#47 MONRO Racing Chevrolet Baffles Crew and Santerre
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, attempted to make his come back at Dover Downs International Speedway but was not fast enough to make the starting grid for the MBNA Platinum 200 on Saturday, June 5, 1999. Santerre, the 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year," was attempting to make the field for only the second time this season. Santerre, was injured in a lap-24 accident in the season-opening Napa Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway and has spent the last 13 weeks recovering from a broken right leg.
It would be easy for the team to credit not making the field to Santerre and his lack of track time the last three months, but that would not be fair or true. The same car the crew took to Dover is the exact same car Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Monte Carlo while Santerre was recuperating, failed to make the field with at Bristol Motor Speedway in April.
After not making the field in Bristol with Sadler, the team immediately pointed the finger at the motor program. They scheduled time at a chassis dyno to be sure and made a change and have not had an engine problem since, nor, have they used the same car since. Dover was the next scheduled race for the car dubbed #008 and the newest car in the IMI fleet.
"We were a little concerned about taking the car to Dover," Joe Pirri, the team's car chief, admitted. "When Elliott (Sadler) didn't make the field at Bristol, we thought it was motor but we still went through the car to look for anything wrong. The car wasn't proven, but we thought the motor was the culprit. Now, after the car not running at Dover, we know that was not the only problem. Andy, Mike (crew chief), and I made the decision together to bring this car to Dover so we are all to blame."
Santerre was comfortable in the car and was sure they would run great. He was the most surprised when the car would not run and they did not make the field.
Santerre explains, "If you had asked me if I thought there was a chance we would not make the field at Dover, I would have said no way! I love the track and we had a brand new car for it. I was not at Bristol to see how we ran, so I was sure the car would be fine." Santerre continues, "The car felt great and I was comfortable, we just didn't have any speed. We couldn't have had the chassis handling any better. I guess that was exactly what Elliott said about the car at Bristol too."
Santerre and the crew practiced the first session and discovered they had a problem. During the session, Santerre's corner and straight-away speeds were timed and it was noted that Santerre was losing .3 (three tenths) seconds on each straight-away, .6 (six tenths) seconds a lap. Which, if subtracted from his qualifying time of 22.794 would have put him in the top-five in time trials. "It would be easy to point the finger at Andy and I'm sure a lot of people are, but he was not the problem," the team's crew chief, Mike Greci, argued. "I watched him qualify the car and watched him sink it in the corner farther that any other driver except Terry Labonte and Andy picked up the throttle sooner than Labonte." Greci concludes, "We didn't make the field because something is wrong with that car not because something is wrong with our driver. That might have been a valid argument if Elliott hadn't failed to make a field in the same car or if I hadn't seen with my own eyes how far Andy drove the car in." The crew spent the weekend trying to find a reason the car would not run. They have narrowed it down and found a few minor things, but they still have not found why it would be off so drastically. Rest assured that they will not quit looking until that car is right and they are confident it will race and qualify.
"You build a car and expect it to be right," Santerre acknowledged. "But itjust seems some cars are better than others. I think this will be a good car as soon as we find out if the problem is electrical, the body, or something else. We can't pinpoint it right now, but we will before we race that car again."
Santerre was unsuccessful in making his comeback at Dover Downs but plans to try again at South Boston Speedway on Saturday, June 12, 1999. Look for his #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo to make the field.