LOUDON, N.H. (AP) — Four-time NASCAR champion Jeff Gordon could come out of retirement next weekend and drive the No. 88 Chevrolet if Dale Earnhardt Jr. is not cleared to race.
Earnhardt will sit out this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway because he shows symptoms of a concussion. Alex Bowman will drive in his place.
Hendrick Motorsports general manager Doug Duchardt said Friday that Gordon has agreed to return and drive next week if he is needed at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gordon won the last of his record five Brickyard 400 victories in 2014.
Gordon has not raced since last season’s finale at Homestead, wrapping up a career that included 93 career Cup victories and series championships in 1995, 1997, 1998 and 2001. He has called NASCAR races for Fox Sports television.
Gordon tweeted he was in France this weekend, which him ruled him out for a potential return at New Hampshire.
Duchardt said a decision will likely be made on Wednesday. He also did not say if Gordon would continue to drive in the 88 should Earnhardt not be cleared beyond the Brickyard.
“It’s about making sure that he gets better and supporting him and his decision,” Duchardt said. “It takes a lot to come out and address some of the health concerns that he had. It’s not about what are we going to do when he does come back. It’s all about getting better on a timeline that’s satisfied to him.”
Earnhardt was evaluated in Charlotte, N.C., this week and doctors did not clear him to race. NASCAR’s most popular driver, Earnhardt was involved in a 22-car wreck in Daytona this month and also wrecked last month at Michigan International Speedway. He says he was feeling fine last week and thought the problem was allergies. There is no timetable for his return.
“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,” Earnhardt tweeted.
Duchardt said Earnhart told the team last weekend at Kentucky that he wasn’t feeling well and again on Tuesday that he was feeling worse. Earnhardt said the team needed to at least consider a backup driver for New Hampshire.
Earnhardt eventually visited a team of neurologists and underwent concussion testing.
“My understanding was, Dale was told that he shouldn’t race,” Duchardt said. “He knew he wasn’t feeling well and had concerns about being in the car and running the whole race. To get healed, he needed to be out of the car.”
Duchardt could not say if Earnhardt actually had a concussion and declined to speculate on just how long NASCAR’s most popular driver could be out of action.
The 41-year-old Earnhardt is winless this season and 13th in the points standings. Because he will not start every race, Earnhardt will need a waiver from NASCAR to compete in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship if he meets other eligibility requirements.