SPEEDWAY, Ind. – Jeff Gordon didn’t have to think twice.
When Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick asked him if he would substitute for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the No. 88 Axalta Chevrolet SS, Gordon was ready and willing to support an owner and organization that has supported him so many times over the years.
“I didn’t anticipate this,” Gordon said. “This is certainly the last thing I thought was going to happen, but when I knew it was Indianapolis, I didn’t think twice about it. I felt like if there’s one place that I was capable of doing it, it’s here.”
The driver returned from his family vacation in France on Tuesday, and by that evening he was already on the Hendrick Motorsports campus working with the No. 88 team.
From making sure the car’s interior was ready to going through a physical, securing the proper driver credentials and even driving a simulator, Gordon worked tirelessly to prepare for the moment at hand.
“All I can tell you is I’ve done everything I possibly can over the last three days to get ready for this race the best way that I can,” he said. “Dale’s got a great team. I’m so impressed with (No. 88 team crew chief) Greg Ives and everybody at the No. 88 team and everybody pitching in at Hendrick Motorsports to get me comfortable and get me ready.”
The four-time NASCAR Cup Series champion knows challenges await as he returns to a Cup car for the first time since last season’s finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But Hendrick’s faith in him has given him confidence that he will be able to handle each and every one of them.
Ultimately, he said, he just wants to make the organization – and Earnhardt in particular – proud.
“I’m certainly a little overwhelmed with everything that’s happened over the last week but most of all I’m proud to be here and help his team out,” Gordon said.
“For me, my goal is to come here and give this team the best effort that I can and get them the best result -- hopefully a good one.”