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Gordon May Take Earnhardt’s Job At Brickyard

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 15 2016
Jeff Gordon could be headed back to the cockpit. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

Jeff Gordon could be headed back to the cockpit. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Should Dale Earnhardt Jr. not be able to drive in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway next week because of “concussion-like symptoms”, Jeff Gordon will come out of retirement and take the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet.

sprint-logo-08“If Dale is not able to go to Indianapolis, we will put Jeff Gordon in the car,” said Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt.

Gordon, the four-time Cup champion who retired after the 2015 season, is available for driving duties as his stint as a television analysis ended when Fox Sports’ portion of the schedule ended. NBC Sports Network broadcasts the second half of the season.

He has won the Brickyard five times.

Duchardt said the decision on who will drive the 88 in Indianapolis will be made by next Wednesday.

Earnhardt won’t compete in this weekend’s Sprint Cup race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). His status for future races this season has yet to be determined.

Alex Bowman, who drives for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports in the Xfinity Series, is driving the No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend.

Douchardt met with reporters on Friday and did some explaining.

“Alex came in Tuesday night to get fitted for the car,” Duchardt said. “And at that time, it was in the contingency that he would have to backfill for Dale after Dale started the race.

“Dale then went and saw a team of neurologists and in the past two days has been going through some tests. (Thursday) around noon is when I found out that Dale could not be in the car for this weekend, based on their suggestion.”

Bowman also talked to the media Friday in New Hampshire, saying, “Yeah, it’s been a crazy 12 hours, for sure. I think the first time (crew chief) Greg (Ives) called me, I was at work, so I didn’t even answer. But it’s definitely not the circumstances that I want to get an opportunity like this. Obviously I’m hoping Dale feels better, but at the same time, it’s the best opportunity I’ve ever had in my life.

“I’m ready to just plug into their program and do my job. I’ll give them the best feedback I can and go from there. I’m really confident in the whole team. Obviously, they bring great race cars to the track every weekend, so if I just do my job, I feel like we would be good to plug into it.”

As to be expected, the health of NASCAR’s most popular driver dominated the garage talk on Friday in Loudon.

Kyle Busch missed the first couple months of the 2015 season with broken bones in his legs. Different deal from Earnhardt is going through, Busch said.

“It is certainly not a good thing that Dale  is not able to race and certainly I’ve sent my regards, but it’s a tough subject,” Busch, who came back to win the Cup championship last year, said. “It’s about how you’re feeling and you’re the only one that knows how you’re feeling. You can’t show these types of injuries as well as you can a broken bone or something to that respect. It’s all about Dale and I commend him for taking action and feeling what he was feeling and being able to go to the doctors and explaining that and for them to say he needed to sit out a week or two or however many it may be what’s best for him.

“And, obviously that is what’s best for him is his health. It’s a tough situation to be in as a race car driver. I’ve never been in that situation where I have felt something within my head. I’ve got a lot of screws loose, but none that were that bad that I felt like I needed to go get looked at. And, so, thankfully I haven’t had that and hopefully I don’t have to deal with that.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Friday, July 15 2016
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