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Winston Cup Series

Monday, May 5

Driver in serious-but-stable condition
Associated Press

Jerry Nadeau
RICHMOND, Va. -- Winston Cup driver Jerry Nadeau was upgraded from critical to serious-but-stable condition Monday, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The Medical College of Virginia Hospitals spokeswoman said Nadeau does not have a fractured skull and he is conscious, not in an induced coma, as the Hartford (Conn.) Courant had reported on Sunday.

The 32-year-old Nadeau, of Danbury, Conn., has improved vital signs Monday.

Nadeau got a hospital visit from Kyle Petty, Jeff Burton and NASCAR great Bobby Allison on Sunday. The drivers visited Nadeau the morning after the Pontiac Excitement 400, which was won by Joe Nemechek.

Nadeau had qualified 12th for the race. The team hired Busch Series regular Jason Keller to drive its backup car in the race, and Keller finished 32nd in his Winston Cup debut.

Nadeau suffered head, lung and rib injuries Friday when his car slammed into a wall during practice at Richmond International Raceway during practice for Saturday night's Pontiac Excitement 400.

Rescue crews sawed the roof off his Pontiac, and Nadeau did not appear to be moving when he was lifted from the car strapped to a body board. He was being given oxygen through a bag, and his neck was in a brace. His uniform appeared to have been removed when he was loaded a short time later onto a helicopter and taken to the hospital.

Team spokesman Jay Frye said it appeared the back end of Nadeau's car began to come around as he entered the first turn and tried to compensate by mashing the gas pedal to the floor, common practice for drivers trying not to crash.

"It looked like that helped accelerate it going backwards," he said.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Nadeau was wearing a HANS device, a head and neck restraint made mandatory in October 2001 -- eight months after the death of seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

The team, Frye said, is coping by keeping busy.

"Sometimes when you go though a difficult time, being busy's better," he said. "We've got to continue and that's the way Jerry would want it."

The accident occurred a few hours before the Busch series race on the track Friday night. The event had a record 14 caution flags for 93 laps.

"It's not the safest sport," said Kyle Petty, whose 19-year-old son Adam was killed in a crash while practicing for a Busch Series race at Loudon, N.H., in May 2000. "But we know that, and we accept that."

NASCAR impounded the car and was transporting it to its research and development center in Concord, N.C., for further testing, Hunter said.

Investigators already have ruled out early speculation that the accident was caused by a stuck throttle or a blown tire, he said.

Nadeau was racing in the clear when he lost control of his car.

Nadeau, a one-time winner in his sixth full season on NASCAR's top circuit, earned his only victory in the final race at Atlanta in 2000.

His best season in Winston Cup was 2001, when he had four top-five and 10 top-10 finishes in 34 races as a Hendrick Motorsports teammate to four-time series champion Jeff Gordon. Nadeau finished 17th in points.

After parting ways with Hendrick last season, he landed in a ride with Petty Enterprises in June and was on his way to an easy victory in Sonoma, Calif., when a gear broke in his car with two laps left.

It was just another bad break in his Winston Cup career: He ran out of gas while leading on the final lap of the 2001 season finale in Atlanta. A few months earlier, he'd been dominant in the inaugural race at Chicago when he lost his motor.

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