Four time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon will return from retirement and race in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on July 24 if the ailing Dale Earnhardt Jr. has not been medically cleared.
Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt revealed the information during a press conference at New Hampshire Motor Speedway Friday morning. The hastily called news conference comes less than 24 hours after the organization announced the Earnhardt will set out this weekend’s events at New Hampshire Motor Speedway after experiencing concussion-like symptoms. Alex Bowman will be the team’s substitute driver this weekend. Bowman, 23, is a part-time competitor for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series.
“He’s a four-time champion and has 93 wins, he’s not a bad person to put in the car, but this week he’s in France,” said Duchardt of Gordon.”The way the week played out, we thought we only needed a back-up driver…If Dale is not able to go at Indianapolis, we will put Jeff Gordon in the car.”
“When Dale is ready, that’s his car to get back into.”
Earnhardt was evaluated this week in Charlotte and Thursday was not cleared by physicians to race.
He has been diagnosed with at least three concussions during his racing career. He suffered a concussion at the Fontana race in April of 2002. He continued to race and didn’t reveal the injury until September. He suffered two more concussions in 2012 in a period of six-weeks: a hard crash during a tire test at Kansas Speedway, another big crash at Talladega Superspeedway. After the Talladega crash, Earnhardt went to a doctor for an evaluation. The doctor forced him to miss two races in October because of the injury.
Recently Earnhardt was involved in a multi-car crash at Daytona on July 2. In June Earnhardt crashed in the race at Michigan. He failed to finish at Michigan, and struggled to a 21st place finish at Daytona. Earnhardt wasn’t a factor last Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, starting and finishing 13th.
Gordon retired from his full-time driving career last season. Every one of his 93 victories and 797 starts came during his 23-year career with Hendrick Motorsports, which fields four cars including the No. 88 Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt. Gordon won the first Brickyard 400 in 1994. Overall Gordon has five Brickyard wins the last coming just two years ago.