RICHMOND, Va. Jerry Nadeau was in intensive care with head, lung and rib injuries from a crash in Winston Cup practice, and his vital signs are very good,'' team general manager Jay Frye said Saturday.
Nadeau remained in critical condition a day after the crash at Richmond International Raceway. He has not spoken since the accident, Frye said, but has been communicating with visitors despite being sedated.
He was aware that I was there,'' said Frye, who has seen the 32-year-old driver three times since the accident in practice Friday afternoon. Frye said Nadeau acknowledged his presence by squeezing Frye's hand.
He looks phenomenal,'' Frye said. Once I went in to see him and left, it made a world of difference to me. You go in not knowing what to expect, and then you see there's your guy. Everything's OK.''
Nadeau continues to undergo a series of tests, Frye said, but he could not specify what those tests were or what they have shown to this point. He also could not say whether Nadeau was breathing on his own again, but said each time he's seen Nadeau, he looked better than the last time.
We're very encouraged,'' he said. We'll know so much more tonight or tomorrow morning'' after more testing has been completed and studied.
We feel like he's in great, great care,'' Frye said.
Nadeau suffered a partially collapsed left lung and rib injuries, although Frye said we don't know how many or which ones.''
The driver was injured during the final practice for Saturday night's Pontiac Excitement 400 when his car slammed into the wall between the first and second turns.
Rescue crews sawed the roof off his Pontiac, and the 32-year-old driver from Danbury, Conn., 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 Medical College of Virginia Hospitals.
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 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.''
Nadeau's wife, Jada, was attending her grandfather's funeral in Spartanburg, S.C., when contacted by NASCAR. Nadeau teammate Johnny Benson's team sent a plane to pick her up, but it had to turn back because of severe weather in the Spartanburg and Charlotte, N.C., areas.
A second plane, this one sent by NASCAR, brought Jada Nadeau to Richmond at about 11 p.m., and she stayed with her husband until 3:30 a.m.
Jada also was encouraged after getting to see her husband, Frye said.
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.
Earlier, Nadeau qualified 12th for the race. Busch Series regular Jason Keller, one of the few drivers small enough to fit in Nadeau's seat, was to make his Winston Cup debut driving a backup car Saturday night.
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.''
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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