July 20, 2016
NBCSN’s Wednesday edition of NASCAR America included a lengthy discussion about Jeff Gordon coming out of retirement to drive the No. 88 this weekend in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is suffering from concussion-like symptoms. Below are key quotes from that discussion.
NASCAR on NBCSN analysts Steve Letarte and Dale Jarrett offered the following comments regarding the official announcement:
“I think the fact that Jeff Gordon is going to come out of retirement to drive a Hendrick Motorsports car really says a lot about what he thinks about Hendrick Motorsports, Rick Hendrick and the whole organization. Because I really believe his send-off in Homestead was picturesque. Other than a Championship, I don’t think it could have been much better.” – Steve Letarte
“It speaks volumes about the person that Jeff Gordon is and how much appreciation he has for Rick Hendrick. I will say it is going to be very strange to see Jeff Gordon in something besides the No. 24.” – Dale Jarrett
No. 88 crew chief, Greg Ives, spoke to NASCAR on NBCSN reporter Dave Burns earlier today and said the following regarding the upcoming weekend:
“(Dale Jr.) was in the shop this afternoon. He just wanted to stop by and check in with all the guys. Everybody is concerned about him here at Hendrick Motorsports. He came in, talked to a few of the guys, and was here about 30-40 minutes. It kind of changed the mood in the shop a little. It kind of pumped everybody up seeing that he was okay. When you say the words ‘yes he is okay,’ that doesn’t mean the same as when he comes in person.” – Greg Ives on Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“Last night (Jeff Gordon) came by and sat in the car, and we made sure all his belts and all his equipment still fit. Everything went well there. I wanted to get that done as soon as we could. As far as Jeff goes, he has a lot of experience, especially at Indy. He just asked for some specifics.” – Greg Ives on Jeff Gordon
Letarte on Greg Ives’ comments:
“It is a good sign (that Dale Jr. is in the shop). It really keeps the emotion of the team in check. If you look at losing your driver, in an instance like this, I really believe it is not so much a physical issue as it is an emotional issue…Then you heard about the preparation moving forward and Jeff Gordon already asking for specifics. As a guy who got to work with both of these drivers, it is going to be interesting to see the communication change. Jeff Gordon has his own style of communication. It is very different compared to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s.” – Steve Letarte
Letarte on Gordon’s comfort with the new rules package:
“As for Jeff Gordon and the new rules package I have no concerns. Think about how many rules changes we have seen over the last two years. These driver show up with no practice and no testing and roll off the track and they are fast.” – Steve Letarte
Letarte on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s Chase contention:
“I can’t believe anyone at Hendrick Motorsport, Dale Jr. included, care much about the Chase grid at this point. You are talking about a superstar driver questioning his own health, trying to get healthy enough to get back in the racecar. I don’t think the points matter…There are bigger storylines here than the Chase, at least for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 88.” – Steve Letarte
Jarrett on Dale Jr. remaining out of the car for an extended period of time:
“We don’t want to compound a problem here and make another issue out of it that could shorting his career. I think that they are telling Dale Jr. ‘you take all the time that you need, get well and get health.’ And even if that isn’t until next year, I don’t think that they would care. If we can have years down the road of Dale Earnhardt Jr. by him sitting out an extended period of time (now), that is what is best for him and that organization.” – Dale Jarrett