Nadeau visits garage for 1st time since his critical injury

Saturday, July 19, 2003

LOUDON, N.H. -- Jerry Nadeau could hardly sleep the night before his first trip back to the race track. It could have been nerves or excitement -- after all, it's been 11 weeks since he was critically injured in a wreck.

Nadeau said it was neither.

"It might have been because my dad was snoring," Nadeau said.

Yep, it was the same old Jerry.

Nadeau sustained head, lung and rib injuries in the May 2 accident during a practice session at Richmond International Raceway. He spent 24 days in the hospital, another two weeks in a rehabilitation facility, and has been undergoing therapy on an outpatient basis since.

Finally ready to return to the race track, he strolled through the garage Friday at New Hampshire International Speedway eagerly accepting good wishes from his fellow competitors.

He looked the same, maybe just a little thinner. And unlike Steve Park, who struggled with his speech in the months after sustaining a head injury, Nadeau sounded clear and concise.

And his humor, so dry and sarcastic before the wreck, has not missed a beat.

"Do you want me to jump around and scream?" he said when asked if he was excited to be back.

And when someone else inquired about his vision, Nadeau didn't hesitate: "Am I cross-eyed?"

The only thing seemingly slowing him down is a lack of feeling in his left side, the result of one of three brain lesions that has yet to totally heal.

While recent tests show two of the brain bruises have healed, Dr. Jerry Petty, a neurosurgeon who works with many of NASCAR's drivers, said the third bruise is the last of Nadeau's lingering injuries.

"The damage I've done to my brain, I can't really feel the left side of my body, but its all there," he said. "I can do the same things I used to do before."

So his left arm remained at his side during a 30-minute news conference, with Nadeau using his right hand to chug on an energy drink and make his greetings in the garage.

But it's not slowing him down too much: He's already been go-karting at least twice in his bid to resume his career.

"I'm ecstatic to get behind the wheel of a car," he said. "This is all I've ever done in life. I've been given a second chance and I'm excited and I'm willing to go through the hard road to get back."

Nadeau's return to a race car is probably still a long way off.

Qualifying washed out

Winston Cup points leader Matt Kenseth earned his first pole of the season Friday when rain washed out qualifying at New Hampshire International Speedway.

The 43-car field for the New England 300 was set by car owner points and Kenseth, who has led the series standings since March, was automatically awarded the top starting spot for Sunday's race.

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