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)
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.”

Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.