Mooresville, North Carolina -- Andy Santerre, driver of the ...
Mooresville, North Carolina -- Andy Santerre, driver of the #01 Team EJP Chevrolet owned by Santerre-Reece Motorsports, endured a weekend of unanticipated struggle. Santerre qualified 19th and finished 18th in the GNC Live Well 200 at Watkins Glen International Speedway on July 8, 2001.
Santerre, a two-time Watkins Glen winner, knows how a car should handle at the road course and knows, better than most, how to navigate the hard left and right hand turns on the 2.45-mile road course. In that regard, Santerre, who is running a limited schedule on the NASCAR Busch Series, felt he would run well and enjoy a successful, uneventful weekend. What he experienced was a frustrating weekend that tested his and his crews ability to work under pressure.
"From the first lap on the track, my car didn't handle anywhere near the way it did when I won here (Watkins Glen) last August," the 32-year old Santerre conceded. "I couldn't downshift in the hard right-hander (Turn 1), which is where I have done most of my passing in the past and I was losing a lot of time in that corner. I thought it was the transmission, so we changed it right before qualifying. The car still wheel-hopped during time trials so we put in a third transmission, the one I raced when I won here last year. The car still wouldn't go through that first turn, so we realized it wasn't the transmission after all and we had to start looking elsewhere."
Happy hour was over and Santerre and the crew knew the car would not be competitive in the race without some major adjustments. They were up against a wall, but proved their mettle as they set out to logically dissect the cars actions and find a solution.
What they decided was that with the speed Santerre was carrying into Turn 1 and with the brakes being so aggressive, the balance of the racecar was upset when he jumped on the brakes. The team decided to make several different changes to try and stabilize the car when the brakes were used.
At the start of the race, Santerre was a little anxious to see how the car would react in the first turn, but the changes proved to be the correct ones and Santerre's only complaint was that the car was a little tight in the right hand turns.
"The car was 100% better in the race," Santerre commented. "I really thought we were sitting pretty good. I knew we didn't have a car that could compete for the win, but I thought we had a solid top-10 car. We ran in the top-3 for over 15 laps and held our track position with no serious challenges."
Santerre pitted on lap 39 for four tires and fuel, hoping to stretch their fuel mileage and go the distance. But shortly into his run, the team knew something was wrong, his times had dropped off about one second per lap and Santerre was complaining of a loose condition. When the caution came out again, Santerre and the crew debated their course of action.
"We were going to be one or two laps shy of the finish unless we had about five laps of caution," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native admitted. "But that set of tires was no where near as good as the first set. When Stan (Meserve, the team's crew chief) called off my lap times, we decided we better pit. Lucky we did as the crew radioed to tell me the right rear tire was going down."
After the last round of pit stops, Santerre was on his own, pit stops had cycled around and Santerre was sitting 22nd; he would have to earn every position by passing on the race track. It was with about 20 laps to go that the Santerre-Reece team encountered yet another set back.
"The brakes kept getting hot and would lose grip," Santerre explained. "I could run a few laps using the brakes, but then they would give out. I thought at first that we just didn't have enough ducts blowing on the brakes and that they were getting hot, but when we got back to the shop and I looked the car over, I saw that there was no pad left on either the front or the rear.
Santerre finished 18th after completing 82 of the scheduled 82 laps. It was not the finish the team was hoping for, but they were philosophical about the run.
"I admit I thought we had a better car than an 18th place finish," Santerre said. "But considering how uncompetitive we were after happy hour on Saturday, I was pleased to have run as well as we did. The team did a great job making the right changes on the car. If we hadn't had to come in and pit that last time for tires, we would have had better track position and a better finish. The car handled a lot better than our finish indicates and I am real proud of my team and our efforts."
The Santerre-Reece Motorsports team will field a car for Tom Carey, Jr. in the NASCAR Busch North Series New England 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway on Saturday, July 21, 2001.
Andy Santerre will again be behind the wheel of his #01 Chevrolet Monte Carlo at Pikes Peak International Raceway for the NAPA AutoCare 250 on July 28, 2001.