Transition not easy for Santerre By Shawn A. Akers BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 8, 1999) Making a transition from one division to another in NASCAR is never easy for a driver. And Andy Santerre certainly didn't expect anything different when he...
Transition not easy for Santerre By Shawn A. Akers
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. (Jan. 8, 1999) Making a transition from one division to another in NASCAR is never easy for a driver. And Andy Santerre certainly didn't expect anything different when he decided to make the move south from Maine to race in the NASCAR Busch Series Grand National Division in 1998. The former standout in the Busch North Series, a part of the NASCAR Touring Division, discovered exactly what he anticipated -- some of the toughest competition in stock car racing today. But that, Santerre said, is what has helped him become a better driver over the past year. And it certainly helped motivate him to win the NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year title in 1998. "The Raybestos Rookie of the Year championship was our main goal this season," said Santerre, driver of the No. 47 Monro Muffler Brake & Service Chevrolet. "There were quite a few times when I thought we might not pull it out, but then we'd put together a great qualifying run and race. The competition was fierce this year and there are three or four other drivers who just didn't race the whole schedule like we did and I think that having more races to draw from helped us immensely." Santerre edged out such drivers as Dave Blaney, Wayne Grubb and Kevin Grubb for the top rookie award. Blaney, who finished second in the point battle, drove only a limited schedule in his No. 93 Bill Davis Racing Amoco Pontiac and made only 20 starts. Santerre missed qualifying for two races and made 29 starts in 31 attempts. Santerre finished 20th in the overall series point standings. He recorded two top-10 finishes and one top-five effort. Just as he figured, the early portion of the season was a learning experience for Santerre. Not having driven on most of the race tracks in the NASCAR Busch Series would take some getting used to, and his best effort in the first five events was a 16th-place run at Nashville. His first top-10 qualifying effort came at Bristol when he started sixth for the Moore's Snacks 250, and he wound up finishing a respectable 11th at the "World's Fastest Half-Mile." "Bristol is a tough place to race because you can get caught up in an accident so quickly there," Santerre said. "That's why we were proud of the team effort there. I think that really helped our confidence a lot, and some good things happened for us later in the season." Indeed. At Richmond in September, Santerre pulled off a mild surprise by winning the Bud Pole for the Autolite Platinum 250. He stayed up among the leaders throughout most of the race, and wound up earning his first top-10 (10th) in a race dominated by champion Dale Earnhardt Jr. Two races later, Santerre would shine again. After a sixth-place qualifying effort for the Carquest Auto Parts 250 at Gateway International Raceway, he managed to stay out of trouble and recorded his first career top-five effort, finishing fourth. By then it had become apparent that Santerre was the leading candidate for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. He had built a huge margin over several contenders, but ultimately had to fend off Blaney as Blaney made a tremendous push in the points race toward the end of the year. Santerre now puts his name alongside such drivers as Jeff Gordon, Steve Park, Johnny Benson, Hermie Sadler, Ricky Craven, Joe Nemechek, Kenny Wallace and Glenn Allen, all of whom previously earned NASCAR Busch Series Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors. "This award means the world to me because of the company I'm now included with," Santerre said. "There are a lot of talented, successful drivers that have earned this award and to be included in a sentence with the likes of them is awesome. I hope this is an omen of good things to come in my future."
Source: NASCAR Online