Jeff Gordon says he “will be here as long as they need me” for Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Speaking in his weekly media availability at Pocono Raceway, the substitute driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet was asked how long he’s prepared to fill in for Earnhardt and if there’s a plan in place for next week at Watkins Glen International.
“Well, we have to cross that bridge when we get there. It seems like… it was great last Friday to see him (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) 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.”
Earnhardt has been sidelined with concussion-like symptoms since the week leading into the New Hampshire 301 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Last Friday, he took to Twitter to give an update on his status, saying “Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel.”
During his absence, his ride has been driven by Alex Bowman at Loudon and Gordon at Indianapolis. Both Earnhardt and Gordon praised Bowman for his drive at Loudon.
“I thought Alex Bowman did an excellent job at New Hampshire,” Gordon said. “I tell you after going through what I went through at Indy I have a much greater appreciation for him because that was one of the toughest things I ever did. Not just getting in the race car after eight months, but trying to fill-in for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. knowing the kind of attention that it gets. My heart was beating out of my chest because of the pressure and the eyes that were on you as much as just not being in the car. Great job to Alex.”
He described his role as “a balance between trying to make this transition. First of all, you want Dale to have the comfort of knowing that somebody is there for him. He doesn’t have to worry about that aspect of it through this process. Just get well at the pace that is the right pace to do it. So, nobody is putting any pressure or time frame on that. He may be putting that on himself more than anybody else. Then there is the side of who is the best person to be in the car to get the most points. And then there is the sponsorship side of it as well. So far from what Rick (Hendrick) is telling me that seems to be me. That is why I was at Indy and that is why I’m here.”