LONG POND, Pa. --For the second week in a row, Jeff Gordon will be filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Nationwide Chevrolet SS.
While Gordon said the experience has been a bit "strange" and "awkward," it's been "fun" as well acclimating into the No. 88 team.
The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion said communication has been key throughout this process, whether it be between himself and the No. 88 team or with his teammate, Earnhardt.
"He likes to FaceTime," Gordon said of Earnhardt. "He's just real interested in what we're up to and how it's going and things we're working on."
And meshing with the No. 88 team is atop the priority list for Gordon.
"A lot of it through this process is evaluating where they’re at as a team and some of the setups and whether I’m going to be making the same comments he was making when he was in the car," Gordon said. "So far I feel like it’s been very, very similar."
Following a 13th-place finish last week at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Gordon will take the green flag Sunday at a track where he's claimed six wins and 32 top-10 finishes.
"It was nice to get that race under my belt at Indy," Gordon said. "I feel a little more confident in understanding the car and the limits and the competition and working with (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the No. 88 team. I felt like they did a really, really nice job in Indianapolis."
While the driver said last week's experience at Indianapolis strengthened his confidence in the No. 88 team and his own driving skills, there are still challenges to face.
"When you’re not in the car week in and week out, going through that process on a regular basis, it’s hard to get in a rhythm, hard to be smooth and be consistent," Gordon explained. "I feel like I’ve got a pretty good feel for the grip level of the car so then it comes down to getting balance right but because of the inconsistencies there -- trying to understand how deep can I drive it into the corner, do I need to arc it more with this aero package -- it’s a few little details that are different in the way the cars drive."
The experience has been surreal so far for Gordon, who said he never could have anticipated something like this happening. However, he said his main focus is doing the absolute best he can for the No. 88 team.
"For me, I’m out there trying to gain that confidence and consistency back and I’m also trying to evaluate the car to give them feedback on how we can make it go faster," Gordon said. "It’s not easy, I can tell you that. It’s all about doing it when it counts, not what times are on the board. It’s about when we go to qualify, when they drop the green flag for the race. Other than that, everything’s a learning experience for me and the team up until race time."