Jerry Nadeau still draws an imaginary line down the middle of his body to describe the accident that changed his life 10 years ago this week. On one side of the line his body feels normal, on the other side it's still numb.
That's the result of a brain injury sustained in practice for a NASCAR Cup race at Richmond International Raceway. His Chevy spun and hit the Turn 1 wall at 135 times the force of gravity.
It was the hardest impact measured by a NASCAR black-box data recorder at the time. Unfortunately for Nadeau, he crashed months before the installation at RIR of energy absorbing SAFER walls that would've softened the impact.
The line is also a kind of metaphor for a life that is a mixture of frustration and joy, courageous acceptance and occasional regret. Jerry Nadeau does not live in the past.
He go-karts often with daughter Natalie, 10, born months before the crash. And he's a proud father in the stands at her gymnastics meets.
"She's my life," he said.
His marriage to Natalie's mom ended the year after the accident, but he remarried last year to Maryana, a Ukrainian he met online. Nadeau, who swept the floors at a Cup shop and lived in a pop-up camper in the back of his truck while trying to break into racing, was drawn to the down-to-earth girl from a family poor by American standards.
"They've got it tough over there, but they cherish what they have," he said. "I'm intrigued by that. She's super.
"I can't tell you how many different meals she's cooked. Last night, she made an incredible steak with baked cole slaw, and garlic and onions. I've never tasted anything like it in my life.
"It was something only professional chefs do here."
But if Nadeau doesn't live in his glory days of racing, he remembers them. And though he's accepted that his physical limitations ended his career at 33, it still frustrates him.
Dave Ferroni, the public relations man for the U.S. Army car Nadeau drove for MB2 Motorsports in 2003, understands.
"Jerry was a pure racer," Ferroni said. "It's almost the only thing he ever did.
"And he only knew one speed: fast."
Nadeau had, in fact, turned the fastest time in practice that day at Richmond and before that was fastest in a practice in Charlotte for the All-Star race. Those were positive developments for Nadeau, who had been released in 2002 prior to the end of his third season with Rick Hendrick, for whom he won a Cup race in 2000 at Atlanta.
"Things were going so well and to have it taken away, yeah, I have a lot of bad feelings over that," Nadeau said. "It's amazing how time flies.
"It's 2013 and that was 10 years ago, but it feels like yesterday."
Nadeau made several million dollars racing in five full seasons in Cup, but does not regret he's no longer living large. Shortly after the accident, he sold off the big house near Matt Kenseth's on Lake Norman and moved into a more modest home in Davidson, N.C.
He derives some income from a building he rents to two tenants and received a small settlement from the accident — "not nearly enough" — so he's getting by financially.
"I thought I'd be racing for another 10 years," he said. "If I'd known I'd never be racing again, I'd have taken out the biggest (insurance policy) I could.
"I don't need to make the money I made in racing to survive. I just wish I'd made a little more so I wouldn't worry so much about not having enough to live comfortably."
The toughest part, Nadeau says, is that a brain injury makes you feel like a different person. He adds that he'd rather have broken every bone in his body at once than have his mind altered.
Unless things change, he not sure when or if he'll be able work again. But he's not sad.
Nadeau still immerses himself in racing and recently bought new go-karts for himself, Natalie and Maryana. He also videos and watches a lot of racing and competes online in iRacing, which many drivers use as a training device.
"I still love racing, everything about it, and would still be doing it if I could," Nadeau said. "I had a great life in racing and met a lot of good people.
"But I'm a different person. I've moved forward and I'm trying to make the best of everything."