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Hendrick: Gordon May Sub In 88 After Brickyard

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 17 2016
Team owner Rick Hendrick said Jeff Gordon may drive the No. 88 Chevy for more than just one race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

Team owner Rick Hendrick said Jeff Gordon may drive the No. 88 Chevy for more than just one race. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Jeff Gordon replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. as driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Sprint Cup car may not be a one-and-done deal.

Rick Hendrick, owner of Earnahardt’s car and owner of Gordon’s car until he retired, said Sunday sprint-logo-08that circumstances could mean a prolonged run for Gordon in the 88 Chevrolet.

“I would think so,” Hendrick said when asked if Gordon would continue to drive until Earnhardt is cleared by doctors. “I haven’t talked to him about it. We’re just taking it a week at a time. Hopefully Dale’s going to be back next week and it’s not even something that we really think is going to happen. But if it does, Jeff is a team player and he wants to support the organization, and I’m sure he’ll do whatever he has to do.”

Earnhardt was diagnosed with “concussion-like symptoms earlier this week. He was taken out of the 88 for this weekend’s race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and replaced by Alex Bowman.

Hendrick was asked how the diagnosis of Earnhardt – who has been in wrecks the last two races – came up.

“Actually, we were getting him an ear, nose, and throat doctor; that’s what we were lining up,” the owner said. “We were lining up someone just to check him out for that because that’s where we started. And that came up clean. So, I was surprised. And I think that he was surprised. We’ll just see what happens from here on.”

Should Earnhardt not be able to drive next weekend in the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, four-time Cup champion and future Hall of Famer Gordon will suit up and slide into the cockpit.

Gordon, who retired following the 2015 season, was contacted by Hendrick after news of Earnhardt’s problems became known. How did that go?

“He thought I was kidding at first,” Hendrick said. “He was on vacation and I asked him what he was doing next week and he said he’d be in Indy for one of the appearances he has to make.  I said, ‘Well, bring your driver’s uniform just in case.’  He said, ‘Are you kidding?’; and I said, ‘No, I’m serious.’  So, if Dale can’t go then Jeff is ready to step in.”

Hendrick said a decision on Earnhardt’s availability for the Brickyard will be made either Tuesday or Wednesday.

This week’s news marks the second time that Earnhardt has been taken out of his car because of head injuries.

In 2012, after he wrecked in testing at Kansas and then at Talladega in a race, Earnhardt was sent to the sidelines.

Hendrick was asked if his popular driver might be facing career-threatening circumstances, if his career could be shortened by head injuries.

“I don’t think so,” he said. “He and I talked about years beyond next year. And just around, I guess it was Daytona, if there was something major wrong, I think they would have seen it already. So, I’m very hopeful and he’s very hopeful. And I think the doctors want to err on the side of being sure because we want him for a long time. He loves the fans. He loves the sport. He loves to race. And we love him in the organization. So, I’m proud of him. We thought it was an ear infection or maybe a nasal deal; he was taking medicine for that. And so, we’ll just wait and see.”

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Sunday, July 17 2016
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