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NASCAR WCUP: Jerry Nadeau Goes Sky-High

17 December 1998

CHESTER, S.C. -- Traveling at speeds of more than 120 mph is nothing new to professional race car drivers. Doing it without a steering wheel in front of them, however, is a different experience.

NASCAR Winston Cup driver Jerry Nadeau participated in his first skydive Nov. 19 in an attempt to add some excitement to the racing offseason. Accustomed to fast travel, he exceeded speeds of 120 mph during his rapid descent. Nadeau dove into his new adventure with Troy McGowan of Motor Racing Outreach and Stephanie Boyd-Durner of Inside NASCAR who brought along a camera crew to record the action for an upcoming segment.

"At first, I didn t know if jumping was a good idea or not," the Danbury, Conn. native confessed. "But I realized it would be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Once I got on the plane, I knew there was no turning back."

It was actually McGowan who initiated the jump, luring Nadeau to accompany him in his leap of faith. "This was my first time doing this," McGowan said. "I'm really glad Jerry decided to go. Everybody else has always backed out. It just takes a little faith and trust."

Before the rookie divers made their jumps with the professionals from SkyDive Carolina they had to go to ground school. There they were taught the proper techniques of how to jump from a moving aircraft and how to safely land without injury. They were also instructed on what to expect during their skydive experience.

Following the classroom course was the flight to 13,000 feet in a Twin Otter 22-passenger plane. Once there, the divers jumped in tandem with qualified instructors. After his initial jump with McGowan, Nadeau boarded the plane again, flew to the required altitude and stepped out once more with Boyd-Durner. The flight originated from Chester County Airport with divers jumping at a special pit designed to soften the landing.

"I didn't know what to expect during the first jump," said Nadeau. "It's kind of awkward jumping out of a perfectly good airplane. The second one was a lot easier. I felt like an old pro."

While Nadeau's high-speed adventures behind the wheel of the Melling Racing No. 9 Ford Taurus sometimes last up to five hours, his spiraling free fall was somewhat shorter -- approximately 60 seconds. Afterward he coasted under the chute for another five to six minutes.

"I love acceleration and high speeds," exclaimed Nadeau. "This had both -- but without a windshield!"