SANTERRE SEEKS FOURTH STRAIGHT LEE USA SPEEDWAY WIN; BEGINS QUEST FOR FOURTH BUSCH NORTH TITLE IN WHELEN 150, SUN., MAY 15 DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2005) -- When the green flag waves to start the Whelen 150 on Sunday afternoon, May 15,...
SANTERRE SEEKS FOURTH STRAIGHT LEE USA SPEEDWAY WIN; BEGINS QUEST FOR FOURTH BUSCH NORTH TITLE IN WHELEN 150, SUN., MAY 15
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 5, 2005) -- When the green flag waves to start the Whelen 150 on Sunday afternoon, May 15, Andy Santerre will be in the surroundings he likes best. First, he'll be in a race car seeking his record fourth straight NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series championship, a prospect which was not assured for most of the off-season. Second, he'll be at Lee USA Speedway, where each of his three previous title runs has begun with a trip to victory lane.
The Whelen 150 marks the 10th straight year the Busch North Series has opened its season at Lee USA Speedway, where the opening day winner has emerged as the eventual series champion five times in the last nine years.
After Santerre clinched his third straight title in 2004, car owner Joe Bessey dissolved his team and during the winter Santerre accepted a position with Grizco Racing as team manager for Mike Stefanik, whose operation moved to Santerre's shop in Harrisburg, N.C. Soon afterward, Brad Leighton rejoined the Grizco fold for a partial schedule and speculation mounted that Santerre would be back in the driver's seat as well. That speculation became reality recently when it was announced that Castle Hi-Tech Chemicals, an associate sponsor of Santerre for several years, would step up to the primary sponsor role for a full 2005 campaign.
Needless to say, it won't be just another season opener for the defending champion. "We can't wait to get there to get the first race under our belts," Santerre said. "We've worked real hard this winter, we've been real busy with the cars, but it's going to be a lot of fun. For me there's more of a load on my shoulders to make sure the other two teams have cars that are capable of winning. But I'm looking forward to it."
Few NASCAR competitors have undertaken the level of responsibility Santerre will assume for 2005. "What I'm hoping , as a manager, is that we can get things lined up so each team will eventually be able to run itself. We've got some great people lined up," he noted, pointing to Stefanik's crew chief Jerry Babb and Leighton's crew chief, former Busch North driving star Tom Carey, as keys to success. "As long as the people on the teams all work good together and the chemistry is there, I hope by the third or fourth race those guys will be pretty much on their own. The first few weeks are going to be pretty hectic because I know they'll be asking me a lot of questions," he added.
Andy Santerre has already shown his mastery of Lee USA Speedway by winning from the front and winning from deep in the field, by dominating the race and by taking the lead in the closing laps. "Lee stays about the same every year," Santerre said. "We do change things a bit every time we go there. You have to do a few things to get forward bite. I think that's the key to that place. A lot of guys haven't figured how to get the car to come off the corners without spinning the tires. The last few years we've been able to do that. Hopefully all three of us will plan to go with the same setup."
Summing up his outlook for the new season, the defending champion observed, "They've dubbed us the 'superteam', but really we're just got three good drivers and a bunch of good teams with a great car owner. There area lot of other teams that fit into the same category, they just don't have three different drivers and cars."
The Whelen 150 will be held on Sunday, May 15, with practice beginning at 12:30 p.m. Busch Pole Qualifying is set for 2:30 p.m. with the green flag at 4:30 p.m. HDNet will provide live high-definition television coverage to a nationwide audience, with later enhanced rebroadcast on SPEED Channel.
NOTES OF INTEREST
* Andy Santerre won the 2004 Whelen 150 for his third straight victory in the season-opening event. Joey McCarthy, driving for a team formed just days before the race, finished second with Eddie MacDonald, whose parents own and operate the track, taking third. Ryan Moore was fourth and Mike Stefanik fifth. Bobby Dragon, who spun to the back of the field in the early laps, came back to take sixth. Matt Kobyluck, Mike Olsen, Brad Leighton, and Brian Hoar completed the top ten. Of 26 starters, 25 took the checkered flag. Dave Dion won the Busch Pole Award but finished 14th.
* The Busch Pole Qualifying record for Lee USA Speedway is held by Mike Olsen at 15.305 seconds, 86.204 miles per hour, set on April 21, 2002.
* The Whelen 150 will be the 17th Busch North Series race at Lee USA Speedway. Brad Leighton holds the record for Busch North victories at Lee USA with four, scored consecutively from 1996 through 1999. Santerre is second with three wins, also consecutive. Stub Fadden and Dale Shaw are two-time winners, while Kelly Moore, Bobby Dragon, Robbie Crouch, Dave Dion, and Tracy Gordon have scored one win.
* The 2005 Whelen 150 marks the return to regular Busch North Series action by Dale Shaw, the series' fourth all-time leading winner with 19 victories including two at Lee USA. Shaw takes over the #15 Willoughby Motorsports Chevrolet driven for the past two seasons by Bobby Dragon. Ironically, Dragon, with 14 wins, ranks right behind Shaw in that category.
* Drivers who have gone on to win the Busch North Series title after capturing the Whelen 150 at Lee USA are Dave Dion (1996), Brad Leighton (1999), and Andy Santerre (2002-2003-2004).
* Should Andy Santerre win his fourth straight Busch North Series title in 2005, he would become the first four-time champion in series history, consecutive or not. The only other three-time champion, Jamie Aube also won his titles in a hat trick, 1988-1989-1990.
* Lee USA Speedway opened with its current configuration in October 1983, replacing the 1/3-mile Lee Raceway tri-oval which operated on the same site since 1965. Part of the old track is still visible outside the back straight. Under the ownership of Red and Judy MacDonald, Lee USA has been a member of the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Series since 1992. Busch North Series drivers Mike Johnson and Eddie MacDonald are Lee USA alumni.
What: Whelen 150, NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Race 1 of 14
Where: Lee USA Speedway, Lee, N.H.
When: Sunday, May 15, 4:30 p.m.
Track layout: .375 mile paved oval
Race distance: 150 laps, 56.25 miles
Television: HDNet LIVE
SPEED Channel, Saturday, June 25, 12:30 p.m.
Schedule: Sunday, May 15 -- Practice 12:30-1:00 p.m. and 1:20-1:50 p.m.; Busch Pole Qualifying 2:30 p.m., Whelen 150 4:30 p.m.