CONCORD, N.C. — It’s official, four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon is coming out of retirement, at least for two more races.
After being revealed as the potential ‘Plan B’ last week at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, Hendrick Motorsports officially announced Gordon as the interim driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet on Wednesday, ahead of this weekend’s 23rd annual Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Gordon takes the wheel of the potent car as Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms that developed following the Cup Series stop at Kentucky Speedway two weeks ago.
Earnhardt sat out at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sunday, and JR Motorsports XFINITY driver Alex Bowman wheeled the car to a 26th-place finish after running as high as eighth late in the race.
After undergoing further evaluation Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, Earnhardt has not been cleared by physicians to compete in at least the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events as he works to bounce back from symptoms including issues with balance and nausea.
Earnhardt will not travel to Indianapolis or Pocono, and Gordon will also compete at the ‘Tricky Triangle’ on July 31, where he has .
“Our focus is giving Dale all the time he needs to recover,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “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.”
Gordon, 44, has made all 797 of his prior Cup starts for Hendrick. He competed in his 23rd and final full-time Sprint Cup Series season in 2015, finishing third in points behind eventual champion Kyle Busch.
“Jeff’s a team player,” Hendrick said. “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. Greg (Ives) and the team did a great job at New Hampshire, and they have the full support of our organization.”
Gordon returns to NASCAR’s highest level of stock car racing in search of his record-extending sixth Brickyard 400 crown. He previously won the race in 1994, 1998, 2001, 2004 and 2014.
“We wish the circumstances were different, but we’re thrilled anytime we see Jeff Gordon on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval and know our fans will love seeing him race again,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles. “Between Jeff making a return visit and Tony Stewart making his final Brickyard start, this will be a legendary weekend for Hoosier race fans at IMS!”
About the Writer
Jacob 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.
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