Nadeau replaces Grissom in Petty's No. 44

Wednesday, July 24th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) _ Jerry Nadeau finally got a full-time job Tuesday when Petty Enterprises hired him to drive the No. 44 Dodge for the rest of the season, replacing Steve Grissom of Gadsden, Ala.

Nadeau had been out of regular work since he was released from Hendrick Motorsports in May. He filled in once before this season for Grissom, nearly winning in Sears Point, Calif., before breaking a gear while leading with two laps to go.

``We all saw what Jerry did at Sears Point, but that is the kind of racing he has been doing throughout his career,'' CEO Kyle Petty said. ``He has won on fast superspeedways, is one of the best road racers out there, and is pretty good on short tracks, too.''

Nadeau has also filled in for Johnny Benson in the No. 10 Pontiac while Benson healed from rib injuries and drove one race in a car owned by Michael Waltrip.

While filling in for Benson last weekend at New Hampshire International Speedway, Nadeau said he would continue to sit out or explore opportunities in the Indy Racing League if the right NASCAR job didn't come along.

He's had offers to test IRL cars this season and is also waiting to see if the Winston Cup car owner decides to field two teams next year.

For now, he'll finish out the year with the Pettys, who are aggressively trying to turn around their three-car organization. This is their third driver change this season in the No. 44 _ Grissom replaced Buckshot Jones in April.

``We're doing everything we can and making any changes we need to make to bring Petty Enterprises back at the forefront of NASCAR racing,'' Petty said. ``This is another step in that direction.''

There was no immediate word on what Grissmon, 39, would do.