Cherryfield’s Andy Santerre has done of lot of things in auto racing.
He has been a successful driver, winning a Nationwide Series race and notching four straight K&N Pro Series East (formerly Busch North/East) points championships. He has been a productive crew chief and team owner [Andy Santerre Motorsports] and these days, he has been the competition director for the four Revolution Racing K&N Pro Series East teams.
Last weekend, he had a unique experience.
Santerre drove IndyCar Series driver Danica Patrick around the Dover (Del.) International Speedway track in a van and helped her with the nuances of the track. Her crew chief in NASCAR’s Nationwide series, Tony Eury Jr., was also in the van.
“She had never been to Dover. I showed her some of the lines. I told her where to enter and where to exit. And I showed her how to enter pit road. She was sweet. She was great to me,” said Santerre. “She asked several questions about the race track. She’s very serious about (her NASCAR career). She wasn’t just out there because NASCAR wanted her to be. She wants to learn. I was really impressed. I hope she does well. I’m a Danica Patrick fan now.”
Santerre also said he found out that she treats everybody on her team and crew “unbelievably well.
“She takes them out to dinner. And no matter what happens during the race, she thanks them all,” added Santerre. “She’s very appreciative. Her crew loves working for her.”
Patrick made her K&N Pro Series East debut later that weekend and finished sixth, her best finish in a NASCAR-sanctioned event.
“She did a good job,” said Santerre.
Her car blew a tire and it hit the wall during the Nationwide race and she finished 35th.
Santerre feels Patrick has “a lot of talent” and has the “best chance” of any woman of being successful in the Nationwide Series so far.
Santerre observed that she has a “big following” and said even though the odds of her being successful in NASCAR’s Sprint Cup series some day are stacked against her, “it’s not out of the question.
“She has good backing,” he said.
Santerre finished his first season at Revolution Racing with two drivers finishing in the top 10 in points and three in the top 12 in the K&N Pro Series East standings.
Revolution Racing took over the Drive for Diversity program that targets opportunities for minorities in the sport.
Sixteen-year-old Darrell Wallace Jr. finished third and tied champion Ryan Truex and second place Brett Moffitt for most wins with two. Wallace Jr. had seven top-10 finishes in 10 races including five top-fives and was the series’ Rookie of the Year.
Twenty-one year-old Ryan Gifford was ninth with four top-fives.
Sergio Pena, who is 18, was 12th with three top-tens.
Mackena Bell raced six times and was 23rd in points before being sent down to the Late Model series.
Michael Cherry ran three races in her place and had two top-10s and a top-five. Marc Davis ran the other race and had a top-10 finish.
Wallace, Gifford, Cherry and Davis are African-American, Pena is of Latin descent and Bell is a woman.
“For our first year with a brand new team and all new people, I thought it went fairly well,” said Santerre.
Wallace is a Joe Gibbs Racing development driver and Gifford is affiliated with Richard Childress Racing. The others are independent racers.
Pena provided one of the highlights by winning the pole for the Toyota Showdown at Toyota Speedway (Calif.) and finishing second to Sprint Cup driver Joey Logano.
“That was our first race as a new team,” said Santerre.
Next on the horizon for Santerre will be the annual Revolution Racing Sunoco combine on Oct. 17-19 at Motor Mile Speedway in Radford, Va.
He explained that 35 drivers will compete for 10 spots, four in the K&N Pro Series East tour and six in the Late Model series.
They will be evaluated in several areas including race speed, car control, strength and conditioning and their mental state as assessed by a sports psychologist. They will also be taught how to handle interviews.
The current drivers must try out again, according to Santerre, although he noted that Wallace and Gifford will have an inside track based on their performances this season and Pena will benefit from his seat time.
Santerre will spend the off-season building race cars and fixing up damaged ones from this season.
He said he enjoyed his first season with Revolution Racing.
“So far, so good,” said Santerre. “I don’t have to worry about paying bills (as he did when he owned ASM),” said Santerre.
“It has been a challenge. It isn’t easy to teach young drivers and a lot is expected out of them,” said Santerre. “It was the first year of racing (at this level) for some of them.
“There were some ups and downs but we did fairly well,” said Santerre.