The world of NASCAR thought Jeff Gordon was done with racing after retiring at the end of last season. But, circumstances changed.
No longer bound by his job as a FOX analyst, as NBC covers the second half of the schedule, Gordon will take over the 88 car normally driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the races at Indy and Pocono to come. Earnhardt is suffering from concussion like symptoms, and still needs a few more weeks to recover. The two were teammates at Hendrick Motorsports for many years, so the move makes sense for both parties. Alex Bowman drove the 88 car last Sunday at New Hampshire.
“Jeff’s a team player,” said Hendrick. “I know he’ll be ready, and I know Dale has incredible trust in him. It’s going to be an emotional weekend (at Indianapolis) with Dale not being there and seeing Jeff back behind the wheel. (Crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team did a great job at New Hampshire, and they have the full support of our organization.”
Gordon will be making his 798th and 799th NASCAR starts, and the first in cars not numbered 24. He also has 93 wins and is the winningest driver at Indy with five wins, as well as at Pocono with six checkered flags.
“Our focus is giving Dale all the time he needs to recover,” team owner Rick Hendrick said. “There’s nothing we want more than to see him back in the race car, but we’ll continue to listen to the doctors and follow their lead. What’s best for Dale is what’s best for Hendrick Motorsports and everyone involved with the team. We’re all proud of him and looking forward to having him racing soon.”
Earnhardt fell to 15th in the Sprint Cup driver standings, and 16th in the provisional Chase standings after last week. He will not travel with the team to Pocono or Indy. NASCAR made neurocognitive testing for its drivers mandatory in 2013.