Sadler Fills In for Santerre at NHIS; Finishes 15th Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the ...
Sadler Fills In for Santerre at NHIS; Finishes 15th
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Elliott Sadler, interim driver of the #47 MONRO Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet Monte Carlo on the NASCAR Busch Series, finished 15th after dodging several bullets and fighting a tight racecar in the Busch Series 200 at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, May 8, 1999.
Sadler, a Winston Cup "Rookie of the Year" contender, is filling in for the injured Andy Santerre. Santerre, who counts NHIS as his home track, has been rehabilitating at home for the past 10 weeks from a broken leg in the season- opening Napa Auto Parts 300 at Daytona International Speedway.
"I did everything in my power to get back for this race," Santerre commented. "I really wanted to make my comeback here and I worked real hard to do it, but things just didn't heal as fast as I wanted them too. The doctor's had June 5th as a target return date, I wanted to return May 8th but I guess that proves doctor's know best." Santerre continues, "I have therapy three times a week for three hours a day and I do my exercises at home on my off days. The doctors say it takes 12 weeks for a bone to completely heal and I am only at 10 weeks right now. I plan to make my comeback on June 5 at Dover."
Steady drizzle Friday morning delayed practice and put the entire race schedule behind. Due to the weather, the Busch Series had only one, one-hour practice session before time trials. The MONRO Racing crew wasn't too concerned as the majority of them are from the New England area and count NHIS as their home track as well.
Sadler was third fastest his first run on the 1.058-mile track and the crew began to tweak the chassis to make him even better. However, a water leak was found in the rear of the engine and the entire transmission had to be removed from the car to fix it. The crew worked furiously, but missed the last half of the practice session to correct the problem.
When time trials began, Sadler was confident because of his crew's experience. He turned in a time of 30.076, bettering his time in practice, but not enough to make the top-10. He ended up 23rd by the end of qualifying.
"The car was a little loose getting in the corner," Sadler admitted. "We missed the set up a tick and with competition the way it is now, just a tick can mean the difference between making the field and going home. Last year our time would have put us 3rd on the grid, we are 23rd this year. That is a testament to the competition in this series."
Happy hour found the team feeling good about their setup and chances for the race the next day.
"We were turning consistently fast times on 60 lap tires," Mike Greci, the IMI crew chief, said. "We were 25th on the practice sheet but were on a lot older tires than the other cars. We thought we had an ace in the hole."
Drizzle again plagued the morning on Saturday and a last minute change to the chassis to compensate for the weather was assumed a good idea.
When the green flag dropped, Salder gained a few positions right off the start. He raced in the top-20 until his car became so tight it was unbearable.
"The car was pushing like a dump truck in the corners," Sadler explained. "The car would not turn and I was abusing the tires pretty bad trying to keep the pace. I think the change we made right before the race made the car a little too tight. We had such a long green flag run that we weren't able to pit and loosen the car up, the leader was blistering fast and caught us 81 laps into the race."
The team raced 92 laps before a much-needed caution came out. Unfortunately, they went a lap down racing and waiting for the caution to free up the chassis.
After the pit stop, Sadler was able to stay with the leaders and race with the top-10 cars. He had a seven-second lead on the next car one lap down until a caution was thrown with 30 laps to go.
Sadler was right in the thick of things when the lap-30 to go caution was thrown. The entire front stretch was covered with wrecked cars and Sadler barely scraped by on the inside to make it through.
"We might not have won this race or finished in the top-10," Sadler said, "But we had someone looking out for us today. We are lucky to have the car in one piece."
The crew opted to pit and change right side tires to remain competitive with the other cars one lap down. The change wasn't what the MONRO #47 wanted though and Sadler lost six positions before another caution was thrown. Sadler again pitted and left side tires were put on to match up with the right side tires. Sadler started back to the front when the green flag flew again.
He was coming on strong when a final caution was thrown with one lap to go and the race ended under caution. Sadler gained back five of the six positions he lost and finished 15th.
"It was a good race all in all," Sadler admitted. "I wish the car wouldn't have been so tight at the beginning, but that's racing. We dodged a few bullets on the race track today, there were two wrecks that happened right in front of me and we were lucky to make it through. We'll take the finish and head to Richmond."
Sadler and the MONRO Racing crew head to Richmond next Friday night sitting 35th in the championship owner points, after gaining seven positions in the last two weeks.