the caution flag in 6th position and within the next 10 laps moved into the top-five. Ricky Craven was on Santerre's bumper the last ten laps of the race, but Santerre had his sights set on Jay Sauter, a Craftsman Truck series driver. On the white flag lap of the race, Santerre powered off the last corner and pulled even with Sauter on the front stretch, he made the pass for fourth in turn one and never looked back.
"I am satisfied with the finish," confirmed Santerre. "That was all we had. The car was heavy and we just didn't have anything for the leaders. We'll take the finish and the seat time and focus on Michigan Speedway next week." Santerre continues, "MONRO and Kendall had hospitality suites at Watkins Glen and I think we gave them and their employees a great time and something to cheer about. We appreciate their support and were proud to carry the Universal Underwriters logo on our car for the race as well."
The MONRO Racing crew heads to Michigan Speedway to resume their Busch Series regular season in the NAPA 200 on Saturday, August 21, 1999.