nearly won at Sonoma, but the car would break with just
a handful of laps remaining.
Last June, everything seemed to have finally turned around
for Jerry Nadeau.
Having been released from his ride in the #25 Rick
Hendrick-owned UAW-Delphi Chevrolet earlier in the season,
Nadeau landed a ride driving the #44 Dodge for Petty
Enterprises in a one race deal for the Dodge/Save Mart 350
at Infineon Raceway in Sonoma, Calif. Now, here he was,
enjoying a commanding lead over Ricky Rudd with only a
handful of laps standing between him and his second Winston
"Once we got out in front and got past Bill Elliott, we just
checked out. We had a four and a half second lead. I knew
Ricky (Rudd) was coming, but I didn't think there was enough
time for him to catch us."
What was turning out to be a feel good story about a hard
luck driver all came apart with just three laps to go, when
the rear end gear on Nadeau's Dodge gave out. His car
coasted to a stop just a few yards from the start finish
line as Rudd flew past to take the lead and eventually win
It was just the latest in a string of setbacks for Nadeau.
The same old story - just when things were looking so bright
they always seemed to turn so dark.
Still, Nadeau was not bitter about the experience - it comes
with the territory.
"To be honest, I was over it by the time I walked across pit
road." Nadeau said, "You can't hold on to things like that.
It doesn't make you a better driver. I think I let go of
things a lot easier than most people. I think it makes me
stronger and bolder and things will get better down the
Nadeau's five-year career in Winston Cup has been a
roller-coaster ride, including stints with Richard Jackson,
Bill Elliott, Melling Racing and MB2 Motorsports. He signed
on with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #25 car in 2000,
and scored his only Winston Cup victory driving for Hendrick
in the season ending race at Atlanta in 2000. His chance to
repeat the performance at the same race a year later ended
on the final lap when he ran out of fuel.
"I thought things were going to go well at Hendrick and they
just kind of fell apart." Nadeau said, "It just wasn't the
right place for me to be. I never seemed to be getting
Last May, Hendrick and Nadeau parted ways, with Joe Nemechek
taking over the #25. Nadeau managed to keep himself busy
while he pursed a full-time ride, filling in for the injured
Johnny Benson in the #10 Valvoline Pontiac for several
races, as well as driving a Michael Waltrip-owned car at
Talladega. He was tapped by Petty Enterprises to replace
interim driver Steve Grissom in the #44 Georgia Pacific
Dodge for the road course race at Sears Point.
An experienced road racing veteran, Nadeau is hoping for
greater success tackling the only other road course on the
Winston Cup circuit, the 11-turn, 2.45-mile Watkins Glen.
Nadeau started third and finished sixth in last years race.
"I'm looking forward to Watkins Glen. Watkins Glen is not
nearly as tough as Sears Point. I think the competition at
Watkins Glen will be a lot closer." Nadeau said, "I think
Sears Point is more of a technical race track, and the Glen
is more of a high speed road course."
"I think Sears Point is tougher driving. It's more
technical. The turns are tougher. You've got to be more of a
road racer to do real well at a place like Sears Point. The
track can get really slick and it can get really hot, so
it's a very physical race track. Whereas the Glen, it's a
cool race track. There's a lot more right hand turns than
left hand turns, so a lot of the guys will set up their cars
a little different so they actually work better in the right
hand turns. There's just as much left as there is right at
"We're going to take the same car we ran at Sears Point,
with maybe just a slight chassis adjustment and go out and
attack the track just like I attack any other race track."
Born in Danbury, Conn, Nadeau always welcomes the
opportunity to return to his native New England and The
"I love to go to that place. I have a lot of friends and
family that come up and we have cookouts on Friday night and
eat plenty of lobster," said Nadeau. "Besides the racing,
the food is going to be good, too."
His performance that day in Sonoma was enough to convince
Petty Enterprises to sign him to drive the #44 for the rest
of the 2002 season, but despite that, Nadeau's plans beyond
the 2002 season are unclear. The Petty's appear to have
finalized their plans for 2003 - signing CART veteran
Christian Fittipaldi to drive a limited Winston Cup and
Busch Series effort, leaving Nadeau still searching for the
"I wish the best for them. It's going to be difficult."
Nadeau said, "I know Christian (Fittapaldi) has done a few
Busch races and I'm sure he realizes how tough it really is.
Wait until he gets to Winston Cup. It's definitely a lot
"I haven't found my right home. You look at guys like Dale
Jarrett. He didn't win until like five or six years he was
in Winston Cup. He found the right place. That's the kind of
position I'm in right now. I'm just trying to find the right
home. I'm trying to find the right place with the right
chemistry with the right people to work with. I guess you
can say I'm still looking. I'm just trying to see where I'm
going to end up next season and beyond that."
"I've had a strange career, and I took a tough road to get
here. I appreciate just being in NASCAR Winston Cup racing.
I've just got to take it day by day and week by week. My
time will come. That's the way I look at it."
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