NASCAR Strips Sellers/Santerre Team of Victory at Greenville by Matt Kentfield
Win Given to ASM Teammate Dillon, but Penalty Leaves Sellers and Santerre Frustrated
Andy Santerre is a four-time Champion of the NASCAR Busch East Series, now called the NASCAR Camping World East Series. He has won his fair share of races. He is even a NASCAR Nationwide Series (then Busch Series) winner.
One thing he had never been considered is a cheater.
Similarly, Peyton Sellers is a NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion. He’s been a contender in everything from a Late Model Stock Car to a NASCAR West and East Series car.
He’s not one to be labeled a cheater, either.
Tuesday evening, Santerre and Sellers received word from NASCAR Officials that their win with Sellers driving the Strutmasters.com / Casella Waste Systems #44 for Andy Santerre Motorsports at Greenville-Pickens Speedway had been taken away. Officials found an illegal shock on the #44 ride that had battled back from mid-race contact with the outside wall and subsequent brake failure to score Sellers’ first-ever Camping World East Series victory in his first venture for ASM.
Sellers will be credited with a 30th-place finish, the final car in the rundown.
As word came down from NASCAR headquarters, Santerre and Sellers both found themselves in an unfamiliar position. It was the first time that NASCAR had ever taken the win away from a driver and team for a post-race rules infraction.
“The shock was wrong, there’s no other way around it. In the application that it was used, there was no advantage though,” said Sellers. “If we would’ve been an advantage the way we were running it, it would’ve been a pair of shocks.
“It’s just frustrating because I have worked my whole career trying to compete with the Rick Hendricks and trying to compete with all that. I’ve tried to be the most legal and the most honest and the most up-front about everything I’ve ever done. It’s tough to be
Peyton Sellers will now have to wait for another chance at a first NCWES Victory. (NASCAR / Charles F. Ward Photos)
a kid from Virginia with virtually no money behind you to get to the point where I am. I’ve
got a lot of friends and family that have supported me along the way. It’s just frustrating.”
For Santerre, himself a pillar of rules-abiding in the past, the infraction was as much of a surprise as it was a disappointment for the way the penalty was assessed.
“We proved that it was unintentional, but I guess an unapproved part is an unapproved part," said Santerre. "They decided to take a stand and they did what they had to do. We’re not going to let this get us down.
“I feel real bad for Peyton. We’ve been struggling to find sponsorship to put this deal together. There’s a lot of people that are pitching in to make this happen with money here and there. Obviously, they wouldn’t have done that if Peyton’s reputation wasn’t good and our reputation wasn’t good. We had high hopes for a Championship. I think we can still achieve a championship, but I feel like we’ve let some people down that have been trying to help us out. I just hope that everybody knows that it was an honest mistake and it should have never happened.
“We got busy and didn’t get those shocks apart when we got them back from another competitor. Obviously they were different when we got them back in our shop.”
Having been to victory lane so many times both as a driver and as an owner with Sean Caisse and now Sellers, Santerre is fully aware of NASCAR’s post-race teardown procedure. In fact, when the shock infraction was brought to his attention, Santerre was the most surprised person in tech.
“We had eight shocks that were taken apart Saturday night,” added Santerre. “The four that were on the #3 car (of Dillon) were fine. I own both cars, so it’s a tough one for me, but showing that one car was fine and the other car was exactly the same except for an unapproved part would say something. We were more surprised than anyone. My shock guy Eddie was totally shocked. He was the one that went up to (NCWES Tech Director) Andy Mitchell because we knew Andy was going to see it. We know that shocks are one of the first things pulled off the cars in tech. We know that we’d be
Sellers' #44 at speed at Greenville.
in the top-five if we didn’t have trouble. We knew they were going to take the shocks out and take them apart. Whatever they want, we always cooperated with them. Andy even said that.”
