Jeff Gordon said Friday there was no hesitation when asked to return to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying he hoped to make Hendrick Motorsports proud as a replacement driver.
Gordon, 44, is scheduled to make his 798th career start in NASCAR’s top division Sunday, breaking a half-season absence from the sport of stock-car racing by climbing into the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. He’ll be filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. this weekend at Indy and at least the following weekend at Pocono Raceway as NASCAR’s Most Popular Driver continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms.
Gordon shed light on the details of last week’s conversation with team owner Rick Hendrick. Once Hendrick received confirmation that Gordon would be in attendance for the Indy race weekend, he said, “Well, you better bring your uniform,” Gordon recalled. After checking to see if Hendrick was serious — “you’re messing with me, right?” Gordon had said — the four-time series champion said “I didn’t have to think twice about it.”
Sunday’s Crown Royal Presents The Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard (3 p.m. ET, NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM) will mark Gordon’s first Sprint Cup Series start in a car numbered something other than No. 24. He’ll also be looking to build on his NASCAR record of five wins at the historic 2.5-mile track.
Gordon is scheduled to make his first laps of the season Friday in a pair of practice sessions — 1:30-2:55 p.m. ET and 4-5:25 p.m. ET (NBCSN). Team Chevy posted a Thursday tweet showing the four-time series champion making preparations this week in a racing simulator. “I’ve done everything I possibly can over the last three days to get ready for this race,” Gordon said. “We’ll find out what kind of conditioning i’m in.”
— Team Chevy (@TeamChevy) July 21, 2016
Earnhardt missed his first race of the season last weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after the team revealed its driver was battling concussion-related effects. Alex Bowman served as the team’replacement driver, securing a 26th-place finish in the No. 88.
In making the Wednesday announcement that Gordon would serve as a fill-in driver, the team indicated that Earnhardt was evaluated Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program. The team also said the 41-year-old driver did not receive medical clearance to resume competition and that there was no clear-cut timetable for his return.
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