Santerre Doesn't Diehard at The Milwaukee Mile Harrisburg, North Carolina -- Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Santerre Doesn't Diehard at The Milwaukee Mile
Harrisburg, North Carolina -- Andy Santerre, driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, gutted out the entire 250 circuits in scorching heat and humidity to finish his first oval track event since his broken leg in the season-opening race. Santerre finished 13th in the Diehard 250 at the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday, July 4, 1999.
The 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year," was one race into his comeback as the MONRO team headed to Milwaukee. He was optimistic about the event.
"Milwaukee is my kind of track," the 30-year old Santerre related. "Milwaukee is a flat one-mile track which is exactly what my background boasts. We have a great flat track car here and I am ready for my oval track return."
The MONRO Racing team was 4th on the sheet after the first and only Busch Series practice session. They were optimistic about qualifying until they realized they had an early draw.
"You always like to be toward the rear of the qualifying order," Santerre confirmed. "Nine times out of ten you don't want to be one of the first 10 or 15 cars out. The track gets more grip the more rubber on the track and with so many cars trying to qualify, the farther back you are in order, the better chances the temperature will be cooler or the sun will be down."
Qualifying order is determined by drawing a number out of a bin. All the teams follow the same rules and you qualify the number you draw. Santerre drew 5th and when he went out, the track was green from a recent shower and the times were down from practice.
"The track changed a lot," Santerre admitted. "We were great in practice and I was confident about a top-10, but on my first lap, I got into the curb and the car jumped out from underneath me. I almost lost it and had to get out of the throttle. My first lap was real slow so I was a lot more conservative on the 2nd lap because I knew I had to turn a time in to get in the race."
The MONRO Muffler Brake started the Diehard 250 on the outside of row 16. By the end of the first circuit, Santerre was racing 27th. By the first caution at lap 83, Santerre was 15th and on the lead lap.
Santerre pitted, put on four tires, and got some ice to put down his suit to help combat the heat. However, when he put the ice down his suit, he pulled his earplug out and was having trouble hearing the spotter and his crew. When he came back on the race track and the lapped cars pulled to the inside, he found himself buried in traffic and unable to hear his spotter or crew very well. The racing got real tight as the lead lap cars tried to get around the 20 or so lapped cars and Santerre was immersed in a pack of cars racing door to door. The car in front of Santerre spun and Santerre got on the binders, the #37 car got into the back of Santerre and sent him for a spin. Santerre kept his head, turned the wheel against the spin and after a complete 360 straightened the car out and kept racing losing only two positions and staying on the lead lap.
"I still don't know how I did it," Santerre says of his miraculous save. "I got hit from behind and the car came right out from underneath me. I remember being backward on the track with all the cars coming at me. I just jerked the wheel, the car straightened out and I gave it a gear and went."
Santerre brought the car down pit road to the attention of the MONRO Racing crew. The wheels were flat spotted and needed changed. NASCAR allows three sets of tires per team per race including the tires you start the race on. You can get credit if your tires pose a safety hazard and receive additional tires without penalty. The team received credit for two tires. However, there were over 100 laps remaining and the team could only change two tires at the next stop.
Santerre began getting heated at lap 171. A caution was thrown for an accident on the backstretch, Santerre asked how many laps remaining and requested a driver to stand by in case he needed to get out.
There was no a high attrition rate and the drivers that were out of the event from accidents were already filling in for other drivers who could not go the distance. The team was still on the lead lap so they opted to keep bringing Santerre in for ice and water.
Santerre brought the MONRO Chevrolet down pit road five times in the seven-lap caution. The team kept giving him water and ice and he was able to take his helmet off and fix his ear plugs so he could communicate with the team. Santerre was able to cool off enough in that pit sequence to finish the race.
Santerre was 13th at the finish line. Scoring his best finish in his three races of the 1999 season.
The MONRO Racing team heads to Loudon, New Hampshire on their Busch Series weekend off to compete in the NASCAR Busch North Series Pennzoil/Replacement Auto Parts 100 at New Hampshire International Speedway.