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Nadeau Seriously Injured in Crash

From Associated Press

Winston Cup driver Jerry Nadeau was critically injured when he crashed in practice Friday at Richmond International Raceway.

The 32-year-old driver from Danbury, Conn., did not appear to be moving when he was removed from his car strapped to a body board. He was being fed oxygen through a bag when he was put in the ambulance.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Nadeau was in critical condition at the Medical College of Virginia Hospitals. He said the hospital was prevented from saying more while awaiting the arrival of the driver’s wife, Jada, who was traveling from South Carolina after attending her grandfather’s funeral. NASCAR sent a plane to pick her up.

Nadeau’s wife arrived about 11 p.m. after enduring weather delays, and was en route to the hospital, Hunter said. He said no further information about Nadeau’s condition would be available until this morning, and a hospital spokeswoman referred all inquiries to NASCAR officials.

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Nadeau’s Pontiac struck the outside wall on the three-quarter-mile oval during the final practice session for tonight’s Pontiac Excitement 400. The car skidded, spun halfway around and slammed driver’s side first into the wall between the first and second turns.

After several minutes, rescue crews cut part of the roof off the car, climbed inside and removed Nadeau. He was wearing a head and neck restraint device made mandatory last year in the wake of the death in 2001 of seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt.

Nadeau was taken by ambulance to the infield care center, then airlifted from the track as Henrico County police and fire officials ordered onlookers away from the helipad.

Earlier, Nadeau qualified 12th for the race.

He is in his sixth full season on NASCAR’s top circuit. His only victory in 177 career starts came in the final race of 2000 at Atlanta Motor Speedway.

“I didn’t see the crash,” said Richard Childress, who owned the car in which seven-time champion Dale Earnhardt was killed at Daytona in 2001.

“But you can look at the tire marks and see he didn’t scuff any speed. It looks like it just spun and immediately hit the wall.”

While most horrific accidents occur at the larger speedways on the circuit, Richmond International Raceway is known as a fast track. Over the years, it has had its share of serious crashes.

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Just last fall in a crash here, Sterling Marlin suffered a broken neck that was not diagnosed for two weeks. In a Busch Series race crash that same weekend, Winston Cup driver Derrike Cope was injured.

“Fortunately, the car I drove had all the [safety] stuff in the car,” Cope said Friday. “It had the good headrest. It had a good seat. It had the six-point harness. It had all the things. For the violent nature of the crash, I thought I came through it relatively well. I’m sure if I hadn’t had those things, the outcome could have been drastically different.”

Nadeau was rookie of the year in the Skip Barber Eastern Series in 1991 and won nine races from 1993 to ’95. He made his NASCAR debut in the Busch series in 1995.

He was an All-American Soap Box Derby racer before turning to go-karts in 1984. He won 10 races in World Karting Assn. and International Karting Foundation competition from 1984 to ’90.

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

Nadeau is in his first full season as a driver for MB2 Motorsports.

Terry Labonte won the pole for tonight’s race. He hadn’t won a pole anywhere since March 2000 and hadn’t won a pole at this three-quarter-mile oval since 1997.

The Baltimore Sun contributed to this report.

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