Daytona 500: Jerry Nadeau interview

Daytona 500 question and answer with U.S. Army Driver Jerry Nadeau. DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2003) - Jerry Nadeau will be surrounded with nothing but newness when he arrives this week at Daytona International Speedway to begin preparations...

Daytona 500 question and answer with U.S. Army Driver Jerry Nadeau.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (Feb. 3, 2003) - Jerry Nadeau will be surrounded with nothing but newness when he arrives this week at Daytona International Speedway to begin preparations for NASCAR's season opener - the 45th running of the Daytona 500.

The 32-year-old veteran Winston Cup driver will be with a new team, new sponsor, new crew chief, a new crew and a new car. After what he referred to as a "tough year" in 2002, Nadeau signed with MB2 Motorsports to drive the black and gold United States Army No. 01 Pontiac Grand Prix.

Nadeau was later joined by talented crew chief Ryan Pemberton, who returned to MB2 Motorsports to lead the team's effort.

The 2003 Daytona 500 (Sunday, Feb. 16th) will be Nadeau's sixth. His best finish in stock car's biggest race was 11th in 1999.

In the following question and answer session, Nadeau talks about the new U.S. Army team, his outlook, last year and the Daytona 500.

Following the Q&A are quick facts and notes relating to Nadeau and the Daytona 500.

Q: It's a new team, are you ready to roll?

Nadeau: Of course I am. This is what I live for - to race. I've been dong this since I was four-years-old. I feel it's going to be a great year and I am excited to be with the U.S. Army and MB2 Motorsports. We're all anxious to get to Daytona. It's a special race with a lot of history. I'd love to run strong at Daytona, but my main focus is the whole year -- to be a competitive frontrunner every race. Not just Daytona, but everywhere we go to. It means more to me to run well at every racetrack. Yeah, I'm excited -- everything is a new look with us. I'm excited to have the U.S. Army on board and represent them. After going to Afghanistan, spending time with the troops and understanding more what the military is all about I have a whole new outlook. I am very excited to get started and, hopefully, we can win a bunch of races together.

Q: Since you were with a few different teams last year and missed the last five races due to an off-track injury, do you feel you have something to prove?

Nadeau: Last year was a tough year. I left Hendrick Motorsports, hopped around and helped some teams out. But I don't think I have anything to prove. I've always given all I have. People who know me know that I have the drive to win. I've led a lot of races and could have easily won six times in the last couple of years. But unfortunately "Lady Luck" bit us all of the time. It's important to get off to a good start. Though we're a new team, I think it's going to take some time for Ryan (crew chief Ryan Pemberton), the crew and myself to get things going especially with the new cars and the new Pontiac bodies. I sincerely feel we're going to conquer and do well. I am anxious to have the finishes speak for themselves.

Q: You mentioned Ryan Pemberton and the team. How is your relationship with them?

Nadeau: It's great. I feel this is one of the best Winston Cup situations I've ever been in. I get along with the guys and get along with Ryan. He's young, talented and has a lot of drive. That's what I like about him -- he's aggressive. The toughest thing is that we're so new and we have to learn quickly. Hopefully, we can get things turned up soon.

Q: What are your realistic objectives going into Daytona?

Nadeau: All I want is to be competitive. The wins are going to come along, as will the top fives and the top 10s. I'm not going to sit here and say, yeah, I want to finish in the top 10 in points and, yeah, I want to win three races. Instead, I want to be part of a competitive team every week. If we're a competitive frontrunner, then we're going to win races. It's pretty simple.

Q: What's it like racing at Daytona International Speedway?

Nadeau: It's speedway racing and with the rules it doesn't allow anyone to separate from each other. It's pretty much of a hair-raising experience. You're bumper-to-bumper for 200 laps with 43 guys and you have to put your hands and your trust in every one of those guys out there. It's probably the most tiring mind race of the year.

Q: Do you feel that having more pit stops due to the Daytona fuel capacity rule (14-gallon tank compared to a 22-gallon tank) will have any effect on separating the pack of cars?

Nadeau: I don't think so. We did it at Talladega and it didn't really seem to do anything. All it does is put more emphasis on the teams to make sure they have good pits tops. It does play a little bit of a pit role strategy because there will be situations when you have to decide to take either two or four tires. I am sure the teams are going to be doing a lot of gambling.

Q: You've had strong results in the last three Twin 125 qualifying races with a third ('02), second ('01) and 10th ('00) place finishes. You must like sprint racing?

Nadeau: I think the 125 races I ran well in were the times we didn't qualify that strong on Pole Day. It was a situation where I had to finish up front to get into the big race. The 125 is a sprint race and running sprint races is something I've done my whole life. And, yes, I do enjoy the fast-pace style of a sprint race.

Q: Drafting is important at Daytona; How do you evaluate your drafting skills?

Nadeau: I'm always learning. If you stop learning then this isn't a sport to be in. You're always going to learn every week. I wouldn't say I'm the best drafter. There are a lot of guys who have more experience than I have and do a better job at it. We're only talking about two racetracks where drafting is critical and that's Daytona and Talladega. Some guys are very good at it -- Dale Jr. and Michael Waltrip have a knack for running well at the superspeedway races. Those guys are good and I feel I still have some learning to do to be as good as they are on tracks like Daytona and Talladega.

Q: When you were winning Go-Kart championships as a young child, did you dream about competing in the Daytona 500?

Nadeau: Of course I did. I think when you're young it's every kid's dream about racing in the Daytona 500. I would go down there with my family every year and would try to sneak into the pits. My first autograph was from Bill Elliott when I was 14. That place had and still has a special meaning.

Nadeau's Daytona 500 Race Notes

* Nadeau competed in 28 races last year and finished 37th in the points...He drove for four teams in 2002, beginning with Hendrick Motorsports (first 11 races of season). He filled in for the injured Johnny Benson for three races at MBV Motorsports, drove a car owned by Michael Waltrip for one race and competed in 13 races for Petty Enterprises. He missed the last five races of the season due to injuries - two fractured ribs and separated shoulder -- sustained in a go-kart accident at a friend's house. His best finish was eighth at the April Bristol race.

* In five career Daytona 500 starts, Nadeau's record is:
o 1998 Started 26th, finished 21st
o 1999 Started 25th, finished 11th
o 2000 Started 20th, finished 35th
o 2001 Started 5th, finished 32nd
o 2002 Started 8th, finished 28th

* It will be a reunion of sorts for Nadeau and crew chief Ryan Pemberton. They worked together in 1999 when Nadeau filled in for the injured Ernie Irvan in the No. 36 car, owned by MB2 Motorsports and tuned by Pemberton.

* Inspired by the tag line "An Army of One" Nadeau's U.S. Army Winston Cup car will carry the No. 01 during the 2003 NASCAR season. The No. 01 replaces the No. 36, which was the MB2 car number since the team joined the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit in 1997.

-mb2m

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Ernie Irvan , Michael Waltrip , Jerry Nadeau , Johnny Benson
Teams Hendrick Motorsports