Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon is coming back after a partial retirement. The 44-year-old racer will substitute Dale Earnhardt Jr. for the next two races. The latter is currently recovering from concussion-like symptoms.
Hendrick Motorsports said on Thursday that Earnhardt would not attend NASCAR’s events on July 24 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet SS will also be absent on July 31 at the Pocono Raceway.
Physicians at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program evaluated Earnhardt on Tuesday and determined that he is still not ready to race, said Hendrick Motorsports in a press statement.
Earnhardt said on Monday in a podcast that his mind has been feeling “real sharp,” although he is facing problems with balance and nausea. His brain function has not been affected, according to medical tests.
Rick Hendrick, the owner of Hendrick Motorsports, said the team wants to give Earnhardt all the necessary time to recover. Jeff Gordon raced in the 2015 Sprint Cup finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. He has achieved 93 career victories at NASCAR.
Gordon later joined the FOX Sports broadcast booth in 2016. He has obtained six victories at the Brickyard 400 race held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and five at Pocono said Hendrick Motorsports.
Gordon was having a vacation in France when he received a call from the team owner to come back to the United States. The driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet immediately thought that Hendrick was joking.
Team owner Hendrick said he hopes not to use Gordon on Sunday, although the racer will be there using his uniform as a backup. Sunday could mark the official return of Gordon at NASCAR. He has achieved 12 top-five finishes and three pole positions at Indianapolis.
— Hendrick Motorsports (@TeamHendrick) July 20, 2016
Rick Hendrick: ‘Sunday is going to be an emotional day’
Hendrick said on Tuesday that Dale trusts Gordon to take his place in the upcoming races. The owner of the team added that Sunday is going to be an emotional day because Earnhardt will not be present, while Gordon will be coming back.
“There’s nothing we want more than to see him (Earnhardt) back in the race car, but we’ll continue to listen to the doctors and follow their lead. What’s best for Dale is what’s best for Hendrick Motorsports and everyone involved with the team. We’re all proud of him and looking forward to having him racing soon,” said Hendrick.
I appreciate everyone's support and prayers and will miss my team terribly this weekend. I'm working with some great doctors to get well.
— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 15, 2016
Earnhardt said earlier in the week that he is receiving support from people around him. Team owner Hendrick stated that Gordon might be “a little bit rusty,” but he still trusts him to compete on Sunday.
Earnhardt is currently recovering from concussion-like symptoms after suffering from two car crashes on June 12 at Michigan and July 2 at Daytona, said ABC News. A medical test called ImPACT, which measures memory retention and reaction time, has shown that Earnhardt might be getting better.
— Martinsville Spdway (@MartinsvilleSwy) July 20, 2016
Source: Hendrick Motorsports