Well, as everyone knows by now, unfortunately Dale Earnhardt Jr. will miss two more races due to his concussion-like symptoms, including this Sunday’s Crown Royal 400 at the Brickyard.
Also like everyone knows, my FOX NASCAR television booth-mate Jeff Gordon is going to get behind the wheel of the No. 88 for the Crown Royal 400 and then again next weekend at Pocono.
I talked to Jeff and his willingness to fill in for Dale Jr. shows the loyalty, commitment and friendship he has with car owner Rick Hendrick.
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If Rick called me and told me he needed me to drive any of his four cars, I’d do it in a heartbeat — and I’ll be 70 in February — not because I want to but because he asked me. That’s the kind of loyalty Jeff has to Rick.
Jeff will be just fine in the No. 88. He will compete at a high level, just like he ended his career in 2015. He’s only been out the car for a few months and has been at the track every week and around that team.
He’s the winningest driver at Indy with five wins in his career, and it’s his home track. If he was going to choose to run a race, it would probably be this one — as he said in his news conference at the track Friday morning. He’s very enthusiastic about doing it and hasn’t been dragged into it at all.
I told Jeff I wanted him to do it because I know he will do a great job and probably can win the race. As a driver, embracing this opportunity is absolutely s a no-brainer. I’m pretty sure Jeff is going into Indy thinking he can and will win this Sunday’s race.
Let me explain why it truly wouldn’t surprise me one bit for him to grab that 94th Sprint Cup victory at Indy that he thought he’d never see just a few short months ago.
Back when we broadcast the Prelude to the Dream at Eldora Speedway, broadcasters Mike Joy, Larry McReynolds and I were calling the race. Jeff came up there and hadn’t been in a dirt car in a number of years. The first time he went out to practice, he was way off the pace. I commented to Mike and Larry that he would be lost that night in the race.
Well, he went out for the second practice and went to the top of the board. So he might take a few practice laps to get comfortable in the No. 88 car, but it shouldn’t be a problem at all. He should be a contender at Pocono the following week as well.