LOUDON, N.H. – For Cherryfield native Andy Santerre, returning to the familiar confines of New Hampshire International Speedway these days presents a much different challenge.

The three-time winner on the famed “Magic Mile” is now enjoying his second season as a car owner, preparing and maintaining two full-time teams on the NASCAR Grand National Division, Busch East Series.

After winning four consecutive series championships from 2002-2005, Santerre decided to focus strictly on car ownership beginning last year. The 38-year-old NASCAR veteran, along with wife Sue, owns Andy Santerre Motorsports (ASM), a highly-respected Busch East Series operation based in Concord, N.C. The team fields entries for drivers Sean Caisse (No. 44 Casella Waste Systems Chevrolet) of Pelham, N.H., and rookie Jeffrey Earnhardt (No. 1 Tracker Boats/Bass Pro Shop Chevrolet) of Mooresville, N.C. ASM enjoyed a strong 2006 season with Caisse, winning three races overall including the first two of the season, eventually finishing second to Mike Olsen in the final points standings.

That performance attracted a lot of attention, including the folks at Dale Earnhardt Incorporated (DEI), the powerhouse NASCAR Nextel Cup Series operation. Shortly after the season concluded, ASM struck a deal with DEI to field a second team in 2007 for Earnhardt, grandson of seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt and son of Kerry, the late legend’s son.

Santerre took a few moments away from preparations for Friday’s New England 125 to discuss his season to date, the teams’ goals for 2007 and how he has enjoyed the transition from behind the wheel to atop the pit box.

“Our commitment this year is to help Sean get to the next level,” he said. “We think he’s ready and has the talent. With Jeffrey, he’s doing great for somebody with no experience in this division or on any of the tracks we visit. For me personally, it meant quite a lot to have an organization like DEI put this much faith in our team. We haven’t had the results we were hoping for, but a few mechanical gremlins have plagued us, and that happens to any team at some point in this sport. This is our sixth year in the series, and we’ve been very fortunate for most of them to avoid major problems.”

Santerre says a championship just might propel Caisse on to the Busch Series and beyond. He’s proven he is fast, and now with just a little more consistency he just might claim the East series title and get that national opportunity.

“In my opinion, Sean is one of the top three development drivers in the country,” said Santerre. “There might be a few team owners at the higher level that feel he lacks the consistency, but we intend to disprove that this year. As for Jeffrey, he’ll need another year in this series, and I’m not sure if DEI will field an in-house team for him or have us do it again. We just do the very best we can at every race with both teams, and the results should be positive. I’ve got two great teams who work hard for my drivers. I really couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Caisse finished 24th in the New England 125 after being involved in a minor incident. After a strong runner-up finish to Mike Olsen here last July, the 2007 version was not so kind. Earnhardt finished 15th in his first start at New Hampshire, an impressive performance for the talented third-generation driver.

“I am really enjoying my role as car owner, and I can honestly say I don’t miss driving. I’ve had my years behind the wheel and accomplished more than I ever thought possible,” Santerre said. “I’m just fortunate to have enjoyed the immediate success we’ve had with Sean and now Jeffrey.

“It’s been a long road since I joined O’Connor Racing back in 1992 in the old Busch North Series. We’ve seen our ups and downs, but right now things are going very well. Thanks to great sponsorship from Casella Waste Systems and this alliance with DEI, our reputation, credibility and success rate is excellent. I get a little more time with my family these days, and that’s fine by me. The sport is treating me well. I just hope we can continue to perform like this and keep it all going.”

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