SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- After Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon acknowledged that he was just as relieved to have his first fill-in race completed as he was proud of the hard work put in by the No. 88 team.
"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."
The main thing on Gordon's mind following the event was Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I can’t wait to talk to Dale Jr. and debrief him on how today went and see how he’s doing," he said.
Gordon noted that he "enjoyed moments" of the race, and was ultimately proud of the 13th-place finish at a "challenging, challenging racetrack."
And he wanted to deliver a message to Earnhardt after taking the checkered flag.
"Most of all, I think he should be very proud of his race team," he said. "He has an amazing race team. They can’t wait to have him back when he is ready. And we are all going to work together to do our best to continue to keep that excitement and momentum in the team there for when he is ready to come back, so he comes back and doesn’t miss a beat and can win some races.”
Gordon is scheduled to substitute for Earnhardt in the No. 88 Chevrolet SS again next week at Pocono Raceway, and he said his thoughts remain with Earnhardt as he continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms.
"I want him in the car as soon as possible," Gordon said. "To come here and do this race and finish a decent 13th, I think I can do better next week for him and then we’ll just go from there."
It has been an opportunity the four-time Cup Series champion has appreciated.
"I was glad I was in the Axalta Chevrolet -- that was a lot of fun," he said. "And thanks, (Hendrick Motorsports owner) Rick (Hendrick), for calling me in France.”