Andy Santerre’s first season as a crew chief for Sean Caisse in the Busch East series was a successful one.
And Cherryfield’s Santerre said they plan to team up again next year in Busch East.
The 20-year-old Caisse, the rookie of the year in Busch East a year ago when he finished seventh in the points, wound up second in points this season and was tops in poles (5) and wins (3). He had six top-five finishes and eight top-10s. He didn’t finish two races.
The Pelham, N.H. native finished 124 points behind champion Mike Olsen of North Haverhill, N.H.
“We were pleased. We came up a little short of our goal [winning the points title] but you don’t always meet your goals. It was a real good season,” said Santerre, who had driven to the last four Busch East points championships before assuming the crew chief’s role this season.
Santerre said their primary sponsor, Casella Waste Systems, intends to return next year “as far as I know.”
“If everything works out, I’ll do the same thing,” said Santerre.
Santerre said there have some inquiries about adding a second team but he said the sponsorship has to come with it.
“I’d consider it but the money has to be there,” said Santerre.
He added that the cost of funding a Busch East team for a season is $500,000.
By finishing second, Caisse, who drove for the Andy Santerre Motorsports team, qualified to run in the 2006 Toyota NASCAR All-Star Showdown on Oct. 20 21 at the Irwindale Speedway (Cal.).
The Showdown is for the top 15 finishers in the Busch East series as well as the top drivers in the AutoZone West series.
“It’s an expensive trip but a lot of fun,” said Santerre who has driven in the race. “We’ve made a lot of friends out there and met a lot of new people. There’s a lot of great competitors out there, people we had never met before.”
Santerre said Caisse will be a legitimate contender.
“I think we’ll have as good a shot as anybody,” said Santerre. “We’re hoping to make up for the end of the year. We didn’t get any wins the last four races.”
Caisse’s last win came at the Adirondack International Speedway (N.Y.) on July 29.
Gordon eyeing Showdown
Strong’s Tracy Gordon will also be going to the Toyota Showdown despite running just eight of the 11 Busch East races.
He finished 15th in points in his Woodworks/Archer Corporation Ford with three top-fives and six top-10s in the eight races.
Gordon said he had intended to run just a handful of races “but we did pretty decent early after missing the first two races and the owners [Robin Phillipson and Fred Skaff] got psyched up so we kept racing.”
He said a strong run and a 12th-place finish at the Waterford Speedbowl (Conn.), the eighth race of the season, supplied the owners with more incentive to finish out the season and claim a spot in the top 15 to earn a berth in the Toyota Showdown.
“We went to Waterford, a track I hate, with a 16-year-old car,” said Gordon. “If we came out with a decent enough finish to keep our points alive, we were going to run the rest of the schedule. And I was competing for the win until I got spun out late in the race. We were real competitive.”
He said it was “quite gratifying” to be allowed to finish the schedule.
His sixth place finish in the last race, which was held over the road course at Lime Rock Park (Conn.), sewed up his first berth in the Toyota Showdown.
“It was an oval track car but we quickly slapped a road course setup on it,” said Gordon.
Gordon, who hasn’t run any other races other than the Busch East features this season, had run just nine Busch East races over the previous three years combined.
He was last a regular in Busch East in 2002, winding up fifth in the points.
He has finished as high as second in points (1999).
The 40-year-old Gordon said he is looking forward to the Toyota Showdown.
“We’ve got a two-year-old car we ran at Loudon [New Hampshire International Speedway] and Dover [Del.] and it’s fast,” said Gordon, who hopes he can convince his owners to run the full Busch East schedule next season.