Mooresville, North Carolina -- Santerre-Reece Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Busch Series driver, Andy Santerre and area businessman, Mike Reece, qualified a solid16th and ran strong before a miscommunication during a pit stop relegated the team...
Mooresville, North Carolina -- Santerre-Reece Motorsports, co-owned by NASCAR Busch Series driver, Andy Santerre and area businessman, Mike Reece, qualified a solid16th and ran strong before a miscommunication during a pit stop relegated the team to a 23rd place finish in the NASCAR Busch Series All-Tel 200 at North Carolina Speedway on Saturday, February 24, 2001.
Andy Santerre, the 1998 Raybestos "Rookie of the Year" on the Busch Series, tested his Santerre-Reece Motorsports #01 Chevrolet Monte Carlos at Rockingham earlier in the month and knew he would have a strong run.
"We tested the first part of February and we were real good on long runs," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native explained. "We weren't as good as the Fords in qualifying trim, but we were very consistent on old tires. I knew if we had a good qualifying e ffort, we would be competitive."
Santerre was one of only 10 drivers to better his practice time in qualifying. When the session was finished, Santerre sat on the outside of row eight in the 16th position. It was a solid qualifying effort for a team in their first NASCAR Busch Series ou ting.
"I was very pleased with how well the crew worked together and how smooth everything went," commented crew chief, Stan Meserve. "We are a brand new team and this was our first time at the track in a competitive situation. We seemed to work good together and communicated real well. For the first time out, we'll take a 16th place starting position."
Santerre was solid in happy hour practice and was excited about his first race as an owner and driver. His excitement was not misplaced; at the drop of the green flag, Santerre began a steady move toward the front of the pack. By lap 10 he was in 13th po sition. By lap 20 he was in the top --10. When he pitted at lap 97, Santerre was running in the fourth position.
"The car was running awesome," Santerre said of his Monte Carlo. "We were so good on old tires, I really thought we had a shot at a top-5 until the pit stop." Santerre finishes, "At least we proved to ourselves and to those involved in the industry that we can run up front and be competitive. It is just a matter of time until we get everything sorted out and post competitive finishes."
A miscommunication during the lap 97 pit stop ended Santerre's hopes for a top-5 finish. Santerre pitted under green-flag conditions with a Winston Cup pit crew, hired for the day, providing the maintenance on the car. The right side tire change went fla wlessly, when the crew came to pit the driver side, the jack handle wasn't tight and the jack dropped. The jack dropping is the driver's signal to go and Santerre went. The left front tire was not tight and rolled off the studs. Santerre and the team lo st two laps trying to back the car back into the box and get it jacked back up.
"It is unfortunate that it happened," the 32-year old Santerre said, but that is part of racing. "You are going to have good days and bad days in this sport and unfortunately, that was a bad day for us. Still, we raced competitively, proved we had a good car. We left Rockingham with our car in one piece and no one on our crew was injured." Santerre continues, "The pit crew felt horrible, but they did their best and it was a freak thing that happened. We'll chalk this race up to a learning experience an d get ready for Bristol in March."
Santerre crossed the finish line 23rd, earning $9,125 for his effort.
The team's next event will be at Bristol Motor Speedway on March 24, 2001. They plan to test at Bristol within the coming weeks.