Four Santerre drivers seek success at New Hampshire track

Posted June 24, 2010, at 10:45 p.m.

    Three of the four racers who drive for Cherryfield’s Andy Santerre on the Revolution Racing team will make their New Hampshire Motor Speedway debuts today in the New England 125 K&N Pro Series East race. The green flag will drop at 5 p.m.

Darrell Wallace Jr., Sergio Pena and Mackena Bell will tackle the “Magic Mile” for the first time while Ryan Gifford finished fourth when the same series raced last year at Loudon, N.H..

Revolution Racing is part of the Drive for Diversity program designed to provide opportunities for minorities and women in NASCAR.

Wallace Jr. and Gifford are African-Americans; Pena is of Latino heritage and Bell is the only full-time female driver in the series.

Santerre, the competition director for the four drivers and their teams, won four consecutive Camping World East Series points championships and is familiar with the track.

“We’re fortunate enough to have a racing computer game and I’ve been able to show them some of the tricks on getting around the track,” said Santerre. “We aren’t worried about [their inexperience at the track]. They’ll adapt real quick.”

Santerre’s team will benefit from the services of two of Santerre’s former cohorts: Sean Caisse and Brad Leighton.

Caisse used to drive in the series with Santerre as his crew chief. Leighton and Santerre were teammates on the Grizco Racing Team.

“Sean is going to spot for Mackena Bell. He will be a big help to her,” said Santerre. “And Brad said he will be here and will be willing to help. So that should help get them dialed in pretty quickly.”

Santerre is confident his drivers will fare well,

“I think we’ve got a good shot at winning. It should be exciting,” he said.

Gifford qualified fourth Thursday, Wallace Jr. 12th, Pena 13th and Bell 25th.

Through four races, Wallace Jr. is second in points behind Ryan Truex. The gap is just eight points.

Gifford is fifth, 59 points behind the leader; Pena is 14th and Bell is 17th.

    Keselowski to try his hand at 250

Beginning in 2004, Oxford Plains Speedway owner Bill Ryan began luring NASCAR stars to Oxford to race in the the annual TD Bank 250.

Ryan purposely has scheduled the race on an off weekend for the Sprint Cup series.

Matt Kenseth, who won the 2003 Sprint Cup points title, and Kurt Busch began the trend in 2004 and finished third and 13th, respectively.

Several others have followed like Newburgh’s Ricky Craven, Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch, Terry Labonte and Kevin Harvick, who won the 2008 race.

Brad Keselowski will be the featured driver at the 37th annual TD Bank 250 on July 18 and the 26-year-old Rochester Hills, Mich., native has built quite a resume in his young career.

The Penske Motorsports driver is leading the Nationwide Series in points through 15 races thanks to three wins and 12 top-five finishes. He has a 237-point lead over Carl Edwards.

Keselowski is 24th in the Sprint Cup series with three top-15 finishes in 16 races. In 33 career Sprint Cup races, he has a win at Talladega and four top-10 finishes.

Ryan said he always lets it be known he would like to have a Cup driver or two to enhance the field.

“Brad called me and wanted to know more about the race,” said Ryan. “He had already known about it. He liked the idea and we hooked him up with a team and he’s here testing [Thursday] now.”

Kendall Roberts, who fields the No. 26 National Guard car with John Donahue in the seat in the American-Canadian Tour, will supply a Late Model car for Keselowski.

“Every year, it’s always interesting to see who wants to come up and race,” said Ryan. “Brad has been voted the most popular driver in the Nationwide series [by the fans] the last two years. He’s well liked by the drivers and well respected by the fans, which is huge. One of the things that makes this fun is hearing the fans’ reaction.

“A lot of people will be able to say they saw Brad Keselowski race at Oxford Plains when he was just starting out. I think he’ll be one of the top-tier guys in Sprint Cup in five years,” added Ryan. “This also gives our drivers a chance to compete against someone who’s the best at what he does.”

Keselowski said in a press release, “Throughout the racing world, the TD Bank 250 is well known as one of the premier short-track events. I am looking forward to seeing if I can come up and pull off a win like Kevin Harvick did in 2008.”

    Patrick making Loudon debut

Indy Racing League driver Danica Patrick will return to NASCAR competition Saturday at the New England 200 Nationwide series race at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. It will be her debut at NHMS.

That will be one of four races this weekend.

The New England 125 K&N Pro Series East race will kick off the activities today at 5 p.m.; the New England 100 Whelan Modified Tour race will be Saturday at 1 p.m. followed by the Nationwide race at 3:30. The grand finale will be Sunday’s Lenox Industrial Tools 301 Sprint Cup race starting at 1 p.m.

Joey Logano and Mark Martin won the two Sprint Cup races at NHMS last year.

Sunday’s pre-race entertainment will be provided by the legendary British rock band Foghat.

Tickets are available online at www.nhms.com or by calling Guest Services at 603-783-4931.

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