SANTERRE HOLDS OFF MOORE IN DOVER PHOTO-FINISH by Bob Dillner
Back Injury and Thoughts of Retirement Floating in His Mind
“Once he (Moore) got up under me I just used the banking to my advantage,” explained Santerre. “Even with that big horsepower he’s got, I was able to hold him off. He was under me, so I figured I’d run it up the track, turn the car and mash the gas. That’s what I did and I beat him by two or three feet.”
“If it wasn’t Andy I probably could’ve got the win,” admitted Moore, who won the pole for Busch North’s annual trek to the Monster Mile. “I got a real good run at the end there and in another lap I might have had him. He showed why he’s a veteran and one of the best racers out here.”
Yet as Moore watched Santerre celebrate in victory lane in the MBNA Race Points 150, you could see the emotion written on his face. The fact was, he himself was so close to being the one spraying the champagne.
“Second sucks,” Moore said emphatically. “Andy races you really good, but, I’ll probably wake up tomorrow and think of a few times he’s pushed and shoved me out of the way. I probably should have done what I had to do to win the race, but there were a lot of people watching today. There are a lot of Busch and Cup drivers here and I want them to know I race clean. You can gain respect both on and off the track and hopefully I did that today.
“I’m not a guy to rough people up to get by them, but don’t think I’m haven’t thought about if I should have done that now.”
The finish was exceptional, but the race was theoretically decided on the final restart of the day with just 14-laps to go. Moore saw his lead vanish when a caution came out and then had the experienced Santerre on the outside during the double-file restart.
Santerre (#44) edges Moore (#74) at the finish line at Dover Int'l Speedway to score his 23rd BNS victory. (Tom Whitmore / VPS/VPS Motorimages)
“The outside groove was the place to be,” Moore told us. “Being free, I couldn’t slide up the racetrack and hold him off. He was just too good. If I would have run it in there wide-open like you normally could, I would have spun out because the car was so loose.
“I’ve never had to drive a car so damn hard in my life. I’ve never been dirt racing, but I might wanna try it because I was pretty good at it today. I was sideways the whole time.”
“I didn’t know if I could get Ryan,” admitted Santerre, who also overcame a speeding penalty on pit road. “I knew, to have a shot, I had to do it on that restart. I drove it in for all I was worth and she stuck and it worked.
“Ryan Moore has a great future ahead of him. He’s a gentleman. We duked it out today and it was a lot of fun. We did it last year here, but that was for third and fourth, this year it was down to the line for the win.
Success is an attribute that Santerre knows well. In addition to his three championships, he has now won 23 Busch North races and has a NASCAR Busch Series win to boot (1998 at Pikes Peak, CO). But until now, a trip to victory lane at Dover had eluded him.
“It’s just awesome to win here at Dover. I’ve never been real competitive in a Busch North car here. I did come here in ’98 and had the field covered in the Busch car and broke a rear-end gear.
“This is only my second win this year, but to win here at Dover is something,” continued Santerre. “This is the toughest track we run at. In fact, it’s one of the toughest tracks in the country. If you can come out here and win and beat one of the rising young stars on top of that, it’s a great day for Andy Santerre.”
Santerre is beginning to sound a lot like NASCAR Cup veteran Mark Martin; both are philosophical about their approach and future in the racing world. For Santerre, much of that comes from the fact that he had micro-endoscoptic disectomy surgery on September 1st to repair a ruptured disc in his back.
“I raced for three weeks with it that way,” admitted Santerre. “All the fluid in that disc leaked out and got in my sciatic nerve and I lost all the feeling in my left leg. The last race I ran (before the surgery) they had to put me in the car and pull me out of it. I knew I was in trouble so I called my surgeon. He was trying to get me to the end of the year before surgery, but he said you’ve got two weeks off coming up, let’s do it.
“I had surgery done and had two weeks exactly to recover. I sat in the car two days before New Hampshire (last week) to make sure I could get in and out the window. Once I got in I was pretty comfortable, and raced at New Hampshire no problem.
“I feel good for having back surgery just three weeks ago, but I’m still not 100% by any means. It’s fortunate enough that the surgeon was good enough to get me in and out quick. They had never done a back surgery on a driver and had him back in the seat in two weeks. They were a little worried, but they are amazed now. I’m just fortunate I could come here after all that, at a track this tough, and still win.”
His ailing back is part of the reason why his future in this sport is uncertain at best. In fact, the word retirement may be in Andy Santerre’s vocabulary in the near-future.
“My resume is about to its end as far as driving goes, you know. I’m contemplating getting out of the drivers seat,” said Santerre. “I have no big announcements or anything yet because I’m not sure, but I have been thinking about it. It’s all up to me.”
And for all that Andy Santerre has done for NASCAR’s Busch North Series, any fan would have to respect whatever decision he decides to make. For Ryan Moore though, that possible retirement comes a little too late, at least this week at Dover.
“It was an awesome race to the flag;” that statement by NASCAR Busch North Series “kingpin” Andy Santerre is an understatement. The three-time series champ edged young up-and-comer Ryan Moore for the win Friday as the sun set over Dover International Speedway. The margin of victory, just a few feet.
Santerre celebrates in Dover victory lane despite back surgery just three weeks ago.
(Ken Spring Photo)
Moore passes third-place finisher Sean Caisse (#5).