By Toby Christie, NASCAR Editor
When Jeff Gordon was announced as the interim driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet, the press release stated that Gordon would drive at Indianapolis and Pocono. As Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to heal from concussion-like symptoms, an injury with no definitive timetable, questions have arose about whether Earnhardt will be cleared to race in Watkins Glen next week.
Gordon, can’t speak on Earnhardt’s health, but he did confirm on Friday that he will stay in the No. 88 car longer than Pocono if that’s what the team needs him to do.
“Well, we have to cross that bridge when we get there. It seems like — it was great last Friday to see [Earnhardt] say ‘hey I feel good today and made some progress.’ We want to just keep going with how he is feeling. The doctors are evaluating. I’m not speculating anything at this time,” Gordon said. “I wouldn’t be here in Pocono if I wasn’t committed to be there for Hendrick Motorsports and this team in any way that they need me.”
Gordon who finished 13th in relief of Earnhardt last week at Indianapolis, also opened up about shaking off the rust of his eight month retirement, and how he is feeling heading into this week’s race.
“As far as Pocono, it was nice to get that race under my belt at Indy. I feel a little more confident in understanding the car and the limits and the competition and working with Greg (Ives) and the No. 88 team,” Gordon explained. “I felt like they did a really nice job in Indianapolis. I didn’t do them any favors on the restarts, but luckily got a few back on that last corner to get a decent finish.”
Gordon will definitely look to shore up his restart form this week, and at one point in the availability he mentioned that there should be a way for drivers to test double file restarts away from the race weekend.
Another interesting tidbit from the four-time champion’s media availability revealed that he hasn’t had the same resources available to draw from to get prepared for this weekend’s race as he did a week ago in Indianapolis.
“This week a little bit different preparation than last week. Get fitted in the car, debrief with the team from Indianapolis and then preparation for Pocono. Didn’t have test video from some of our teammates for here like we did last week at Indianapolis and I didn’t have time to get in the driving simulator either,” Gordon admitted. “The first few laps today were definitely again a steep learning curve. This is a very challenging race track so it’s going to be a tough, challenging weekend, but I do like this track and a little bit to learn with this new package.”
That sort of information doesn’t make you feel comfortable that Gordon can get a win this weekend, but never count the man out. But at the end of the day, Gordon is helping out his teammate and friend, Earnhardt. If there is a silver lining to the most popular driver’s head injury, it’s that Gordon could possibly help figure out what the team has been missing, and it could be the key to unlocking the door to victory lane again.