Sometimes one just has to have a little faith to make things work out and that was exactly what Andy Santerre had Sunday during the NASCAR Busch North Series Local Dodge Dealers 150 at Lake Erie Speedway.
By foregoing a solid set-up for time trials and opting instead to concentrate on a race set-up package, Santerre was triumphant in the series debut for the BNS at Lake Erie in an event that drew a crowd of just over 5,000. Even his winning car is named Faith.
Santerre, the defending BNS champion from Cherryfield, Maine, likes to name his cars after country music stars and he took the victory on Sunday in a car he has dubbed Faith, named after Faith Hill. It is this same vehicle that he used to capture the BNS annual visit at Holland Speedway in 2002 and the same car he will use when the series returns for this year's run there on June 28.
"All my cars have names of country stars, except the one I named Britney," laughed Santerre, the current BNS point leader. "I guess you can't call her country. I've run Faith eight times and I have four wins, three seconds and one dnf (did not finish). So it's been a great car for us."
Santerre had a less then stellar time trial effort Sunday, qualifying 11th in the 23-car field. He then drove a strong and heady race.
Santerre had worked his way up to third by lap 70 when the caution flag waved for the slow moving car of Mike Olson of North Haverill, N.H., who suffered a flat tire. Because Lake Erie has no infield pit road, NASCAR had scheduled a mandatory caution flag for lap 75 as a mid-race break to give teams a chance to change tires and make adjustments.
With the field still running under caution on lap 72, it was decided by officials to take the break at that point. When racing resumed, Mike Stefanik of Coventry, R.I., was leading with Joey McCarthy of Randolph, N.J., next. The pair was followed by Santerre.
Santerre passed McCarthy on the inside of Turn Two on lap 80, making contact with McCarthy's left rear corner panel. Seven laps later Santerre came out the winner on the outside in a side-by side duel with Stefanik for the top spot. He then went on to a relatively comfortable seven-car length win.
"I've been around quite awhile and run a lot of different race tracks," replied Santerre of being able to do so well in the series' first visit to Lake Erie. "I ran the NASCAR Busch Series for three years and I always had to adapt to new race tracks and I think it comes under experience.
"You have to know how to get your car set up right. There were guys that were faster then me in qualifying but I didn't really work on that. I worked instead on how to get my car set up for a long run in the race."
Last year Santerre opened up the BNS season with a first at Lee, N.H. and a second place outing at Loudon, N.H., and then had dismal results in the next two events placing 22nd and 19th respectively. This season has also started with a win at Lee and a second at Stafford, Conn. before Saturday's win.
The last time the BNS visited a new venue, last August at Adirondack Speedway in Beaver Falls, Santerre emerged the victor there as well.
Mike Johnson of Salisbury, Mass., placed second Sunday with Stefanik next.
"I was happy to see the midway break come," said Johnson. "We made some token changes by putting on right side tires and putting in a half round of wedge but the sun came out and my car got tight and Andy was rock solid."
Troy Williams of Chaffee was the lone local in the BNS field finishing 30 laps down in 20th. Also Sunday at Lake Erie, James Michael Friesen pulled off the last lap pass of Ryan Zitka to win his fourth straight area TQ Midget race. Friesen has also won the first two races at Wyoming County as well as a single at Lancaster.
In Friday's racing action at Lake Erie, Jay Sommers took the win in the NASCAR Late Model Pro Stock 50 and pocketed $1,250 in the process. Brandon Metz was the winner in the Truck division. Veteran Neil Hopkins was best in the Modifieds and Jayme Bolkovac topped the Allison Legacy Series main event.
James Rader emerged the victor in Saturday's Legends Car headliner while Cory Lisher took care of business in the Street Stocks. Don Atwell was victorious in the Outlaw class nightcapper.
Elsewhere, Genesee winners Saturday were: Brian Sage, DIRT Sportsman; Justin Chaddock, Super Stock; Brian Kotarski, DIRT Pro Stock; Rocco Conte, Street Stock; Dale Lewter, Mini Stock.
Strykersville driver Dave Heitzhaus finished third in the NASCAR Goody's Dash Series event Saturday at the Lowe's Motor Speedway in Charlotte.
Lancaster Dragway winners on Sunday were: Fred Ferguson, Super Pro; Paul Cambia, Heavy; Mike Sobczynski, Pro; Don Becker, Sleds; Eric Fahy, Streets; Chris Sullivan, Junior Dragsters.