Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Jeff Gordon: "I got my butt kicked on those restarts"

Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart on the Farewell Indy lap.
Jeff Gordon was driving the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet in a substitute role for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has suffered concussion-like symptoms in recent weeks and was advised by doctors not to race until he recovers.

The unexpected opportunity was also a stern reminder for Gordon of the level of competition he left behind last November when he transitioned to the FOX Sports television booth. Though he lost ground repeatedly on restarts, however, Gordon finished a respectable 13th on Sunday.

“Wow—the challenges to be out there against the best, especially on those restarts,” said Gordon, who also will sub for Earnhardt next Sunday at Pocono (1:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN). “I got my butt kicked on those restarts. It was embarrassing. While I will fill in for Dale Jr., and I hope he’s doing good, I needed a fill-in on restarts. It was pretty bad.

“Other than that, I thought it went really well. I really liked working with (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and this whole No. 88 team. … We just couldn’t get the track position. It was pretty tough to pass. And I didn’t want to see those cautions there at the end. But, I’m going to need some practice on restarts for Pocono anyway.”

Gordon followed with a frank assessment of his return to competition.

“On one hand, I’m relieved that this is over, and on the other hand, I would have liked it to have gone a little bit better,” he said. “I’m looking forward to going to Pocono.”

Gordon also relished the farewell lap with Stewart.

“Thank you to Tony Stewart,” Gordon said. “What a class act he is. It meant a lot to me that he invited me to come and make that last lap with him. It was a special moment.”

- Reid Spencer / NASCAR Wire Service

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