Santerre Overcomes Disappointing Qualifying to Score Top-Five Harrisburg, North Carolina - Two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, Andy Santerre overcame a dismal qualifying effort in his ...
Santerre Overcomes Disappointing Qualifying to Score Top-Five
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, Andy Santerre overcame a dismal qualifying effort in his #6 Aubuhcon Hardware Chevrolet to finish 4th in the Seimens 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway on July 24, 2004.
Santerre tested at the "Magic Mile" in June and was unhappy with the car's performance.
"We were way off the pace," the 35-year old Santerre admitted. "So bad, in fact, that the other teams in attendance accused us of sandbagging. We went to the session with a new front end I wanted to try and nothing we did could make it work. By late afternoon, we put everything back to what I had raced in the car in the past, but we were still a few tenths off the pace."
Their performance at the open test prompted the crew to work extra hard on the car. Santerre personally spent three days going through the car inch by inch looking for potential problems, finding a few and making sure the set-up was perfect.
Santerre and the crew made vast improvements on the car and were satisfied that they had fixed the majority of the problems after their first few laps on the track. However, other teams had picked up more speed and Santerre had to face the fact that he did not have a car capable of winning.
"We were decent off the truck, maybe a 10th place car," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native said. "But as the session went on, other teams were getting better and we weren't. We couldn't make any major changes because practice time was limited so we did what we could."
Santerre and crew got the Aubuchon Hardware Chevrolet ready to qualify, hoping to pick up a tenth or two and settle into the top-10. Though Santerre backed up his time in his simulated qualifying run during practice, other teams again picked up their speed and Santerre dropped to 15th on the starting grid.
"I am disappointed, really," Santerre said of his qualifying effort. "I have good equipment, a well maintained and set-up race car, there is no need of us qualifying at the speed we did. As a driver, I'll take the blame for some of it, but the car just won't get in the corners. That is where our problem lies."
Santerre spent Friday at the track talking to his crew trying to determine what changes could be made to make the car better. They went out for their final practice and were still not happy with the car so they implemented the changes they had discussed on Friday and the car came to life in the final 15 minutes of practice.
"The car is much better than it has been all weekend," a relieved Santerre explained. "I still don't think we have a winning car, but we have a strong top-five car and if we can get out of here with a top-five, I will be real happy."
Santerre had extra incentive for wanting to race well, not only was he was making his 150th career NASACR Busch North Series start at New Hampshire International, but he is in a tight points race for the series championship as well.
Santerre started the 125-lap event on the inside of row eight and quickly made his move toward the front. By lap 10 he was 12th and when the caution flag flew on lap 28, he was challenging for 10th position.
Santerre brought his Chevrolet down pit road for fuel and a minor chassis adjustment on lap 30. A lightening fast pit stop put him back on track in 7th with three of the four cars in front of him not having pitted.
When the race resumed, Santerre quickly established himself in the top-five where he raced for the remainder of the event.
"We had a great pit stop and that was the key to our race," Santerre confided. "I knew if we could stay out of trouble, not have mechanical failures and get to the pit stop, we would be fine."
Santerre, a 10-year veteran on the Busch North Series, is one of the best when it comes to race strategy; he is adept at saving his tires, taking care of his equipment and patiently moving through the field.
"I'm thrilled with the finish," Santerre said during post race inspection. "After qualifying, I knew we weren't going to win the race so I went into points mode. My goal was a top-five and we accomplished that so we were able to take a potentially bad day and make it productive." Santerre continues, "Now, we will just have to work that much harder on the car and get it ready for NHIS in September."
Santerre remains 27 points ahead in the battle for the 2004 Busch North Series Championship.
Santerre and his Bessey Motorsports team will head to Adirondack International Speedway in Beaver Falls, New York next weekend for the Kinney Drugs 150.
For more information about the team and sponsors, log onto www.andysanterre.com, www.aubuchon.com or www.casltepackspower.com.