But when at-track officials handed off the findings of the unapproved shock to NASCAR brass in Daytona Beach, Florida, the decision was made to strip Sellers of the victory
“The guys that make the decisions like this for our series are not the ones that are at the tracks every week seeing the competitors and how they cooperate,” said Santerre. “This has a big effect on me in this sport. Obviously we’re one of the only developmental teams in the series and we’re trying to promote the young guys and make them look good. We know that we need to keep a clean reputation and I can’t stress enough how important it is to me to have legal cars that pass tech and not have any issues.”
Sellers, the 2005 NASCAR Weekly Series National Champion and 2006 NASCAR West Series Rookie of the Year, impressed many during his first East Series season of 2007, finishing third in points and utilizing only one car and one engine throughout the season. Signed to the ASM #44 in the off-season, Sellers immediately made an impact, taking the checkers at Greenville in his first race with Santerre’s bunch. With Tuesday’s ruling, that win will never be etched into the record books.
“Believe me, winning that first race didn’t extinguish any fire that’s in me to go out and win races. It took a little pressure off, that’s for sure. Andy and Sean ran so good for the last two years and Andy won championships himself, I had some big shoes to fill. I feel like I did that. I’m not disappointed with the way I drove the car at all Saturday night. I’m pleased that I had a car good enough to drive it the way I did. I did everything within my means to drive it from the back to take the win.
“But this definitely takes the wind out of your sails. No matter what, wherever we go, we know that people are going to look at us different. It burns me up knowing that NASCAR has no regulations on how they penalize people.”
Sellers and Santerre will forever be the first pairing to ever have a NCWES points win stripped post-race. Both believe that the punishment does not fit the crime.
“They took the first-ever win away in the series history - that’s frustrating,” added Santerre. “I would’ve been happy with a fine. In the Carl Edwards situation in the Cup race recently (Edwards was penalized post-race for an oil tank lid not on his car at Las Vegas, but kept the win), I don’t know what the figures are, but he probably won $200,000 and they fined him $100,000. Well, we won $9,000, so if they fined us $4,500, we would’ve paid that and gone on. It’s just poor consistency on NASCAR’s part. The ones that make decisions like that for our series don’t handle our series and don’t know a whole lot about it. The guys that do travel with us and go to every race, they can write up a report and send that down there, but they don’t have a real say.”
The Greenville win now belongs to Sellers' ASM teammate Austin Dillon, who made his first-ever NCWES start at Greenville. (Ken Spring Photo)
NASCAR ruled that the penalty levied against Sellers and Santerre at Greenville can not be appealed.
“What’s really baffling to me is that there’s no opportunity to appeal it,” said Sellers. “When you go to a court of law, both sides get to plead their case. We don’t get to do that. Our character means nothing. Neither one of us had ever been caught cheating before. Andy never has and my team, running well last year in this series and winning a National Championship, winning Rookie of the Year, there’s never been one question about me.”
Not lost in the shuffle of Sellers’ removal from the Greenville victory is the newly-named winner, Sellers’ ASM teammate Austin Dillon.
“They stripped one car out of the win, but ASM still won the race,” said Santerre. “That’s the good thing about two teams. I’m proud of Austin Dillon and he’s got his first win. I’m sure this isn’t how he wanted to win his first race. He’s Peyton’s teammate and he thinks the world of Peyton. I don’t want to take anything away from Austin for his first win, but it’s frustrating the way it happened for Peyton and for the team."
Both Santerre and Sellers have won races in the past in their racing careers. They vow that this setback will not keep them from winning again down the road.
“I think being the competitive person that I am, this just raises the bar for me. I’ve always prided myself for having a legal car, but we’re going to raise the bar now. We don’t go anywhere near as far as we can go, even within the rules. This series has always been about buying used parts, using used spindles. We don’t have the lightweight things that Cup cars have. We don’t go buy things that are even legal that cost a lot of money. Well, somehow we’re going to find the money and go out and buy that kind of stuff. We’re going to raise the bar and make all the competitors keep up with us. If that’s what NASCAR wants us to do, then that’s what we’re going to do.”
“The good Lord has ways of testing you,” said Sellers. “Obviously this is just another test for me. We’ll show our heart, be strong and we’ll bounce back.”