Jerry Nadeau Q&A

His first season with the high-flying Hendrick Motorsports team ended on a high as Nadeau scored his first-ever Winston Cup victory in the season finale at Atlanta. He told Autosport.com what it was like to break his duck after three seasons in the top division

Jerry Nadeau Q&A


"The last three or four laps were the most emotional laps I ever took in a Winston Cup car. I was trying to hold my composure. I didn't know whether I should burst out crying because I knew I had an eight-car length lead over Earnhardt. I knew I had a car to win the race, but I didn't know if I had a shot before the yellow flag because Ward had a pretty good lead. I was catching him about half a second or seven-tenths a lap. I was working that car so hard, and we put two tyres on there. Ward [Burton] didn't get a very good start when the green flag came out. I got up on the inside and I dragged-raced him into [Turn] One. I just held on to it and pulled away. It was just an awesome deal. It's just amazing. I'm so happy to do it the last race of the year."


"The green flag was already waving and he [Ward Burton] was stopped. I said, 'man, what the hell do I do here?' I just got on the inside and I saw Rusty [Wallace] on the outside and I just drag-raced Ward. I knew if I got past him I would get black flagged. I made sure I stayed up to his door. It was a poor start. Nothing against Ward, but the green flag was waving. You could plainly see it and he was not going. He was just trying to hold us up. After that I just stood on it and held it wide open between [turns] One and Two. We just had a perfect, perfect day, and it wasn't that hard to drive. That is the way it is in Winston Cup racing. The car has to be perfect and everything has to go your way to win a race. Today, it went our way."


"A few times late in the race I got a little worried because our right rear tire was getting right down to the cords every time we came down pit road. I knew I was driving this car way too loose. We tightened it up and towards the end the car was perfect. Then I realised the 22 car [Burton] was out so far in front, I didn't know if I was going to be able to catch him. Then the yellow came out. The Good Lord was looking over the top of me."


"I made sure I had to stay far enough in front of him [Earnhardt] so he wouldn't get a bumper on me. I knew if he could have got a shot he would have done it. The last three laps I was so emotional I didn't know how to handle myself. I was driving so hard, the hardest that thing could ever drive. The guys were saying, 'eight car lengths...nine car lengths...10 car lengths.' You could hear their voices tracking it. We had a good car. Everybody saw it today, and a good car wins the race."


"It's been a lot of fun this season. It's been a weird year, and I know a lot of people said a lot of things that might have hurt me inside the way things went. The real people that watched us knew we could do this, knew we had a good car week-in and week-out. Things just didn't work out our way this year. This is a good way for everybody to sit back this whole winter long and realise we finally got ourselves a win. I'm sure there's going to be many more in front of us."


"You look at the champions, the Earnhardts, the Gordons, the Labontes, and two or three years ago I was watching these guys in my Winnebago trying to make it in Winston Cup racing. Just to be out there racing against those guys, it's a dream come true. I just had to hold everything together and try not to do anything stupid and come home in good position."


"Good things happen to good people. I waited a long time. Like the old saying, 'sometimes it's good to wait to get a good deal.' I didn't hop around. The first person who came by and cheered for me was Bill Elliott, my old team owner. He was ecstatic. I can see him inside the car, and his arms were just pumping away. It's been a difficult time, though. Going from the 9 car and the 13 car and the 36 car, every team that I was with basically went bankrupt or broke or just went downhill. This sport has risen to a new level and it's hard for people to hang on because of the budgets and stuff. I knew when I got on board with Hendrick Motorsports that I wasn't going to have a problem with budgets or cars or anything like that."


"We've got the best of everything. The thing that I had a problem with is that I knew it was going to take some time for me to get acclimatised with good race cars. When you've got good race cars, you've got to run a whole different routine. I used to run all out and I used to wreck a lot of cars. Now, I've gained so much more patience because I know I've got a good car car under me. I've just got to be smart about it and be there at the end of the race. That's what this whole year has taught me. Granted, we've wrecked some cars this season, but we've led eight or nine races, had great starting positions, put the crowd on their feet on some moves we've made. There's going to be a lot more of this in the future. I'm just ecstatic to be with the guys, to be with Hendrick Motorsports, Terry Labonte and Jeff Gordon. They're great guys."


"It just means that perseverance pays. I waited. I had to find the right people, and I got the right people behind me. When Rick Hendrick gave me an opportunity to drive the 25 car, I knew it could be my chance. If it isn't then obviously I'm not made to be in here. This year has been a strange year, but all-in-all, everything I've done has paid off. Going to Europe, being with those teams that weren't that good, to be honest, helped out."

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