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BYRNES: Nadeau's driver to be named later in successful Nemechek-Vickers swap

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Steve Byrnes

Steve Byrnes is a host and reporter for NASCAR on FOX. A broadcast veteran, he has covered racing for more than 20 years. Follow him on Twitter.

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Next week, 's Sean Pragano goes to a Legends track in North Carolina to cover behind the wheel. Stay tuned for Pragano's report on , weeknights at 6 p.m. local on Fox Sports Net. It's ironic that two drivers who used to race the Hendrick Motorsports No. 25 car -- and -- have teamed up to help rookie Brian Vickers take over that seat in 2004, but it also makes sense on a lot of fronts for Hendrick and MB2 Motorsports and NEMCO Motorsports to come together in this unique partnership.

PRAGANO: At the Shop with

Sean Pragano: Monday's announcement that will drive the 01 car for the final four races of this year and in 2004 is all part of a plan for this guy. Jerry, what is the plan for you in the upcoming year? : Obviously my plan is to get better. I'm obviously disappointed that I'm not going to be ready for Daytona. I think I'm the only person who is going to know when I'm ready. We figured that with all the pressures that are in Winston Cup, we're better off getting a guy to come in here for a year. Joe is going to come in, and he's willing to do it for a year. I'm basically going to some ARCA races and Busch races and just try to get my head back. Sean Pragano: I know you're working out, doing a lot of things, in a Legends car. How is the rehabilitation process going for ? : I'll be truthfully honest with you. It's frustrating. It's hard. Everything that I've made in racing, everything that I've done, I would spend it all to somehow get a chip or something to fix the damage that I've done. I've told the guys they've done nothing wrong. They've been nothing but great to me the last six months. Obviously it's something that I did. I messed up at Richmond. I made a mistake, wrecked the car, and obviously I'm suffering for it.
, who will be a Cup rookie next year in the 25, originally agreed to drive MB2 Motorsports' 01 car for the last four races of the year to get some seat time. MB2 gets Hendrick motors, and has said repeatedly that car owner Rick Hendrick was going to do all he could to help Nemechek find a ride when Joe was let go from the 25 car. So MB2 signed Nemechek to replace Nadeau in the 01 for 2004 and decided to put him to work with Ryan Pemberton starting at Atlanta, and Vickers will get to drive the 25 car and work with his 2004 team. It gets everybody on the same page, and they're getting a four-race head start on next season, which is a huge advantage so Nemechek and Pemberton can start talking the same language and Vickers and crew chief Peter Sospenzo can begin to communicate. For a young driver like Vickers, it's very important. Earlier this season, Vickers' Busch Series crew chief Lance McGrew told me that his driver's feedback was great. He really understood the race car, but he wasn't sure how to explain exactly how loose his car was. As the season wore on, Vickers started coming around and winning races. Now he's in the thick of the points race so it's become obvious that he's figure out how to describe the condition of his race car, and he just keeps getting better. Like , who is already testing the 0 car at Atlanta, it's just a tremendous advantage for new teams or new combinations because you go to testing in January already speaking the same language. The October Charlotte race has always had its share of announcements for the next season, but it creates a huge lame-duck situation. It's just human nature for the drivers and crews to start thinking about next year. I'm not going to say the Nemechek-Vickers and Burton situations are a new trend in seat-swapping, but it makes sense in these instances. Although Nemechek was frustrated that he lost the 25 ride, especially after winning at Richmond, he is a businessman. When Hendrick Motorsports told Nemechek that GMAC wanted to come up to the Winston Cup Series with Vickers, he did the smart thing. He's been in that position, not just as a car owner, but also he's a really intelligent guy. Obviously he and Rick Hendrick have a good relationship, and it has all worked out. But that's the exception rather than the rule in this sport because when relationships go bad or when they change from a business standpoint, they can go bad in a hurry. Jay Frye, MB2's general manager, had hoped to have Nadeau test in his Cup car by now so his driver would be ready for Speedweeks 2004, but Nadeau is obviously not at that point yet. The No. 60 car, essentially a Hendrick research and development car, is going to be at Nadeau's disposal next year. He's going to run some ARCA races, and he's also going to run some Busch races out of Nemechek's NEMCO Motorsports. But no one wants to put Nadeau in a Busch, ARCA or Cup car until he feels like he's ready. MB2 Motorsports definitely doesn't want to put pressure on Nadeau. They're still committed to helping him. He's only 33 years old. He's got time to come back. came back from a closed-head injury, and he just announced with PPI that he and Tide are back for three more years. Craven's career should give fellow New Englander Nadeau hope. If Craven, who suffered his injury driving the 25 car for Hendrick, has made it all the way back so can Nadeau.

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