BNS: Watkins Glen: Andy Santerre race notes

Andy Santerre Scores Top-10 Finish at The Glen Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, the two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, raced to a solid 7th place finish in the Mohegan...

Andy Santerre Scores Top-10 Finish at The Glen

Harrisburg, North Carolina - Andy Santerre, the two-time and defending NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch North Series Champion, raced to a solid 7th place finish in the Mohegan Sun 150 presented by Pepsi at Watkins Glen International Speedway on Saturday, August 14, 2004. It was his 10th top-10 finish in 11 races.

The #6 Aubuchon Hardware Chevrolet earned the Busch Pole by default due to inclement weather, which forced the cancellation of qualifying. The 34-car field was set by current 2004 car owner points.

"We'll take the pole," Santerre said after learning qualifying was washed out. "We have a good car here, but we knew we wouldn't be challenging for the pole. We expected a top-10 qualifying and race effort so we are ahead of the game at this point."

One practice session was squeezed in after hours of track drying. Santerre was 6th quick in the practice session and was happy with the car, he and the crew opted to make one more change with five minutes left in practice and on his last lap on track, Santerre blew his primary transmission.

"You never want to have equipment failure," the 35-year old Santerre admitted. "But if you have to have failure, practice day is much better than race day!" Santerre continues, "It won't hurt us too bad. We have a back-up tranny that is basically the same and I have absolute faith in my crew to make sure everything is right with the car prior to the start of the race."

Santerre started the 62-lap event without a thought to the tranny, just focused on leading the first lap, picking up five bonus points and staying in the top-five until his scheduled pit stop.

Santerre's Chevy was tight at the start of the race and his times were more than a second off his practice times. He and the crew discussed the car during a 45-minute red flag condition on lap four.

"I radioed to Roger (Tryon, crew chief), Santerre explained. "We talked about some adjustments. The car was real tight and it didn't seem to have much grip. We thought it was just the radial rubber from the Cup cars, but once the race went green again, it didn't get any better."

The team made plans for their scheduled pit stop.

Instead of the discussed chassis adjustment, when it came time to pit, Santerre called for two tires and fuel only. The team pitted under green flag conditions on lap 23. - more - "The more I thought about the car's handling, the more I thought maybe we had a bad set of tires," Santerre explained. "The car was driving like it had in the practice session, it was just a second slower. I made the call to just change tires and fuel, thinking if it were the tires, an additional adjustment might kill the handling."

Santerre proved why he is known around the garage area as a chassis man in addition to a driver. His thoughts on the car were right on and when the field went back under green, Santerre picked up a second a lap on his previous lap times.

"For whatever reason, the tires just weren't a good match for the chassis set-up," Santerre said about his problems. "The second set of tires brought the car to life."

Santerre continued to race in the top-10 climbing as high as 4th after the pit stops. But late race cautions continued to bunch the field up and bring some of the faster cars with later pit stops within striking distance.

Santerre raced in the 6th position on the white flag lap, looking for a good points day. He caught 5th place driver, Mike Stefanik, on the backstretch and went low to set up a pass. Paul Wolfe, a part-time competitor not in the points battle, decided he wanted the position and drove low under both cars. Looking at the big picture, Santerre had to let off and protect his car and finish.

"It was an aggressive move that could have wrecked all three of us," Santerre said about the last-lap pass. "I guess he (Wolfe) wanted the position real bad and he wasn't racing for points so he didn't care if he wrecked himself or us. I didn't want to lose a spot, but I have to look at the big picture."

Santerre finished in the 7th position and gained 45 points on Mike Olsen, currently the 2nd place driver in the points championship, extending his points lead to 82 with four races remaining in the 2004 season.

"I am glad we came out of here in one piece," Santerre commented. "I have a good car but not a great car that can keep pace with the handful of fast cars. I have some work to do on my road course program for next season." Santerre adds, "I hate that the #61 had problems even though we gained points. I am just glad their problems didn't include a wrecked race car and that they are all fine. I want to win the Championship, but I don't wish bad luck or wrecked race cars on anyone."

Santerre and the #6 Bessey Motorsports team will compete in the Irving Oil 150 at Beech Ridge Motor Speedway on Saturday August 21, 2004. Santerre won the June event at the track in June of 2003.

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Drivers Paul Wolfe