Fri Oct 26, 2012 1:55 am
May 2, 2013 will mark the 10th anniversary of the accident that stripped Jerry Nadeau of his passion. He recalls being the fastest thing on site at Martinsville Speedway that day during practice. And after changing a shock, he re-entered the racetrack, barreled off into Turn 1 and spun into the concrete wall, driver's side. It nearly killed him. Nadeau said his wreck registered at 121 times the force of gravity. By comparison, the hits that recently sent Dale Earnhardt Jr. to the doctor with successive concussions registered 40 G's at Kansas and 20 G's at Talladega, respectively. Nadeau suffered a traumatic brain injury, four broken ribs and a collapsed lung. He spent time in a medically induced coma and didn't regain full consciousness for three weeks. He would never race again.
"I just don't know what to do now," he said. "I'm literally lost at times. I wake up like, 'Well, what am I doing today?' There are so many times that I forget things. I feel normal. I feel like I'm myself. Sounding OK is one thing. But something's not right. I used to have so much get-up-and-go. Right now I'm just a loaf. I don't know if the injury had anything to do with it, but I'm just not interested in doing anything. The hit took a lot out of me. I think right now I'm just surviving. Racing was my life, and it got taken away."
"My whole life I was selfish. It was always just me -- all me," he said. "Then I realized that if I took one more hit it could be my last hit. It doesn't take much to injure your brain. I've had a few concussions -- I've had a lot, actually -- from go-karts to modifieds to sports cars to the Cup series. And every time you get a concussion you damage something in your brain. I can't tell you how many times I had headaches -- constant headaches. And I never once thought about an injury, or my brain." Nadeau still suffers from depression. He said he takes medication daily to cope. Before he married Mary Anna four months ago, he said he would at times hole himself up in his bedroom, draw the blinds, order pizza and watch movies all day. When asked if doctors cite his brain injury as a contributing factor to his ongoing depression, Nadeau was uncertain.
He tried for a time to mentor young racers. Frye recalled Nadeau's pride in working with David Gilliland, leading up to Gilliland's breakthrough 2006 Nationwide Series victory at Kentucky Speedway. But being at the racetrack was emotionally destructive for Nadeau. He's a former Cup series winner (one victory in 177 starts), and he was made to feel like just another guy. Nadeau still wonders what's next. Fortunately he made sound financial choices both before and after the injury. "It's been hard. It's been really, really hard. It's almost like I lost my life." Read more more at ESPN.com.(10-26-2012)