TRUEX JR. HOLDS ON TO NHIS WIN by Matt & Bob Dillner
Blocks Point-Leader Santerre to the Line
It was a two-horse race and the best horse may not have won. Busch North Series point leader Andy Santerre was close to pulling off the win last weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway, but as my Mom always said, close is only good in horseshoes and hand-grenades. Instead, series part-timer this year, Martin Truex Jr. ran the perfect line in the closing laps of the 125-miler to win at the Magic Mile.
It came down to, as is the case so many times at New Hampshire, the last lap. Truex was leading, but Santerre had been hounding him lap after lap. And for what seemed like the twentieth time in the closing laps of the race, the defending series champ dove to the inside of Truex's #56 in the final corners. Santerre was up his numbers, but couldn't pull off the pass.
"I figured I'd try to make it look good," laughed Santerre. "I got in pretty hard and I got up to him, but I had to stab the brakes pretty hard. He came down a little bit; he was blocking, but I don't blame him. I had to really get on the brakes to keep from hitting him. It was real close. I have no problems with anybody; it was a good clean race."
Truex was appreciative of Andy's sportsmanship. "Anybody else probably would have touched me in the quarter-panel and been on their way, but Andy doesn't race like that and he knows I wouldn't race him like that either. That's probably why he did what he did. It was a great battle; I was just glad I could hold him off."
But was Santerre too much of a gentleman?
"Obviously we would have liked to win, but Martin had a strong car," explained Andy. "And it was that same ol' thing; the dreaded aero-push is starting to affect us here even in the Busch North Series. I got to him and got beside him, but I just couldn't complete the pass. Coming off the corner he'd have a little more momentum and I couldn't get back on the throttle quick enough and the nose would slide a little bit. I couldn't diamond the corner like he was because I was on the bottom.
"But we gained a lot of points today and we've taken a big lead there. We are shooting for the big picture, which is the championship and he (Truex) only runs a few so he lets it all hang out when he comes and races with us."
And so does former series champ Brad Leighton. He is only racing six events this year on the Busch North tour and Loudon was his first. And when "nice guy" Andy avoided hitting Truex in the last corner, Leighton nearly stole second from Santerre.
"That was a deal where I had to stab the brakes so hard to keep from hitting Martin, it just slowed the car and let Brad catch up," said Santerre. "I saw him running up on me, so I just moved over a little bit. That's an old trick he taught me up here."
"The guys slowed up a little bit because Martin was trying to protect his lead and that helped me," commented Leighton, who finished third. "I couldn't do anything with Andy though. I was on the inside of him coming down the frontstretch, but I got into the back of him a little bit. He shook me loose and I'm glad he just kept it under control and went on to finish second."
The run of the day though belonged to Mike Johnson. He qualified in the top-ten, but crashed after driving through some oil on the track during the morning's final practice. Since he had to go to a back-up car, NASCAR rules dictate he must start in the back of the field. He did and he still finished fifth.
"This morning it felt like it was going to be a long day," said Johnson with a smile on his face. "We had a good back-up car, but I was still really surprised. This is a tough track; it's hard to pass, so I'm really happy with how it turned out."
And so was Martin Truex Jr., who is also running with another junior, Dale Earnhardt Jr. that is, in several Busch Series races this year. On this day though, he was top dawg with his own team in his old stomping grounds.
"Anytime you come to New Hampshire and win it is big," said Truex. "I've been dominant all weekend; today is the worst it's been and we still won, so it's great. It's good to come here and win because everybody brings their best stuff here. I don't care if it's a win in go-karts or in Winston Cup, you want to win in everything you do and your last win is always the best."
Santerre (#6) tries to pass Truex (#56) at NHIS. (51 Photo)
Bob Dillner interviews Andy, while he holds his daughter at NHIS during a SPEED Channel interview.