Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, finished 19th, picking up 23 positions, after taking a provisional starting position in the Car Quest Auto Parts 250 at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday, July 31, 1999. Santerre, the 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year," was confident heading to Gateway International as it was the site of his best career Busch Series finish, 4th, until his impressive victory last week in the Pikes Peak 250.
The MONRO Racing team were taking the same car they had won with twice in the month of July, Pikes Peak and New Hampshire International, and were hoping to make it three out of four.
"I thought for sure we would have a top-10 qualifying and maybe a shot at the pole," the 30-year old Santerre admitted. "We qualified 6th last year and we had momentum heading into this event. Our car was proven and I liked the track." Santerre continues, "We went from winning last weekend to taking a provisional starting position this weekend. That is racing, up one weekend then down the next."
Santerre and the MONRO Racing team experienced motor problems during the first of two practices before qualifying. Santerre expressed that the car was handling great, he just couldn't get down the straight-away. The crew checked everything over and found a few minor problems, but nothing serious. The team went back out for the second practice and five laps later were in the garage with a blown motor.
"We dropped a valve in the motor," Santerre confirmed. "I knew we were lacking power and we couldn't figure out why, well, the motor was giving up and it finally let go. Luckily it happened during practice and not the race." Santerre adds, "We had to thrash to get the motor changed before qualifying and the crew worked hard. The temperature was brutal, over 109 degrees, and the guys never once uttered a complaint. They got to work and got the motor in in time for time trials."
Santerre went out to time trial with not one lap in the car with the new motor. He and the crew were hoping for a miracle. They didn't get it. Santerre was 42nd fastest and didn't make first round qualifying. In second round qualifying, the team was fast enough to make the field until the last car time-trialed and bumped them from the top-36. The #47 MONRO Chevrolet started the field 42nd.
The main goal was to stay out of trouble and work on the car during the race to earn a top-10 finish when the checkered flag flew. However, a small fire under the dash toward the start of the race eliminated any hopes Santerre would have for a top-10. "I radioed to tell the crew to make a note to check the wiring in the car," Santerre explained. "There was a puff of smoke in the first half of the race and I thought the wiring burned up. The motor just wouldn't pull down the straight-aways. I was awesome in the corners and could drive under anyone, but they would pull me down the stretch. It was one of the most frustrating races of my life because I knew the car was as good as it was last week when we won." Santerre finishes, "Toward the end of the race the motor started fluttering, I couldn't figure it out until the race was over. The guys started to load the car and realized the battery was dead. They researched the problem and the puff of smoke at the start of the race was my alternator wire frying. The battery had no charge for the better part of the race. We were lucky we even finished the race."
Santerre was 19th when the checkered flag flew at lap 200. He and the crew considered themselves lucky to finish as well as they did with the problems they encountered during the course of the race.
"When you have as bad a day as we did, you count yourself lucky to finish," Santerre stated. "We have a complete race car, the motor survived, and we finished in the top-20. We capitalized on what we could and we'll take what we got and move on to Indianapolis."
Santerre and the MONRO Racing team gained in the points battle with their 19th place finish. They were 184 points out of 20th when the green flag dropped and are currently 152 points out of the top-20.
"We had to revise our goals for the season," Santerre said. "With all the struggles we have had this season, we altered our goals a little. We want to win races and finish in the top-20 in points. With 11 races left on the schedule, we have as good a shot as the next driver."
Innovative Motorsports currently sits 29th in owner points.