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Nadeau released by Hendrick Motorsports


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Nadeau released by Hendrick Motorsports


AP Sports Writer

May 8, 2002



CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) -- Jerry Nadeau was released from his contract with Hendrick Motorsports on Wednesday, leaving a team that has drivers Jeff Gordon, Terry Labonte and Jimmie Johnson.


Team president John Hendrick did not name a replacement driver, but Joe Nemechek is expected to drive the No. 25 Chevrolet on an interim basis. Nemechek has been out of a permanent job since Haas-Carter Motorsports closed shop earlier this season after sponsorship problems.


``It may be in our best interests not to name a permanent replacement until the end of the season, when we have a clearer picture of who might be available,'' Hendrick said.


Nadeau might not be out of work for long. He's in discussion with MBV Motorsports to fill in for Johnny Benson in The Winston Open next week at Lowe's Motor Speedway.


Benson was injured during the Busch race in Richmond, Va., last week and missed Sunday's Winston Cup race. Nemechek filled in for him.


``Right now I plan to sit in the stands at Charlotte, but that could change,'' Nadeau said.


The 31-year-old Nadeau scored the only win of his Winston Cup career in Atlanta in November 2000, at the end of his first full season with Hendrick.


This season, Nadeau is 28th in the series standings with one top-10 finish in 11 starts. Since joining Hendrick, Nadeau has seven top-fives and 15 top-10s in 81 starts.


The team replaced crew chief Tony Furr three races ago, and Ken Howes, director of competition at Hendrick, has been filling in until a permanent replacement is found.


The Winston Cup series heads next week to Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C., where Nadeau has traditionally run well.


But Nadeau said it was time to part ways.


``I was very unhappy and they were, too,'' he said. ``The Hendricks are good people and you don't want anyone involved to be unhappy, so I said, 'Maybe I need to go.' Now is as good a time as any. They can think about what they want to do and I can start looking at my options.''


Hendrick Motorsports is one of the top teams in NASCAR, with five Winston Cup championships from Gordon (four) and Labonte (one).


Its Cup operation expanded this year to include Johnson, a protege of Gordon's, who has jumped out to a tremendous start and picked up his first victory two weeks ago in California.


At times, Nadeau has seemed on the verge of being another Hendrick success. But bad luck -- he ran out of gas while leading on the final lap at last year's season-finale in Atlanta -- has hindered him and likely played a part in his release.


``Jerry has shown some flashes of brilliance while driving for us over the past 2 1/2 years,'' Hendrick said.


There always has been speculation that Gordon gets all the best equipment at Hendrick and now that Johnson is aboard, he's sharing in the wealth, while Nadeau and Labonte are stuck with leftovers.


Team owner Rick Hendrick has always denied that rumor, and Nadeau had nothing negative to say about the organization Wednesday.


``We parted ways; that's just part of Winston Cup racing,'' he said. ``Rick Hendrick has always been like family with me and I hope it stays that way.''


Nadeau isn't sure what he'll do for longterm and could sit back and watch to see what kind of rides open up as the season goes on.


Typically, driver movement doesn't begin until late in the summer. But Nadeau is now unemployed, Elliott Sadler has asked for a release from Wood Brothers Racing, and Dale Earnhardt Inc. is thought to be considering changes with Michael Waltrip and Steve Park.


``I'll get back into a car today if I have to,'' Nadeau said. ``But I'm not going to jump into the first thing that comes along. I have plenty of years left and the sport has gotten so big, I'm confident a good situation will come along.''



I wonder if Hendrick's comment about maybe we should wait until the end of the season has anything to do with Elliot Sadler, Steve Park, or Michael Waltrip.

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Guest Friz

Man, that sucks!  :angry:

I thought Nadeau was doing okay with Hendrick!?!?

Well, he wasn't setting the world on fire, but jeez, he did get a win and some good runs. When was Terry Labonte's least win?

I like Jerry Nadeau and hope he gets a ride that smokes all the Hendrick teams!

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I've always respected Nadeau (a boy from CT, btw), and I hope he winds up in a good ride.  I think the speculation about Hendrick giving the best stuff to gordon may have a bit of truth to it, based on the way the drivers perform (except Labonte's recent championship).  I'm not saying there's some conspiracy or that gordon doesn't have any talent, but the teams have performed quite unequally over the past couple seasons.

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