Andy Santerre returns to New Hampshire Intl Speedway for Busch 125 with one win under his belt; plans for more to come in Busch North Series return. LOUDON, N.H. (May 2,2002)-- It's probably not accurate to say that Andy Santerre has set out to...
Andy Santerre returns to New Hampshire Intl Speedway for Busch 125 with one win under his belt; plans for more to come in Busch North Series return.
LOUDON, N.H. (May 2,2002)-- It's probably not accurate to say that Andy Santerre has set out to prove that you really can come home again by focusing on the Busch North Series, NASCAR Touring schedule. Even thought most of his racing since 1998 has been with the NASCAR Busch Series, Grand National Division, he's kept his toe in the Busch North pond as either a driver or an owner all the time.
Still, the Cherryfield, Maine native has adjustments to make as he seeks to capture the title which barely eluded him several times in the mid-1990's. The most obvious is the 800 to 1000-mile one-way commute on the interstates from his North Carolina shop to most of the New England tracks the series calls home. He showed no road weariness in winning the season opener at Lee USA Speedway in Lee, N.H. Now he faces another challenge- New Hampshire International Speedway, a track that's provided him with two of his eleven career Busch North Series victories, has changed configuration for the 2002 season
When Santerre and the other Busch North Series teams check into the garage area for the May 9-11 Busch 125, they'll find an extra racing lane has been added to the inside of the turns at the 1.058 mile superspeedway. To help them acclimate, an additional practice session has been scheduled on Thursday, May 9. Regular practice follows on Friday, May 10, with Bud Pole Qualifying at 10:30 a.m. and final practice after time trials for the Busch Series, Grand National Division, which shares the traditional Mother's Day weekend doubleheader at the "Magic Mile". The Busch 125 is set for the green flag on Saturday, May 11, at 3:30 p.m. in front of the SPEED Channel cameras, who will tape the race for broadcast on May 20.
Trying to visualize the changes in a track he's known so well, Santerre observed, "It sounds like they're making the bottom groove the second groove." Changing perspective from driver to chassis expert, he added "I don't think you'll see a lot of setup changes because it's still going to be the same degree of banking. It's going to be a little shorter now around the bottom, so you may need a different gear, but the outside groove might be the fast one now."
Whatever the dynamics of the new layout turn out to be, Santerre expects his instincts and those of his fellow competitors to take over as soon as they hit the track. "Once you've done a few laps, it comes to you," he noted. "It's kind of a natural thing for a race driver to settle in."
Of course, winning in his return to the series last month gave Santerre an immediate shot of confidence, which he hopes to carry over to NHIS. "It's always good to win right off the bat, but that one wasn't easy. There were a couple of cars that were real good, but I got a couple of breaks and got up front," he said in recalling his battle to stay ahead of pursuers Mike Olsen and Mike Johnson in the closing laps.
Speaking of the upgrades the Busch North Series has gone through since he last was a regular in 1997, he added, "I don't think any races are free. You've got a lot of good cars and good equipment now. You've got to try to be the best prepared you can."
"Going to New Hampshire, I'm confident we can go and run in the top five and have a good car that's capable of winning," Santerre concluded.
Last year at this same event, he nearly got to make the trip to victory lane, but as a car owner. Then Tom Carey cut a tire in the closing laps, and the win was denied. This year, Andy Santerre wants to complete the journey, and he hopes to enter victory lane from the best seat in the house.