Monday Was Nadeaus Day

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HAMPTON, Ga. - With a second-place starting position for Monday's NAPA 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Jerry Nadeau thought it might be the best chance he’s had to win a Winston Cup Series race.

After leading several laps - totally dominating at times - and winning the race, Nadeau may have shown team owner Rick Hendrick that he made the right choice last fall to add him to his roster.

"Things have been going good lately, and we really wanted to end the year on a good note," Nadeau said. "This year has been kind of weird for us and we’ve struggled some… especially early on. But we’ve learned a lot.

"I just let it all hang out today. Everybody raced me clean and I didn't know what to think in those last three laps. I didn't know to cry or what."

Some critics were skeptical when Hendrick announced he was adding Nadeau to his operation as a teammate to Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte - two drivers with five combined Winston Cup championships. But Nadeau has been a factor, at times giving his teammates all they can handle on the track.

Nadeau says he can answer why he’s run towards the front at times this season in a fairly simple assessment - he was given a chance by Hendrick to prove his skills and talent behind the wheel of a stock car.

"I’ve never had an opportunity like this before in my life," Nadeau says.

Nobody said the rough-and-tumble world of Winston Cup racing was an easy game to play, and Nadeau isn’t one to argue with that.

The season got off to a rocky start at Daytona and really didn’t get a lot better for Nadeau and crew chief Tony Furr until the summer months. It was then that the team recorded its first Top 10 of the year with an eighth-place finish at Sears Point. From then on, the two have finished 30th or worse in only three races.

"It's like when we started off the year, we could have had a great run at Daytona and something happened," Nadeau says. "Then in the middle of the season things started turning around. We started getting the good qualifying runs and the good finishes."

Nadeau thinks he understands why the team had struggled at times, too.

"It's just that we didn't hit the right setup at some of the tracks we went back to. We thought we were going to be good, but we were actually the opposite.

"A lot of it might have been we were trying too much stuff and it just wasn't working. We didn't have a chance to win the championship, so we figured let's just learn as much as we can this year about all kinds of stuff, gather as many notes as we can and build on it for next year."

Nadeau says the turnaround is all a matter of improving the communication between himself and his race team, which entered the season finale 23rd in points.

"It's kind of hard when you go to another team and you change crews and stuff, you don't know how big those changes are," Nadeau explains. "Now when they say they’re going to change the car, I know how far they're going to go. We've been doing this all year long, and a lot of it is just a feel thing. I know what I want in the car.

"You’ve just got to have all the confidence in the world in the team and just go out there and give it 110 percent. I don't think any of these guys go out and give it 98 percent. It's always 110 percent."

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