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When Jeff met Junior: Gordon recalls first meeting with Dale Jr.
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline of Dale Jr.'s recovery BRISTOL, Tenn. -- The first time he met Dale Earnhardt Jr ., Jeff Gordon never imagined that he would one day drive in relief for his Hendrick Motorsports teammate. Yet here Saturday night, Gordon will do just that, suiting up for the fourth consecutive race to drive the organization's No. 88 Chevrolet in place of Earnhardt in the Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Earnhardt has been sidelined since mid-July due to concussion-like symptoms and the timing of his return has yet to be determined. Their first meeting came in the mid 1990s at North Wilkesboro Speedway when Gordon and Dale Earnhardt, Earnhardt Jr.'s father, were at the top of their game. The elder Earnhardt was already a legendary figure in the sport; Gordon was on his way to becoming one. The cheering and jeering of the Earnhardt and Gordon fans was a weekly occurrence at tracks across the country. That the two would go on to become both friends and business associates seemed unfathomable to those in the grandstands. "I remember sitting there on pit road and Dale Sr. and he came walking by … it was the first time I ever met (Junior)," Gordon told NASCAR.com recently. "They were getting ready to qualify; I don't remember if he was driving a Late Model maybe … I don't exactly remember but I knew he'd been doing some racing and was building some momentum. "I remember that he was very respectful. It was cool to meet him and then shortly after that see him rise as quick as he did." Gordon "retired" from competition at the end of 2015, with four series titles and 93 career victories. The last time he visited Bristol, he was working in the television booth, just two months into his new role as a FOX NASCAR analyst. RELATED: Remembering some of the top moments at Bristol Now, he's back behind the wheel at a track where he notched five wins and five of 81 career poles. Hendrick officials announced July 14 that doctors had not cleared Earnhardt Jr. to compete the following weekend at New Hampshire. Alex Bowman stepped in and finished 26th in his only start with the team. Gordon took over the driving duties for races at Indianapolis (13th ), Pocono (27th ) and most recently Watkins Glen (14th ). Getting back in the car, and the No. 88 in particular, was an unusual feeling for Gordon although the 45-year-old certainly garnered his share of the spotlight throughout his career. "I knew it was a big story," he said of the return, "but still until you’re living it and the reality of it is there, you don't know how your heart's going to beat, how your hands are going to sweat. That first time on track at Indy, I was sweating. And not just because of the heat. "It would be different if I had been out for one week or two weeks. But I'd been out for eight months. I hadn't really driven this package. There's added pressure because of the situation, it being Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s car. To me the pressure was more about the performance." Earnhardt, who also missed two races in 2012 after suffering a concussion, is a two-time champion in NASCAR’s XFINITY Series and has 26 Sprint Cup victories. His absence from competition has seen him fall from 13th to 21st in the points standings. His move to the XFINITY Series (then Busch Grand National) is one Gordon hasn't forgotten either. Earnhardt made one start in the series '96 and eight in '97 before going full-time the following season. "I went to see Dale Sr. about some business and he said 'Hey come check out Dale Jr.'s car for Watkins Glen," Gordon said. "… I looked at the car and remember it wasn't fancy, wasn't some super premium piece of equipment. The shifter on it was so long. Total old school. At that point we had been making really nice transmissions, road course cars, short shifters and all those things." Gordon said he took the opportunity for a bit of friendly ribbing. "I gave Senior a hard time," he said. "I was like 'What's this? You're going to make him go to Watkins Glen in this? That shifter is just wrong. This car is not at all what he deserves.'" Earnhardt wasn't swayed by the comments, according to Gordon . "He goes, 'Oh no. I'm going to make him work for it. He's not going to have it easy; he's going to work on it himself. I'm not going give him the best equipment. He's not going to learn anything being in the best equipment. He's going to have to drive some mediocre equipment so he can learn.' "And I thought that was pretty cool." &amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;gt;
Jeff Gordon won't drive No. 88 car at Michigan
RELATED: Dale Jr. offers rehab update on social media BRISTOL, Tenn. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr .'s return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition remains undetermined. But if the series' most popular driver remains sidelined when the series heads to Michigan International Speedway for the Aug. 28 Pure Michigan 400 (2 p.m. ET, NBCSN, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio), it will be Alex Bowman and not Jeff Gordon handling the driving duties of the Hendrick Motorsports No. 88 Chevrolet. Gordon , who made his fourth start for the team at Bristol Motor Speedway , will not be available due to a prior commitment, according to Hendrick officials. However, the four-time series champion will travel to Michigan to support the team on Sunday. Earnhardt is recovering from concussion-like symptoms that have kept him sidelined since July. The Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race at Bristol was the fifth race he's missed. Bowman drove for the team at Loudon, New Hampshire, following Earnhardt's initial diagnosis. Gordon took over the following week, and has competed at Indianapolis, Pocono and Watkins Glen prior to Bristol. Bowman, 23, finished 26th in his fill-in role for Earnhardt at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Gordon , meanwhile, has finishes of 13th, 27th, 14th and 11th, respectively, in his four starts with the team. . @JeffGordonWeb has prior commitment that won't allow him to be in Mich. for entire race wknd. @AlexBRacing to sub if @DaleJr isn't cleared. — Hendrick 88 Team (@Hendrick88Team) August 19, 2016 Happy to be on standby for @DaleJr and @TeamHendrick at @MISpeedway . Hopefully Dale is cleared but if not I'm ready to go! — Alex Bowman (@AlexBRacing) August 20, 2016 UPDATE: The 88 team does not expect to make an announcement for Michigan until Wednesday afternoon. We don’t expect to make an announcement regarding @MISpeedway before Wednesday afternoon. — Hendrick 88 Team (@Hendrick88Team) August 22, 2016 &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Elliott: Gordon texted apology after incident
RELATED: Gustafson furious at Gordon over radio Things got a little awkward at Richmond on Saturday night between Hendrick Motorsports teammates. Jeff Gordon , driving the No. 88 Chevrolet in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr ., caused contact with Chase Elliott , driver of the No. 24 Chevrolet -- you know, the one that Gordon drove to four Sprint Cup Series titles -- and nearly cost his teammate a shot at the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup after his ride was damaged. Elliott managed to still make the cut on points, but Gordon , in some ways Elliott's mentor, went out of his way to text the Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender and apologize for the incident, the 20-year-old told media at the Ready. Set. Chase. launch event Thursday in Chicago. "He sent me a text after the race," Elliott said. "I knew it wasn't his fault. I wasn't concerned with it at all. It was a racing deal. You hate, of course, it had to be two teammates, it had to be myself and Jeff . But at the end of the day we both get it and our teams get it." Elliott later added, that the apology "wasn't at all necessary." Alex Bowman will be behind the wheel of the No. 88 at the Chicagoland Chase opener, but now we know there will be no tension between Gordon and Elliott over the incident for the veteran driver's last two starts of 2016 -- Dover and Martinsville -- moving forward. &amp;lt;/p&amp;gt;
Elliott finds the wall after contact with Gordon
Chase Elliott, a Chase bubble driver, gets the worst of contact between Jeff Gordon and Ryan Newman in Turn 1.
