Jerry Nadeau, NASCAR's new rising star, invited 20 friends and supporters to the recent G.M Winston Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway to thank them for their support during his early years as a struggling racer. Included in this...
Jerry Nadeau, NASCAR's new rising star, invited 20 friends and supporters to the recent G.M Winston Cup test session at Daytona International Speedway to thank them for their support during his early years as a struggling racer. Included in this all expense paid visit to Daytona Beach, Fla. was Skip Barber Senior Instructor Bruce Mac Innes as well as fellow Skip Barber graduates, Walter Bladstrom, Tom Cotter, Bill Fisher, Bob Kullas, Frank Martinelli and Art Regan.
Martinelli first brought Nadeau to Mac Innes' attention in 1988. "It was clear that this shy young racer had all of the elements necessary to succeed at any level of motorsports," Mac Innes said. "As a participant in our Eastern Race Series, Jerry not only impressed all who watched his development, but also earned the respect and financial support of Walter, Bob, Frank, Bill and Art. He went on to win our 'Big Scholarship' and the support of noted writer, Jeremy Shaw. This led to extremely successful efforts in our (Barber) Pro Series and road racing in Europe". Nadeau went on to become Rookie of the Year in the 1991 Skip Barber Eastern Race Series. Later that year at the Barber Pro Series 'Big Scholarship' Shoot-out, Nadeau won the competition, earning himself a full season in the Barber Pro Series. In 23 Pro Series starts, Nadeau scored five wins, seven poles and finished his career with 210 points, good for 23rd on the all-time list.
It was readily apparent, that the young Nadeau had loads of talent. On his behalf, Mac Innes contacted Tom Cotter from the prominent motorsports promotion company, The Cotter Group.
"Tom is a racer and had the perspective to clearly see Jerry's potential," Mac Innes said. "He was particularly impressed with Jerry's commitment to succeed."
Cotter along with his associates Melanie Whitfield and Todd Moore were responsible for Nadeau's first ride in ASA and NASCAR where his raw talent was once again evident. The Cotter Group finally nailed down major sponsorship from Michael Holligan Homes and Hendrick Motorsports, leading to a long term contract for Nadeau in the number 25 Winston Cup car.
Mac Innes along with the other invited guests had plenty of time to mill about Daytona paddock and watch the two days of testing that lead up to the grand daddy of all Winston Cup races. Mac Innes also had time to catch up to a couple other Skip Barber Racing School graduates in Jeff Gordon and Kyle Petty.
At the celebration banquet, Nadeau presented everyone with engraved plaques thanking them for "making his dream come true in Wins ton Cup racing". Other highlights were a visit to Daytona USA and late night go-karting and drag racing at Speed World, where Jer ry's dad proved the true meaning of the words "Red Mist" according to Mac Innes.
"Our 'Big Scholarship' is America's best hope for the development of prominent racing talent," says Mac Innes. "This program needs to be expanded so the process of helping guys like Jerry get to the top can happen sooner. I would like to encourage the corporate leaders of America to back this effort through Skip Barber so that America's talented racing drivers can become a force to be reckoned with on a world wide level."
All in all the experience was one that Mac Innes said he would never forget. It also goes to show that there are athletes who don't forget their roots nor the people who helped them along the way. Jerry Nadeau is just such and individual, a real example of grace and generosity.
- George Tamayo