Originally created 06/28/01

Racers get rare break in schedule



ATLANTA - The last thing racer Jerry Nadeau wants to do on his solitary free weekend between now and Thanksgiving is nothing. The only speed he will know this Saturday and Sunday is the notch just short of glacier; the only pit stop he will make will be the result of a two-liter bottle of soda and a bag of chips.

Nadeau is going to savor the break, the only one before a grueling 20-week stretch that will bounce him around the country like a lottery ball gone berserk by not changing his socks and leaving the razor on the counter for a couple of days.

"We've used our pool only twice this year, and I've spent a lot of money on it to keep it clean and kept up," he said. "Maybe we'll go out on the boat and have dinner on the boat. I just want to have a relaxing time."

In general, racers don't have many breaks. When they're not at one of the 36 official races or the two all-star events, they're testing or making personal appearances for their sponsors. Home is simply where they pay the pool man and swap this week's laundry for what will become next week's laundry.

Nadeau is lucky. Many of his racing brethren will be doing what they know best - driving in the fast lane - during the off weekend. If they can't work their regular job, they look for part-time work in trucks, late model racers and stock cars from other series.

"I'm a racer," driver Stacy Compton said. "If I could race seven days a week, I would."

Compton will be in Alabama this weekend. He canceled his appearance at a racing champions show Saturday to enjoy at least one off day, but he plans to be at full speed Sunday.

Points leader Jeff Gordon will spend the weekend at his retreat in south Florida.

Kyle Petty will complete his cross-country motorcycle ride to benefit his Victory Junction Gang camp for critically ill children. Several hours after the caravan of riders arrive at his family's farm near Randleman, N.C., the weeklong charity will conclude with a private concert by Lynyrd Skynyrd on Saturday.

A day later, it's back to work, trying to get all three Petty Enterprises cars up to speed and in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona International Speedway on July 7.

Matt Kenseth, Todd Bodine and Kevin Harvick will work at Sunday's GNC Live Well 250 for the NASCAR Busch Series at Milwaukee, while Kurt Busch and Bobby Hamilton will drive in a Craftsman Truck Series race Saturday.

The upcoming stretch of 20 consecutive races is certain to test a driver's resolve and endurance. It will be even tougher on the pit crews, which will have to build and rebuild cars every week. The team that catches its second wind the quickest will have the advantage, especially when the sport hits that formidable stretch that includes consecutive stops at Richmond, Va.; Loudon, N.H.; Dover, Del.; Kansas City, Kan.; and Concord, N.C. Like a marathon runner resting his feet the night before a race, Nadeau and Jeff Burton hope to find necessary stamina for a stretch drive that will include the Fourth of July, Labor Day and Halloween.

"At this point, you just need to sit back and try to do as much relaxing as you can since we have a long stretch in front of us," Burton said. "It will be four months before we get another break."

Reach Don Coble at doncoble@bellsouth.net.