BUSCH: Nazareth Andy Santerre Update

Sadler and MONRO Racing Escape Accidents; Finish 12th Santerre Cleared By Doctors To Test Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the ...

Sadler and MONRO Racing Escape Accidents; Finish 12th Santerre Cleared By Doctors To Test

Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, skirted numerous accidents and gained 31 positions in the race to score a 12th place finish in the rain-delayed and eventually shortened First Union 200 at Nazareth Speedway on Sunday, May 23, 1999.

Sadler, a current Winston Cup Series "Rookie of the Year" contender, had a conflict in his schedule with the First Union 200 time trials and the Winston at Lowe's Motor Speedway at Charlotte. The team elected to have Brad Bennett, a former NASCAR Busch North Series competitor and current Craftsman Truck Series competitor qualify the #47.

Bennett did the best he could with the car he had and just barely missed the field on time. However, the team was eligible for a provisional and won a spot in the race.

After time trials, the crew changed just about everything possible on the car. The changes must have worked as they were 18th fastest when the red flag was thrown to end the happy hour practice session.

Because Sadler, who currently sits 36th in the Winston Cup points standings, did not qualify the car, the MONRO Racing Chevrolet had to start in the rear of the field in 43rd position.

Sadler quickly moved up through the field and was 18th at half way. Pitting before the 100-lap mark was a gamble as the rain continued on and off during the event and the crew wasn't sure what the weather would do. They elected to follow the same pit strategy as the leaders and pitted for the first time at lap 109.

The crew was as high as 14th when a brake problem forced them back to 30th.

"We were real tight at the start of the race," the 24-year old Salder commented. "We elected to stay out because of the weather and the car actually started to come to us a little. Either that, or everyone else's cars started to go away." Sadler continues, "During a long green-flag run, I noticed the car wasn't running like it had been, the brakes weren't returning and they were catching slowing the car down."

"We had trouble with the brakes during practice," Mike Greci, the team's crew chief, admitted. "We checked them out and couldn't find anything wrong. We didn't have any problems all through happy hour so we thought we were all right. I should have had the guys take a closer look."

The crew got the problem cured and sent Sadler back out on the track. Still, he lost positions because the chassis wasn't working right.

With 25 laps to go, the crew pitted for four tires and a chassis adjustment. Sadler went back on the track in 28th position, the last car on the lead lap.

Shortly after, there was a big pile up in turn four and Sadler, far enough back not to have been involved, got through the clogged race track and gained seven positions to race in 21st. When the green flag dropped again, the car was right. Sadler gained nine positions under green and finished the First Union 200 in 12th position.

Sadler, who is filling in for the injured Andy Santerre, was happy about the finish, "For starting where we did and overcoming all we overcame, I think a 12th is as good as anything. We gained three more positions in the point standings and the crew is improving every week. I think the car and crew will be ready for Andy when he feels he is ready to return, which should be soon."

Santerre, the 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year" Champion, was injured in a lap-24 accident in the season-opening Napa Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway. He has spent the last 12 weeks recovering.

"I had a real torn up leg," the 30-year old Santerre explained. I had six breaks in my right leg, five on the tibial plateau (large bone in the lower leg just below the knee cap) and I broke my fibula (small bone on the outside of the lower leg) in half about five inched up from my ankle. After surgery, that involved placing three plates and over 20 screws in Santerre's leg, the doctor originally estimated six to eight weeks recovery time, but that time frame was misleading because that was just to put weight on my leg. The next four to six weeks were intense physical therapy to build my muscle tone back up."

Santerre lost 20 pounds during his recovery period and almost all muscle tone in his right leg. It has been a long road back for Santerre, trying to get total movement back in the knee, learning to walk without a limp, and building that muscle back up. He spends three days a week, three to four hours a day, in therapy. On his off days, he has two hours worth of exercises to perform. But the hard work is paying off.

Santerre visited Dr. David Martin last week in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and was given permission to get in the racecar and test.

"As far as I am concerned, the bone is healed," concluded Dr. David Martin, Associate=20 Professor of Sports Medicine and Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center. "As far=20 as the broken bone is concerned, it is as strong as his other bones, even stronger with the additional reinforcement. However, there is still swelling and soreness and I can not judge Andy's abilities, his muscle strength or stamina, only Andy Santerre can do that. I think he should test and base any decisions on returning on how he feels after the test. Fixing the bone is the easy part, getting back to 100% is the tough part."

Santerre and the MONRO Racing crew hope to test at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in the next week and a decision will be made after the test session whether Santerre will return at Dover on June 5, 1999 for the MBNA Platinum 200, as he has hoped, or at South Boston on June 12, 1999 for the South Boston 300.

"I can not wait to get back in the racecar," Santerre expressed. "That has been the hardest part of my recovery, watching my car go around the track and watching from home or from the pits. I'm not much of a spectator. I'm a racer."

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Drivers Elliott Sadler