Andy Santerre Tests New NASCAR Powerplant
The NASCAR Busch East Series will venture into some uncharted territory for the 2006 season.  In an effort to control costs, the series will start to phase in a few new items.  A one-piece composite body and spec engine will be allowed next season alongside the current rules package with the hope of moving exclusively to the new hardware in the future.
Recently, the man who has won the last four Busch North Series (the name of the series up until next season begins) championships shook down the new spec engine in a test at USA International Speedway (FL).  He ran back to back with cars out of the Grizco Racing stable and liked what he saw.

“It was a great test,” said Andy Santerre.  “We got to go and run back to back with what we have now, the 12-to-1 engine.  We ran at a track that has a lot of straightaways, Lakeland, and the spec motor seemed to keep right up.  The times on the racetrack were exactly the same.”

Special care was taken to make sure that conditions
were the same with both cars.  After all, Santerre was testing the engines and not which set-up was better suited to the track.

“It was a legitimate test,” said Santerre.  “We went out on the track with the spec motor and did about 15 laps.  Then we went out with the other car and did about 15 laps.  We got them both handling really well.  I had Mike Stefanik’s car that he ran all year and the car that I ran at Loudon and Dover.  They were set up exactly the same.  The only difference was the engine.

“We put sticker tires on the spec motor car and ran 15 laps, then we put stickers on the other car and ran 15 laps.  You could have held the time sheets over each other, they were so close.”

NASCAR plans on having the ability for several different engine builders to build the new powerplant.  This one came out of the Midwestern shops of a well known engine wizard.
Santerre's #44 at Irwindale.  (51 Photo)
“Carl Wegner has done a lot of work trying to get it so this engine is comparable to what we have, but costs one-third of the money.  He’s done a great job.  He’s put a lot into it and NASCAR has been working with him closely.  Brett Bodine and Don Hawk were the ones who I’ve dealt with on it and they were really excited to get it on the track, so that they could answer questions.”

The engine situation only looks to get better with some more development.

“That particular engine was a General Motors engine with all GM parts,” said Santerre.  “The plan is to have these engines built with all of the contingency parts that we use.  I think that Wegner seems to think that it will be even better with the right parts and pieces.”
Santerre strongly believes that the new engine and body packages will really help the future of the series.

“I’ve been saying for the last five years, since I’ve been up North racing, that we needed to do something like this,” said Santerre.  “The purses that we race for just aren’t enough to cover a $40,000 race engine.  We’re having to freshen these things after four races.  To have to rebuild it after 600 or 700 miles will costs you $12,000 and you can buy this whole engine complete for about $15,000.  It’s definitely a step in the right direction.

“If they can get this composite body thing worked out and the spec engines together, I think that a guy can get a car together brand new for $40,000-$50,000.  Right now, we are spending $100,000 and a lot of man hours.  This will make the turnaround to get a car ready a lot quicker.” 

Andy Santerre