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Last lap one too many for Nadeau

© St. Petersburg Times,
published November 19, 2001

HAMPTON, Ga. -- If nothing else, Jerry Nadeau can sue Atlanta Motor Speedway for false advertising. Had the NAPA 500 truly been a 500-mile race, he likely would have won.

Nadeau was leading the final lap, but his No. 25 Chevrolet ran out of gas half a mile from the checkered flag. Completing 325 laps on the 1.54-mile layout calls for running 500.5 miles.

"It's an unfortunate deal," said Nadeau, whose only Winston Cup victory was at Atlanta a year ago. "We just didn't get good fuel mileage today. I'm not sure why. Gosh darn it, we had a half-lap to go and just couldn't get there."

Nadeau, who led 41 laps, made a yellow-flag stop on Lap 263 but could not stretch 22 gallons of fuel over 95.5 miles. He received no warning before the fuel gauge dipped going into Turn3.

Nadeau's car coasted across the finish line, but only after Bobby Labonte, Sterling Marlin and Kevin Harvick passed him in the final 200 yards.

HOT AND COLD: Tony Stewart's late-season charge continued, as did Ricky Rudd's fade.

Stewart finished ninth, his 10th top 10 in 12 races, to overtake Rudd by 26 points for second in the standings. Rudd, who used a provisional to start 37th, was 28th. His fifth finish outside the top 20 in seven races allowed fourth-place Marlin to pull within 16.

"We knew the championship was out of hand," said Rudd, who trailed leader Jeff Gordon by 305 at the start of the day. "But it looks like we're going to give up second and maybe third if we're not careful."

MAKING HISTORY: Labonte won from 39th, the deepest starting position of a winner in Winston Cup's 29-year modern era. Only two drivers came from farther in NASCAR's 52 years: Johnny Mantz from 43rd in a 75-car field at Darlington in 1950 and Fonty Flock from 43rd in a 49-car field at Raleigh Speedway in 1953.

NICE HAT, DUDE: Over-the-wall crew members for 10 teams wore a variety of helmets -- racing, hockey and skateboard -- after three members of Rudd's crew were injured in an accident Nov. 11 at Homestead. Helmets are not mandatory for crew members, though NASCAR is considering changes to make pit road safer.

FAILED EXPERIMENT: The No. 47 Chevrolet fielded by owner Andy Petree attempted to run the same motor for qualifying, practice and the race in anticipation of next year's single-engine rule. The engine blew 106 laps into the race.

NUTS AND BOLTS: Kyle Petty led for the first time since Pocono in June 2000. ... Because of an unseasonably high temperature of 75 degrees, bugs were plentiful. Even with tearoffs, teams struggled to keep the windshields clean. ... Mark Martin's streak of 12 consecutive seasons in the top 10 in points ended with Sunday's 22nd place in the race. He is 12th in points.

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