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LOUDON, N.H. --NASCAR honored the Top 10 Drivers of the First 25 Years of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East during a brief ceremony held Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. The Top 10 was announced earlier this week.
Santerre, who earned the top spot on the list after winning four consecutive titles from 2002-05 and now is one of the key competition players with Revolution Racing, was grateful for the recognition.
“It's an incredible honor,” Santerre said. “To be the first pick is just amazing. A lot of times after you retire and go away, you think that everyone is going to forget about you and what you did.
“I hit things at the right time. I was fortunate enough to have people that backed me and supported me, and I couldn't be prouder. It was a great career for me – and as a kid, I never thought I'd make it to this level of NASCAR.”
Click HERE to view the archived video stream of the press conference. [NOTE: There may be a delay while the file opens]
Ricky Craven, who enjoyed a dominant 10-win season en route to the 1992 championship, talked glowingly about the other drivers that had been named alongside him.
“Andy's always been a class act. He really lit them up,” said Craven, who is now a television analyst with ESPN. “He did a great job, he represented the sport and represented NASCAR the right way. Kelly (Moore) and I go way back – way back – and I always appreciated Brad (Leighton). He's a hard racer and a good racer. Jamie (Aube's) a champion.
“But, my gosh, I feel like I know these betters than the guys I spent 11 years racing with myself. ... There's a few guys I raced with that didn't make the Top 10, just because there wasn't enough room. One guy I want to single out is Dave Dion. Dave's kind of a member of the gang. He would be like an alternate, I would think.”
Ryan Truex, who won the last two K&N Pro Series East titles, represented the new blood the series has infused into NASCAR's higher levels.
He knew most of the men surrounding him at the podium in the infield media center at New Hampshire after having first watched his father, Martin Truex, and later his brother, Martin Truex Jr., compete against them.
“I'm sure everyone remembers me when I was a just a little guy running around with my dad and my brother at the race track. It's cool to be up here with them,” Truex said. “What they did back in the Busch North Series was a lot tougher than what I went through the last two years.
“I had great equipment and great people behind me. But back in the Busch North Series, it was more homegrown teams and guys running their own race cars around the race tracks. What they did was really incredible.”
Inevitably, though, talk turned to competition.
“If you put us on a track together, it would end ugly. I can assure you of that,” Craven said.
“There's no doubt I could beat any of these guys,” quipped Brad Leighton, who won back-to-back series titles in 1999 and 2000.
PASTRANA ON TRACK: Travis Pastrana made his third K&N Pro Series East start in the New England 125 Friday at New Hampshire and finished 22nd.
Before the race, Pastrana said that he's making progress in his foray into NASCAR – even if the results aren't spectacular.
“Honestly, I had no expectations coming into (the NASCAR Toyota All-Star Showdown in January),” Pastrana said. “After Irwindale, I thought that would be a starting point. ... I've definitely been going backwards every round, but I've learned a lot every round.”
Pastrana has a three-year deal in place with Pastrana-Waltrip Racing, and he'll make his NASCAR Nationwide Series debut in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, the extreme motorsports megastar is staying busy with the filming of a 3D Nitro Circus movie and the X Games.
“With everything, I haven't had a lot of time to get into the car and really do my 'job,' for lack of a better word,” Pastrana said. “Starting as soon as the X Games are over, full effort goes in.
“We have a great team behind me. To say that I'm where I hoped to be – definitely not. But to say that I'm disappointed or discouraged with how everything has gone – definitely not. I've learned a lot every race and although it doesn't seem like it from results, I feel like I've definitely gained a lot of knowledge and still know we have a lot to go.”
Pastrana finished sixth in his NASCAR debut at Toyota All-Star Showdown, but he followed that with finishes well south of 20th in K&N Pro Series East races at Richmond International Raceway and at Iowa Speedway. The Annapolis, Md., driver also ran a K&N Pro Series West race at Phoenix in February, where he finished 25th after starting 10th.
“It was two full years (in rally cars) of kind of crash club derby,” Pastrana said. “Luckily, sponsors stuck with me, and our third year we won the championship. I was kind of slowing down to kind of go faster and realizing what we needed to do to get the points on the board and get up near the front.
“If it took three years and we could get up towards the front of NASCAR, I think that's very good.”
NOTES: Corey LaJoie finished third Friday for his fourth straight top-10 finish. With the recent good run, he's jumped nine spots in the standings. ... It was a long day for 3-time New Hampshire winner Eddie MacDonald, who blew an engine in practice on Thursday. He started last in the 36-car field, moved inside the Top-20 by Lap 14, and was challenging the leaders just after halfway. But he was flagged for an improper lineup on a restart and had to come in for a pass-through penalty on pit road under green. He raced back onto the tail end of the lead lap and rallied for a ninth-place finish. ... Rookies Brandon Gdovic (fourth) and Daniel Suarez (seventh) recorded their best career finishes.