Ibexclusive Day In The Life: /B/I Jerry Nadeau

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The Winston is NASCAR’s All-Star game. To be invited to run in the race, you have to win a race during the previous year, or you have to win The Winston Open or the No Bull Sprint.

For the MichaelHoligan.com team, that meant we had to win last weekend to make it into the big show.

Qualifying for The Winston Open was a challenge in itself. There were actually two qualifying races for The Winston Open -- the No Bull 25s.

We had a really good race car all day during practice and I knew that the race was a 25-lap sprint for no points, which meant you had to go for it all. I started fourth, but by lap seven, I was leading. Once I was in the lead, I spent the last few laps saying over and over, "I hope nothing happens, I hope nothing happens." And it worked.

I’ve won some type of race every year since I was four-and-a-half years old. It seems like I’ve won something every year of my life. But when I got into Winston Cup racing, it got tough. This really is a tough series.

Whenever you win something, whatever it is, it really boosts your emotions back up and gives you confidence in the race car. I’m not saying I don’t have enough confidence if I don’t win a race. It just makes things a lot better for the team. The guys on the MichaelHoligan.com team put so many hours in these cars. Winning a race, whatever it is, puts a smile on their faces.

The races I’ve seen in the past in The Winston Open have been pretty wild. I knew that starting on the pole for that race would be a good thing for us since it would help us avoid a lot of the action. The MichaelHoligan.com Chevrolet wasn’t bad in the Open –- we were just a little loose. But there was no way I could stay with Steve Park. His car was awesome.

Three or four times, I was wrecked. But we came in, made a few changes and got better. We may have finished second to Steve in the Open, but winning the 16-lap No Bull Sprint and making it into The Winston made it all worth the effort.

I also had a sinus infection last weekend, so that made racing a little tougher for me, but winning made it feel better, too.

I started first in the No Bull Sprint and the tire situation really helped out a lot in that race. My crew chief, Tony Furr, decided to take on four tires early in the race but a lot of other guys only put on two. I saw everybody else do two, but he said "Don’t worry about it, we’ll get them at the end." He was right. I was questioning it in the beginning of the race -- I was sitting there in ninth with about eight laps to go, and I was worried to death. I didn’t think we could do it, but Tony and the guys did a great job. Everything fell into place. We had a dominant car Friday for qualifying, and it was awesome in the Sprint.

That win put us into The Winston. It’s the most exciting race of the year, and I was glad to be in it. We made a couple of changes to the car after the Sprint because it wasn’t handling quite as well as it did Friday because the track was so slick.

I started last in The Winston since I was the last guy to make it into the field. That meant I had to avoid a lot of action on the track. I really had a lot of fun moving through the pack during each of the three segments. We had to come from the back in the first race and the same thing in the second race, and we finally put ourselves in a good position to win the race in the end.

On the last restart of the last segment, I had a chance to win it all. I started second behind Dale Jarrett. I was able to catch him, but he was smoking and leaking oil quite a bit. I could barely see out of my windshield and I was sliding in his oil and abusing my tires. I saw Dale Earnhardt Jr. coming and I new he had put on four tires, but mine were pretty bad by then.

But it’s just one of those things. The Winston was a dash for cash and you just give it all you’ve got. It was pretty wild out there.

Looking ahead, the exciting thing for the MichaelHoligan.com team is that this wasn’t even our Coca-Cola 600 car. We have a better car than this for the 600, and we’ll be running a special paint scheme for the Coast Guard. I’m really looking forward to it.

I had a great time at The Winston -– that’s what it’s all about. It was fun and we learned a lot. We’ve always been a good team, but the results haven’t shown it. Every race we’ve gone to this season, it seems as though we gave it 110 percent. We were always running great, but then something would bite us. If we can get rid of those gremlins – then this is a top-five team week-in and week-out. It looks like Lowe’s Motor Speedway is just the place to do that.


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