NewsLocal News / July 22, 2016

Jeff Gordon Confident About His Surprise Return To Brickyard

Jeff Gordon, right, speaks to the media as team owner Rick Hendrick looks on at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday morning. - Doug Jaggers

Jeff Gordon, right, speaks to the media as team owner Rick Hendrick looks on at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday morning.

Doug Jaggers

INDIANAPOLIS -- Jeff Gordon was two days into a vacation in the South of France with his wife, Ingrid, when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick texted him.

"I get that text and I looked at her and said 'Oh boy. Here we go," Gordon recalled.

Gordon retired as a NASCAR driver at the end of last season, and he's been working as a broadcaster this season. But, when former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. was sidelined with a concussion, the call came to get back in the seat.

The five-time winner of the Brickyard 400 said the request was a surprise, but the decision to race wasn't difficult.

“I didn’t anticipate this. This is certainly the last thing I thought was going to happen," Gordon said. "But when I knew it was Indianapolis, I didn’t think twice about it. It felt like if there’s one place I was capable of doing it, it would be here.”

Gordon, 44, said the past three days of preparation have been a whirlwind of getting cleared by NASCAR to race, driving the simulator, watching video and crunching data with his new team. He says the biggest challenges at the track will be qualifying and the heat.

"Jimmy Johnson offered me his cool vest, so they know I'm old and not in the kind of shape that I was," Gordon joked.

Gordon is scheduled to fill in for Earnhardt through next week's race in Pocono and wouldn't speculate beyond. Friday morning Earnhardt, who has suffered from lingering balance issues believed to be caused by a concussion, tweeted that he is doing better.

Gordon will be the only driver in the field who has competed in every Brickyard 400.

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