To describe the 2004 Busch North Series point race developing between Andy Santerre and Mike Olsen, we can quote the unlikely combination of Sonny and Cher with Satchel Paige. In their most famous anthem, Sonny and Cher sang "The Beat Goes...
To describe the 2004 Busch North Series point race developing between Andy Santerre and Mike Olsen, we can quote the unlikely combination of Sonny and Cher with Satchel Paige.
In their most famous anthem, Sonny and Cher sang "The Beat Goes On". It certainly does for Santerre and his Bessey Motorsports team. They've won two in a row and four of seven races so far in 2004 to go with a second, a sixth, and a ninth. No driver has ever won four of the first seven races in a Busch North Series season before, but last year Santerre won three of the first four and romped to the title. This year, it's not proving to be easy no matter how much he wins.
Santerre might take to heart the words of Satchel Paige, the ageless pitcher of the 1950's who explained his longevity by saying, "Don't look back, something might be gainin' on you." Mike Olsen isn't actually gaining on Santerre., but he's staying within striking distance with his own outstanding record. The 2001 champion has the same clean slate of top tens as Santerre, and he's finished in the top three for each of the last five races. During Santerre's back-to-back wins, the Little Trees Chevrolet driver has lost only ten points.
History teaches us that at least one of the title contenders, probably both, will have a bad finish before the season is over. Only two drivers have completed every lap in a Busch North season- Brad Leighton in 2000 and Brian Hoar in 2003. When the nearly inevitable "early out" happens, Santerre and Olsen pray it happens to them at a short track rather than at NHIS or Watkins Glen. At those events the large fields mean an early trip to the garage can result in a big loss of points compared to the same problem at a short track.
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A couple of final notes on Santerre's 2004 season to date. In none of his four victories has he taken the lead for the final time before lap 98, and only twice all year, in the opener at Lee USA and briefly at Stafford, has he led a lap before the halfway mark.
Finally, they're smiling at Castle Chemical headquarters in Rochester, N.Y. Santerre's long-time associate sponsor takes the primary role for the two races in their home area, Holland and Lake Erie, and they've been rewarded with three victories the last four times their logo has adorned the fenders of the #6. Andy's primary sponsor, Aubuchon Hardware, returns to its normal role when the series moves back to New England.
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Brian Hoar showed his short-track program is rounding into form by winning his first Busch Pole of the season at Lake Erie, which of course was also the first Busch Pole for Dodge in the series. Brian ran in the top five most of the race before he was set back for involvement in Ryan Moore's spin. Brian's dad, Doug Hoar, made his Busch North Series debut by putting 31 laps on a brand-new Goss Dodge Intrepid before parking with overheating.
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VIP Charter Coaches Chevrolet driver Bill Penfold was playing with pain both hand and foot, so to speak. He drove with a wrist injury from a non-Busch North Series racing incident and a work-related foot injury. He finished 15th after an early pit stop and a full-power spin down the back straight which produced smoke rivaling the pre-race pyrotechnics or the winner's post-race burnout.
The Penfold and Moore Racing teams had the longest interstate hauls to Lake Erie Speedway from their shops in the Portland, Maine area. Rand-McNally lists the distance from Portland to Erie as 645 miles. It might be even further from Mike Olsen's shop in northern New Hampshire or the Hoar, Stockwell, and McRae garages in Vermont, depending on their routes around Lake Champlain.
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Not quite worst-to-first, but close. Mike Johnson was next-to-last at Holland and second at Lake Erie, a 21-position improvement which earned him the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award and $300. With an extra $1,000 from Ford for second place, it was a profitable trip from Massachusetts for the Johnson Lumber gang.
Fellow Bay State resident Dale Quarterley won the $1,000 PowerAde Power Move of the Race Award for the third time in 2004, but for the first time he didn't combine it with the Featherlite Most Improved Driver Award.
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Milestones.... Ryan Seaman's 12th place was a career best for the Auto Meter Rookie of the Year leader. He was the top freshman for the sixth time in seven races.... Johnson and Bryon Chew notched their best finishes of the year... Kelly Moore was in the top ten for the fifth race in a row and Matt Kobyluck for the fourth straight time... Mike Stefanik made the top ten after a four-race absence... Eddie MacDonald, by contrast, has been no better than tenth in five straight outings.