Nadeau ready to taste the new with Hendrick By Marty Smith
MOORESVILLE, N.C. (Dec. 28, 1999) In terms of practicality, NASCAR Winston Cup Series driver Jerry Nadeau couldn't ask for a more fitting sponsor on his Hendrick Motorsports-owned No. 25 Chevrolet than Michael Holigan Homes.
Growing up in Connecticut, Nadeau all but mastered the roofing business while watching and working with his father Gerard, a roofer by trade. Thus, when Holigan opted to enter the high dollar realm of NASCAR Winston Cup Series racing, he knew Nadeau was the perfect fit to best promote his product.
"Yeah, I had my heart set on Jerry," said Holigan, who through television and the Internet has turned a small Texas home-building company into a nationwide authority on home improvement. "He knows what home-building is all about, and of course he's an awesome driver."
True, at times Nadeau has shown flashes of brilliance during his short tenure in NASCAR's premiere series -- especially on road courses -- but for the most part it's been largely disappointing. In three seasons, he's been in the top-5 just once -- the 1999 Frontier at the Glen -- and also finished in the top-10 in the DieHard 500 at Talladega this past season. Other than that, however, it's been a relative nightmare, and he'll be the first to admit it.
"My time has come -- it's been a long three years," said Nadeau, sitting on the back porch of his new home on Lake Norman near Charlotte, N.C. "I'm so excited to be where I am, but I know I can be much better than I've shown.
"Driving for Rick Hendrick, with championship teammates like Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte, it's just a dream. It's really time for me to step up and show what I can do. I don't really think I've shown what I can really do behind the wheel of a race car. It's my time to prove myself."
Thus far, the new look No. 25 team has been impressive. At a recent test, they were "extremely pleased with the numbers," according to both Holigan and Nadeau. They also said that during the test, Gordon and Nadeau switched cars, and both proved quicker in the other's ride.
"I was quicker in his and he was quicker in mine, which was a little bit surprising," Nadeau said. "It's a big benefit for us both. I'm not afraid to ask for help, either. This is really going to be a tight three-car team. This sport's not getting any easier. You've gotta take all you can get and use every bit of it."
With the wealth of help they'll receive during the NASCAR 2000 season, the unique owner-driver duo is out to accomplish two distinct goals: Consistent excellence in qualifying and successful erasure of the series-wide rumor that the 25 car is strictly used for research and development purposes.
"A lot of people talk about the 25 being an R&D car, but I don't believe that at all," Nadeau said. "The car has won with three other drivers, so that tells you something."
"The numbers tell you more," shot back Holigan, referring to the test, from across the table. "I knew Jerry was fast, but not that fast."
And, as fast as Nadeau is in a race car, he's just as quick with a hammer in his hand.
Three weeks ago, Holigan, Nadeau and Nadeau's father scaled the driver's new home and installed a new roof, which was also filmed for use on one of Holigan's upcoming television programs. The show, entitled "Michael Holigan's Your New House," is syndicated on more than 130 broadcast television stations around the nation, airing Monday-Friday at 6 p.m. ET on The Discovery Channel.
"When Jerry mentioned that he and his dad were going to re-roof his house, I thought it would make a neat segment for 'Your New House,'" Holigan said. "How often do you see a professional athlete and his father working together, much less on the roof of a house? That makes Jerry the highest paid roofer I know."
"Being on top of a house doesn't bother me any more than being behind the wheel of a race car at 200 mph," Nadeau said. "Once you've been around it as long as I have, you get used to it. I'm not saying I have no fear -- it's just something I enjoy doing. It's been a lot of fun working with my dad again, this time on my house -- it's almost like the old days."