Santerre Strong at NHIS; Wins 5th Race of the Season Harrisburg, North Carolina - Two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, Andy Santerre had one purpose when he strapped into his ...
Santerre Strong at NHIS; Wins 5th Race of the Season
Harrisburg, North Carolina - Two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, Andy Santerre had one purpose when he strapped into his #6 Aubuchon Hardware Chevrolet on Monday, September 20, 2004 for the Sylvania 125 at New Hampshire International Speedway - to visit victory lane. His single-minded determination paid off as he came from the 11th starting position to claim his 5th victory of the 2004 season.
Santerre was the fastest car in Thursday's practice session. However, qualifying has been a thorn in Santerre's side for the last few seasons and he posted a dismal lap relegating him to 12th position in the starting field.
"I really don't know what happened," Santerre stated. 'The car was neutral in practice - almost perfect - but the track loosened up for qualifying. All the guys at the top of the sheet who were fast in practice are back with me in the starting line-up and the guys that were a little tight in practice qualified up front."
Rain from the remnants of Hurricane Ivan washed away any chance for the Busch North Series to get their race in on Saturday so the event was postponed to Monday.
"It is time consuming and stressful having to scramble and change travel arrangements on Cup weekend," the 35-year old Santerre explained. "But if the alternative was canceling the race I am glad they (NASCAR) made the decision to race the event. New Hampshire is our biggest track and event of the season. This is where we all want to race and win!"
Due to the re-scheduling of the event, NASCAR made the decision to hold a competition yellow at lap 35 of the 125-lap event. Santerre had mixed feelings about the decision.
"I think the competition yellow is a good call because most crews will be short-handed race time," Santerre commented. "We're going to be short a spotter and rear tire carrier ourselves." Santerre continues, "Pit stops are where my team usually shines and I gain several positions every stop, so I have my work cut out for me knowing I have to pass all the cars on the race track. We'll just have to focus on what changes to make under the caution and try to adjust the car better than everyone else."
A disqualification in the qualifying order moved Santerre up a position. He took the green-flag on a chilly morning in the 11th position. He worked his way up to 7th when the competition yellow was thrown. Santerre and the crew made wholesale changes during the break.
"We made some big changes," Santerre admitted after the race. "We made some air pressure adjustments and some wedge adjustments. All big changes on their own, but together, it was major." Santerre finishes, "I told Lee (Roy, Busch North Tour Director) before the start of the race that the team that makes the best adjustments will win the race."
Large or small, the changes Santerre and the Bessey Motorsports crew made to the Aubuchon Hardware Chevrolet brought the car to life. Within five green flag laps after the competition yellow, Santerre raced into 5th position. Five green flag laps later, he was 4th, three more circuits and he was 3rd behind Kelly Moore and Mike Gallo. Moore proved a harder pass than the rest of the field. Santerre dogged Moore for almost 20 laps trying to get by the 47 cleanly. A caution on lap 97 changed the face of the event.
"I was trying everything to get around Kelly (Moore)," Santerre commented. "He is one of the hardest cars out here to pass, because he will drive the wheels of the car to keep you behind him."
In the end, that was Moore's demise. "I noticed under caution that his left rear tire was soft. I radioed my guys to tell the 47 crew they had a tire going down. After having another driver verify my statement, Kelly pitted to change tires."
Moore's pit stop moved Santerre into 2nd position and on a lap 106 restart, Santerre got underneath the 88 of Mike Gallo and took the lead on lap 107. He never looked back.
"I knew once I got by the 88 that I was in control of the race," Santerre, a Cherryfield, Maine native said. "Mike (Gallo) lost 3rd gear early so I knew on restarts I could get a good jump."
Santerre survived two more restarts and an 18-minute red flag condition to take his 3rd career win at the Magic Mile and his series leading 5th win of the season.
"I came here with one goal," Santerre admitted. "To win this race and that is just what we did. The crew did a great job. I had a modified tire carrier and spotter and they both did a great job helping out. My guys made some wholesale changes to my car on the pit stop and that was the key to our winning this race!"
Santerre left NHIS waiting to hear if he successfully defended his Lincoln Electric/Merriam-Graves New Hampshire International Speedway Track Championship. He and Dale Quarterly both share a 1st and 4th place finish in the two events at NHIS. The tie breaker is typically the number of laps lead, but both Santerre and Quarterly took the lead in their respective wins at lap 107.
Santerre dedicated the win to car owner Nancy Bessey who lost her father, William Aggers Sunday afternoon.