Santerre Finally Returns; Malfunction Spoils Weekend Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Santerre Finally Returns; Malfunction Spoils Weekend
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, qualified 10th for the Lysol 200 at Watkins Glen International Speedway, but finished 30th after faulty lug nuts caused his tire to fall off in the 10th lap of the June 27, 1999 race.
The 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year," who broke his right leg in six places in the season-opening Daytona race, was released to drive June 1, 1999. Santerre and the MONRO racing crew attempted to make both Dover and South Boston but failed. Watkins Glen was a track with numerous past successes for Santerre and it proved to be the team's lucky charm.
The 30-year old Santerre proceeded to stun the field and himself with a top-10 qualifying effort. Though Santerre knew the car was good, he couldn't get a clean lap in practice and the #47 was never above 20th on the fast time practice sheets.
"It is tricky at the road courses," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native, commented. "Qualifying order is set by practice times and I was good, but I could never get a good clean lap. I would have an awesome lap going and then someone would go into the pit or come out of the pit and I would have to slow down."
The crew was a little concerned about getting behind a slower car during time trials because of the unique European qualifying set up. On the road course at Watkins Glen, the field is set by practice times with seven cars in a group. The cars are released from pit road at 10-second intervals and have five laps to make their best lap. However, if you don't have a good practice time and get behind slower cars, you could run up on them during time trials and hurt your qualifying times.
Luckily, Santerre and the MONRO Racing #47 started second in their group, behind Craftsman Truck Series veteran, Jack Sprague. Santerre was fast from the start and was getting faster every lap.
"The car was great during time trials," Santerre said. "I would have liked to have gotten my 5th lap in, but Scott (Lagasse) spun in turn 10 and was sitting right on the track in the racing groove. Santerre explains, "I was getting better every lap and I just knew that last lap was my best. I hit every corner real good and I felt fast, it was a shame that I had to hit the brakes, but we'll take a 10th place starting position after the last two weeks."
The MONRO Racing crew was looking forward to Santerre's first race back and they were confident Santerre could get it done at the road course. In 1995, Santerre finished 2nd in the Busch North Series event at the 2.45-mile road course and was the race winner in 1996. He had more laps than most of his competitors on the Watkins Glen course and had a 12th place finish last year in the 1998 Lysol 200. Santerre started the 82-lap event on the outside of row five. By the end of the first circuit, Santerre was 7th and gaining ground. By lap four, the MONRO Chevrolet was 5th until the second-place runner, Randy Lajoie went off track in turn one and came back on track right in front of Santerre, costing him several positions.
A multiple-car crash in turn 10 brought out the first caution on lap 10 with Santerre running 7th. Just past the pit road entrance, Santerre felt a slight vibration and as he started up the hill into the essess, his car dropped and his left rear tire rolled right by.
"I couldn't believe it," commented Santerre. "I started up the hill and the car just stopped and flopped on the left rear, I looked out my window and my tire went rolling past. I radioed in and told the guys they weren't going to believe what happened." Santerre continues, "I didn't know what happened, I thought the entire wheel must have come off with the tire or something like that. I knew the crew torqued the wheel so it wasn't that. The crew was at a loss too. It was the strangest thing I've ever had happen."
A wrecker was summoned under caution, but Santerre lost five laps between being towed in and fixing the tire.
Santerre restarted in the rear of the field and three laps later, when the second caution of the day was thrown, Santerre again came down pit road so the crew could check the tire. Three of the five lugnuts were loose. The crew tightened them and sent him back out.
"I was at a loss," confirmed Mike Greci, the team's crew chief. "Until a couple guys from another team came up and told us about some faulty lugnuts. We checked the thread in the nut and sure enough, it was wrong. We brought Andy back in immediately and got the tires changed. I radioed Andy to tell him we found the problem and fixed it. I wanted him to be confident the tire was going to stay on if he sunk it in the corner."
Santerre elected to stay in the car and test his strength, endurance, and his leg for the remainder of the race. He passed all tests with flying colors.
"Mike told me to use the rest of the race as a test session," Santerre explained. "I didn't want to get in the way of the lead lap cars, but I drove it as hard as I could when I was alone or near lapped cars." Santerre ends, "My leg felt great and I made it through. I had a bit of a headache after the race, but I proved to myself that I could get through a hot and grueling race. I'm ready for Milwaukee."
Santerre managed a 30th place finish at The Glen in spite of his early problems.0
The MONRO Racing crew head to Milwaukee for the 4th of July weekend 34th in the Busch Series championship points.