Hendrick Motorsports has confirmed that Jeff Gordon is officially on standby for Dale Earnhardt Jr. for next week’s Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis, should the concussion issues which have sidelined NASCAR’s most popular driver this weekend at New Hampshire continue.
Gordon, who retired after a storied career at the end of last season, has spent the first half of this year as a Foxsports commentator. Now that NBC has taken over the broadcast for the second half of the year, Gordon is available. The lateness of the decision to pull Earnhardt Jr. this weekend meant Alex Bowman will drive the car as Gordon is in France on holiday.
“If Dale is not ready to go in Indianapolis, we will put Jeff Gordon in the car,” said Hendrick Motorsports General Manager Doug Duchardt.
“Obviously, when Dale is ready, it’s his car to get back into. But if Dale can’t go next week, Jeff Gordon will be the driver in Indianapolis. As far as Jeff’s situation, certainly, he’s a four-time champion, 93 wins, he’s not a bad person to think about putting in the car.”
Also confirmed is that the decision will be made midweek, and not have both drivers attend the race. At this stage no plans are in place should Earnhardt be unfit to race at Pocono and beyond in two weeks time.
“For (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team, we would have to – certainly the way Jeff sits in the car, we would have to prepare the car for Jeff,” said Duchardt.
“I think we just want to take it one race at a time here. Any speculation past that is assuming Dale is not going to be ready for that amount of time. We will obviously be thinking about contingency plans, but we don’t have anything formalised for sure past Indy.”
On a busy news day for the Hendrick operation Jimmie Johnson kept the team in the headlines by taking pole for the Sunday’s New Hampshire 301.
It is the 35th career pole for the six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion.
“I knew the car was good,” said Johnson.
“The car was fast in all the sessions, a little tight, but we kept progressing, we kept our lap count down which was really important and was able to advance to the next round on the first lap, so just really happy.”
Defending race winner Kyle Busch qualified second. Bowman will start 20th.
QUALIFYING: New Hampshire 301 – New Hampshire Speedway
|2||18||Kyle Busch||Interstate Batteries||133.830||28.460||–0.030|
|3||78||Martin Truex Jr||Furniture Row||133.371||28.558||–0.128|
|4||41||Kurt Busch||Haas Automation / Monster Energy Chevrolet SS||133.059||28.625||–0.195|
|5||11||Denny Hamlin||FedEx Office||133.059||28.625||–0.195|
|6||22||Joey Logano||Shell Pennzoil||132.915||28.656||–0.226|
|7||24||Chase Elliott||NAPA Auto Parts||132.720||28.698||–0.268|
|8||4||Kevin Harvick||Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS||132.697||28.703||–0.273|
|9||2||Brad Keselowski||Miller Lite||132.692||28.704||–0.274|
|10||47||AJ Allmendinger||Bush’s Grillin Beans||132.618||28.720||–0.290|
|11||5||Kasey Kahne||Quicken Loans||132.126||28.827||–0.397|
|12||14||Tony Stewart||Haas Automation Chevrolet SS||131.989||28.857||–0.427|
|13||19||Carl Edwards||Sport Clips||132.822||28.676||–0.246|
|14||21||Ryan Blaney||Motorcraft / Quick Lane Tire + Auto Center||132.799||28.681||–0.251|
|15||3||Austin Dillon||Dow (Olympic / USOC)||132.780||28.685||–0.255|
|16||83||Matt DiBenedetto||Cosmo Motors||132.683||28.706||–0.276|
|18||20||Matt Kenseth||Dollar General||132.278||28.794||–0.364|
|19||1||Jamie McMurray||Credit One / CreditCards.Com||132.241||28.802||–0.372|
|22||17||Ricky Stenhouse Jr||Fastenal Ford Fusion||131.678||28.925||–0.495|
|23||23||David Ragan||Flaming Leprechaun||131.665||28.928||–0.498|
|24||27||Paul Menard||Dutch Boy / Menards||131.180||29.035||–0.605|
|28||16||Greg Biffle||NESN Fuel Ford Fusion||130.711||29.139||–0.709|
|29||10||Danica Patrick||Nature’s Bakery Chevrolet SS||130.568||29.171||–0.741|
|30||38||Landon Cassill||MDS Transport||130.568||29.171||–0.741|
|31||6||Trevor Bayne||Advocare Ford Fusion||130.559||29.173||–0.743|
|32||15||Clint Bowyer||5-Hour Energy||130.367||29.216||–0.786|
|33||44||Brian Scott||Shaw’s Ford||130.224||29.248||–0.818|
|34||7||Regan Smith||APC Chevrolet||129.812||29.341||–0.911|
|35||34||Chris Buescher||CSX – Play it Safe||128.680||29.599||–1.169|
|36||55||Reed Sorenson||VYDOX Plus||128.070||29.740||–1.310|
|37||46||Michael Annett||Pilot Flying J||126.774||30.044||–1.614|
|38||32||Eddie MacDonald||Bentley’s Saloon||126.690||30.064||–1.634|
|39||30||Josh Wise||Curtis Key Plumbing||126.534||30.101||–1.671|
|40||98||Ryan Ellis||Superlite Cars||124.871||30.502||–2.072|