Jeff Gordon ready to step into Earnhardt’s No. 88

Jeff Gordon retired at the end of 2015.  (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

Jeff Gordon retired at the end of 2015. (Photo by Mike Stone/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

LOUDON, N.H. – Despite turning in a praiseworthy performance at New Hampshire, Alex Bowman won’t be in the No. 88 car if Earnhardt isn’t cleared to drive next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That duty will fall to Jeff Gordon, who is ready to interrupt his retirement, if need be. The four-time champion was on vacation in the south of France when team owner Rick Hendrick called.

“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,” Hendrick said. “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.”

In fact, Gordon is the probable sub if Earnhardt is sidelined for additional races.

“I would think so,” Hendrick said. “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.”

Hendrick said Earnhardt wants to get back in the car as soon as possible and asserted that his driver is planning to continue in the sport long-term.

“He and I talked about years beyond next year,” Hendrick said. “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.”

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