NSCS: Hendrick Official Confirms Gordon May Sub for Earnhardt at Indianapolis

Jacob Seelman Cup, Featured, Midwest, NASCAR, New England, Northeast 0 Comments

Jeff Gordon, seen here with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in 2014, is the planned substitute for Earnhardt  next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt is not medically cleared to drive. (Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

Jeff Gordon, seen here with Dale Earnhardt Jr. after Earnhardt won the Daytona 500 in 2014, is the planned substitute for the No. 88 car at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt is not medically cleared to drive.
(Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR photo)

LOUDON, N.H. — Don’t sign the welcome back cards and hang the party decorations just yet, but in a shock announcement on Friday morning at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon was revealed to be part of Hendrick Motorsports’ backup plan for next week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt confirmed Friday morning during a press conference at the ‘Magic Mile’ that the  four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion will come out of retirement to drive the No. 88 Chevrolet at the Brickyard in the situation that Earnhardt is not medically cleared to compete in the event.

“Obviously, Jeff is a four-time champion … he’s got 93 wins and he’s certainly not a bad person to think about putting in the car. This week he’s in France, so obviously … the way the week went, that wasn’t a realistic option and we didn’t even think we were going to need a replacement driver. We just thought we would need a backup driver.”

“However, if Dale is not ready to go at Indianapolis we will put Jeff in the car. That’s for sure. Obviously, when Dale is ready, it’s his car to get back into.”

Gordon, a five-time Brickyard 400 winner, most recently won the event in 2014 for Hendrick Motorsports.

He retired at the end of the 2015 season with 93 career wins, including one at Martinsville last October that catapulted him into the Championship 4 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where he finished third in points behind champion Kyle Busch and runner-up Kevin Harvick.

The news comes following the announcement Thursday night that Earnhardt would not race at Loudon this weekend due to concussion-like symptoms, and would be replaced by Alex Bowman for the 301-lap event on Sunday.

“I wasn’t feeling great the week going into Kentucky (Speedway) and thought it was possibly severe allergies,” Earnhardt said in that announcement. “I saw a family doctor and was given medication for allergies and a sinus infection. When that didn’t help, I decided to dig a little deeper. Because of my symptoms and my history with concussions, and after my recent wrecks at Michigan and Daytona, I reached out and met with a neurological specialist. After further evaluation, they felt it was best for me to sit out.”

During the press conference, Duchardt spoke on the timeline of events that led up to the Loudon announcement.

“Nothing was said to us after Michigan or Daytona, so we didn’t know of anything until he started talking to Greg about not feeling quite right at Kentucky,” Duchardt explained. “Tuesday was the first time he talked to me.”

“I could tell that when he called me Tuesday, it was a tough conversation because I know for him as much as he is doing the right thing and he knows he’s trying to do the right thing for himself, I know he feels bad for letting Greg and the team down … but that’s just natural. That’s how any of us would feel.”

Duchardt did not speak on Hendrick Motorsports’ plans for the No. 88 car beyond Indianapolis, and no timetable has been set for Earnhardt’s return to the car.

“I’m not going to speculate on Dale’s future,” he stressed. “The most important thing is for this process to play out so that he can feel better, and at the end of all that, what’s the right thing to do will become clear as we gain knowledge on how he’s feeling.”

Duchardt said that an announcement would likely have to be made “by Wednesday” in regards to whether Earnhardt or Gordon would be driving the car at Indianapolis.

Earnhardt is currently 14th on the Chase Grid, 32 markers ahead of 17th-place Trevor Bayne, but will fall in the standings following Sunday’s race at Loudon. He would likely receive a waiver to continue fighting for a Chase berth upon his return.

This is the second time that Earnhardt has been sidelined with a concussion. In 2012, he missed Chase races at Kansas and Charlotte after two hard crashes at Talladega (during racing conditions) and Kansas (during testing) left him with a concussion. Earnhardt later admitted that he also raced with a concussion for nearly three months after a heavy impact on April 28, 2002 at Auto Club Speedway.

Race Chaser Online will provide additional updates to this story as they are received.


About the Writer

jacobseelmanJacob Seelman is the Managing Editor of Race Chaser Online and creator of the Motorsports Madness radio show, airing at 7 p.m. Eastern every Monday on the Performance Motorsports Network.

Seelman grew up in the sport, watching his grandparents co-own the RaDiUs Motorsports NASCAR Cup Series team in the 1990s.

The 22-year-old is currently studying Broadcast Journalism at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, S.C., and is also serving as the full-time tour announcer for the Must See Racing Sprint Car Series.

Email Jacob at: speed77radio@gmail.com

Follow on Twitter: @Speed77Radio or @JacobSeelman77

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