Monday, May 5, 2003

Nemechek gambles, blunders, and wins

The Associated Press

RICHMOND, Va. - The way Joe Nemechek's career has gone, it wasn't a surprise his victory at the Pontiac Excitement 400 featured some blunders and some gambles.

Nemechek led six times for 155 laps and won when the last 6 1/2 laps were rained out Saturday night. He made up for a pit-stop blunder with a fast car that let him climb back through the field, and solid, but risky, pit strategy.

The third victory of his career came a year after Nemechek got into the spring Winston Cup race at Richmond as a replacement driver when Johnny Benson broke a rib in a Busch Series race.

"I was fortunate. I was out of a job last year," Nemechek said, having seen his new team with Haas-Carter Motorsports cease operations after just seven races. The replacement job for Benson got him back in the car, and he then replaced Jerry Nadeau for Hendrick Motorsports.

Now, his one-year contract with Hendrick is looking pretty secure.

Nemechek was riding on older tires than closest pursuers Bobby Labonte and Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of the race. The leaders had advantages wiped out by caution flags repeatedly, but each time the race went back to green, Nemechek sped off and still seemed to have the race in hand.

Had the race gone back to green after a red-flag rain delay, runner-up Labonte said he thought Nemechek would have won anyway, so hooked up was his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

"This car was unbelievable tonight," Nemechek gushed. "I could go high or low, from the top to the bottom, run across the apron - I could do anything I wanted to do.

"When you get a car that good, you've got to take advantage of it."

NADEAU UPDATE: Injured driver Jerry Nadeau got a hospital visit from Kyle Petty, Jeff Burton and NASCAR great Bobby Allison on Sunday. Nadeau remained in critical condition Sunday, two days after his car slammed into a wall during practice at Richmond International Raceway.

The drivers visited Nadeau the morning after the Pontiac Excitement 400. Nadeau's parents, sister and wife also were at Medical College of Virginia Hospitals.

Nadeau has a partially collapsed lung and unspecified rib and head injuries. His condition remained unchanged from Saturday.

"We're in a wait-and-see pattern," U.S. Army team spokesman David Ferroni said.

"Everything is the same."

The 32-year-old driver had good vital signs and was sedated while being put through a series of tests, MB2-MBV Motorsports general manager Jay Frye said Saturday. Nadeau had not spoken since the accident, but acknowledged the presence of visitors by squeezing their hands, Frye said.

The team still has not given any details about the extent of Nadeau's injuries, and Ferroni said he had no new information Sunday. Before Saturday night's race, Frye said the team hoped it would know more by Sunday morning, when the results of new tests were known.

Winston Cup points race

Matt Kenseth1,619
D.Earnhardt Jr. 1,599
Kurt Busch 1,452
Jeff Gordon 1,441
Bobby Labonte 1,376
Jimmie Johnson 1,372
Michel Waltrip1,361
Kevin Harvick1,328
Coming up:

May 17: The Winston (all-star exhibition), Concord, N.C.

May 25 - Coca-Cola 600, Concord, N.C.

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Nemechek gambles, blunders, and wins

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