Misfortune Follows Nadeau

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Poor Jerry Nadeau. Poor, poor Jerry Nadeau.

For the second time in less than a year, Nadeau had a Winston Cup victory all but wrapped up. And for the second time in less than a year, bad luck struck and left Nadeau in the lurch.

For a guy looking for a full-time Winston Cup ride, something like that can be pretty discouraging. But for Nadeau, just the fact that he was in contention to win late in a race will look pretty good on his resume these days.

With three laps (six miles) to go in Sunday’s Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, Nadeau had a comfortable lead on Ricky Rudd before his No. 44 Petty Enterprises Dodge broke a rear-end gear. The mechanical failure left Nadeau in 34th place, and in a pretty melancholy mood.

“I’m not emotional at all. I just want to get home,” said Nadeau, a more accomplished road racer who was substituting in the No. 44 Dodge for Steve Grissom at Infineon Raceway this weekend. “But it always seems to happen to me.

“I thought it was fuel pressure at first, but the fuel pressure was fine. Then it started getting worse and worse. It finally broke. We broke a rear end gear. Everybody is driving hard. It was just a freak thing.”

Last November at Atlanta Motor Speedway, Nadeau appeared to be cruising to a victory in the NAPA 500 when all of a sudden, on the final lap, his No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy ran out of fuel, handing the victory to Bobby Labonte.

Nadeau was bidding for the second victory of his career Sunday, and it appeared as if Nadeau and his team made the right call to stay on the track on Lap 85 of 110 instead of pitting for tires and fuel, like several of the leaders did.

That’s when he inherited the point, and he led the next 22 circuits before disaster struck.

"I would have really had to screw up bad for Ricky Rudd to catch me,” Nadeau said. “Anything can happen in Winston Cup Racing. I was being real easy. I was listening to his times and my times. I was staying within half a second of him.

“We were leading Atlanta last year with one to go and ran out of fuel. It’s just unfortunate, but that’s kind of the way my career has gone. I'm humble about it. It’s no big deal.”

Rudd, who earned his first victory of the 2002 season, could sympathize with Nadeau. Recently, he’s had similar bad luck in the late stages of a couple of races.

“I hate to win one that way,” Rudd said. “We ended up winning the race, but it looked like Jerry Nadeau made the right call. I don’t know where he was before that caution, but he was probably about 10th or so and they stayed on the racetrack.

“We were running Jerry down, but we just didn't have the time to catch him. You hate to see misfortune come those guy’s way. Jerry could have definitely used a big shot in the arm with a win today and Petty Enterprises. That’s just a great operation over there, but we’ve lost some races the last three weekends under very similar conditions.

“It’s not something you want to go bragging about and be proud of it, but, again, we’ve lost some. We’ve had some races where we led the most laps and didn’t win the race.”

Nadeau was released as the driver of the No. 25 Hendrick Motorsports Chevy following the Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond. When Johnny Benson got hurt that same weekend, Nadeau was hired to drive the No. 10 MBV Motorsports Pontiac for The Winston and the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, and the race the following week at Dover.

He skipped races at Pocono at Michigan before the Pettys decided to give him a shot on the road course in Sonoma. Nadeau is decidedly a better road racer than Grissom.

Although he ran extremely well on Sunday – perhaps the best performance the No. 44 team has put on in the past two and a half years or more – the deal with the Pettys was just for one race for Nadeau.

Rumors have swirled around Nadeau and his immediate future. Some reports have suggested that he’ll be taking over the No. 23 Dodge at Bill Davis Racing for the second half of the season, but Nadeau said he’ll be at Chicagoland Speedway on Monday with another team.

“I’ve got to go test tomorrow with Michael Waltrip in Chicago,” Nadeau said. “I’ve got to thank everybody with the Georgia Pacific Dodge team today at Petty Enterprises. They did a terrific job. Now we’ll go get ‘em at Chicago.”

Waltrip fielded a Winston Cup car for Kenny Wallace earlier this season at Talladega.

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