Last Lap Pass Nets Santerre 2ndÂ Place Finish Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, the two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, showed just how fierce his determination is to defend his 2002 and...
Last Lap Pass Nets Santerre 2nd Place Finish
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, the two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, showed just how fierce his determination is to defend his 2002 and 2003 titles, by passing Mike Olsen, friend and rival in the 2004 point championship, on the last lap of the race for 2nd place in the Kinney Drugs 150 at Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, New York on Saturday, July 30, 2004
In his two prior starts at the ½-mile paved oval, Santerre won the inaugural race (2002) and finished 3rd in 2003. Naturally, after his first two finishes, he was confident heading into the series' third scheduled race at the state-of-the-art facility.
"I was confident we would be good," Santerre explained. "Adirondack fits my driving style and I have a good track record there. I tend to adapt to ½-mile tracks faster than most and we had two good races here prior so we had good notes to work from. Besides, I brought Faith (Santerre's favorite chassis) so I knew we would be a contender."
Dodging rain drops turned out to be the order of the day, but breaks in the clouds allowed for two short practice sessions. Santerre and his Aubuchon Hardware crew were fastest in the first practice, but faded in the second practice with a tight race car.
"I don't really know what happened," Santerre said about the drastic difference in his car from one practice to the next. "I just know we were real tight in that final ½ hour practice. We kept loosening the car up, but with such a limited amount of time, it is hard to fix the car and know you made the right call. My crew chief, Roger (Tryon) and I put our heads together and made a spring change prior to the start of the race."
Santerre led the first 21 circuits of the 150-lap event, but conceded the lead to Kelly Moore after an aggressive bump from behind in the early stages of the race.
"Kelly was letting me know he was there," Santerre said about the contact. "But it was way too early in the race to battle for the position and I knew we were going to pit, so I just let him go and settled in until I could make a pit stop."
Santerre pitted early in the event, changing right side tires and making a chassis adjustment to loosen the car up. The majority of teams opted not to pit so early in the event so Santerre came back on track mid pack.
"There was no question about my pitting," the 35-year old Santerre confirmed. "Both races at Adirondack have been won with the help of a pit stop. There was never a question about our strategy even though the weather was threatening."
Santerre restarted the event in 15th position and began to slowly make his way toward the front.
The Aubuchon Hardware Chevrolet was still tight and Santerre knew he would have to take care of the equipment the rest of the race and get the best finish he could.
Attrition with the leaders helped Santerre get into position for his final charge to the front.
"The 74 (Ryan Moore), the 99 (Bryon Chew) and a lapped car got together taking both the 74 and 99 out of contention," Santerre said. "It gave us two positions, but I hate that for the 99 because I think he had the best car on the track tonight." Santerre continues, "Then the 32 (Dale Quarterly) spun and collected the 96 (Mike Johnson) which gave us two more positions and put us in the top-five. From there, I just raced my guts out."
Santerre followed Mike Olsen during the closing laps of the race, trying to find an opening to overtake 2nd place without damaging or wrecking either race car in the process.
"I followed him for quite a few laps knowing I had to get by," Santerre explained. "My chance came on the last lap, I got under him and we raced side-by-side, I got a nose ahead coming off (turn) four and beat him to the line."
The last lap pass might very well prove to be a significant moment in the 2004 Championship for Santerre and Olsen who have established themselves as the leading contenders for the crown. Prior to the Adirondack event, 27 points separated the two competitors; Santerre gained 10 points with the 2nd place finish including five bonus points for leading a lap. If Olsen had finished 2nd and Santerre 3rd , the point spread would have remained the same.
"Mike and I have a good time," Santerre said of their racing together. "We are both clean racers who depend on our teams, our equipment and our experience to win races. I think the world of Mike and his team and no matter who wins the Championship, the best man will win."
After a weekend off which will feature a Toby Keith concert and a 98th birthday party for a close family friend, Santerre and his Bessey Motorsports team will head to Watkins Glen International Speedway in the Finger Lakes Region of New York state for the Mohegan Sun 150.
For more information about the team and sponsors, log onto www.andysanterre.com, www.aubuchon.com or www.castlepackspower.com.