Jeff Gordon : Behind-the-scenes at SNL in his own words
RELATED: Jeff Gordon , the driver who brought NASCAR mainstream In celebration of four-time NASCAR premier series champion Jeff Gordon 's 45th birthday on Thursday, the veteran driver released another excerpt from his upcoming biography, this time detailing his whirlwind experience while on the set of Saturday Night Live, which he hosted in 2003. New book excerpt: “I was overwhelmed. I was seriously concerned at this point.” -> https://t.co/pTSqSgfwQh . #TeamJG pic.twitter.com/S6fN20Av90 — Jeff Gordon (@JeffGordonWeb) August 4, 2016 The driver, currently filling in for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr . in the No. 88 Chevrolet, details how harrowing of an experience it was for him, describing being "out of (his) element" and "scared (expletive)-less." It also details how Gordon's appearance showed how the sport had outgrown its regional roots and was becoming more mainstream -- much of which is a direct result of Gordon , himself. Check out the full excerpt here and be sure to pre-order your copy of Gordon's book which ships in October. MORE: Gordon through the years " Gordon's 45th win in honor of 45th birthday
Jeff Gordon to fill in for Dale Jr. in next two races
RELATED: Latest updates, timeline on Dale Jr. Jeff Gordon will be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Chevrolet for the next two races as Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms, Hendrick Motorsports announced Tuesday. Earnhardt Jr. underwent further evaluation Tuesday at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program, according to the team, and posted an encouraging tweet later Tuesday evening. Excited to report I had a great trip to the doctor today for evaluation. Doctors and I both are feeling positive about the progress. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) August 2, 2016 "We have a break in the schedule after Watkins Glen, so the extra week of recovery time will certainly be a benefit," team owner Rick Hendrick said in a press release. "Dale will be back when he's ready, and we're looking forward to that happening, but the priority continues to be his health and well-being. We'll keep our focus on that and let the doctors guide us." RELATED: Read more about Junior's recovery here Gordon will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet when the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series comes to Watkins Glen International for the Cheez-It 355 at The Glen this weekend (Sunday, 2:30 p.m. ET, USA, MRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). Watkins Glen will be his 800th career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start. Following an off week, Gordon will then pilot the No. 88 at Bristol in the annual night race on Aug. 20. Watkins Glen and Bristol are the fourth and fifth races, respectively, that Earnhardt Jr. will miss due to concussion-like symptoms. Junior opened up about his recovery, the process, protocol and much more on this week's edition of "The Dale Jr. Download." Last weekend at Pocono Raceway, Gordon indicated he looked at his stint in the No. 88 "as a very temporary thing" but is willing to remain in the role "as long as they need me." The four-time series champion later added: "I wouldn't be here in Pocono if I wasn't committed to be there for Hendrick Motorsports and this team in any way that they need me. I think there is a balance between trying to make this transition. First of all, you want Dale to have the comfort of knowing that somebody is there for him. He doesn't have to worry about that aspect of it through this process. "… Then there is the side of who is the best person to be in the car to get the most points. And then there is the sponsorship side of it as well. So far, from what Rick (Hendrick, team owner) is telling me, that seems to be me. That is why I was at Indy and that is why I'm here." Gordon has driven the No. 88 the past two races at Pocono (27th) and Indianapolis (13th). Alex Bowman drove the car at New Hampshire to a 26th-place finish. In his career, Gordon has four wins in 23 starts at the New York road course and nine total road-course wins in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He also has five wins at Bristol. First practice at Watkins Glen is scheduled for 12:30 p.m. ET Friday on NBCSN, when Gordon will climb into the No. 88 for the third consecutive week -- one day after his 45th birthday. &amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;&amp;amp;amp;lt;span _rtespchksugg=&amp;amp;amp;quot;Lt"alt"ult"flt"let"lit"lat"lot"ltd"t&amp;amp;amp;quot; style=&amp;amp;amp;quot;background-color: #ffffaa;&amp;amp;amp;quot; _rtetemp=&amp;amp;amp;quot;spchk&amp;amp;amp;quot;&amp;amp;amp;gt;am&amp;amp;amp;lt;/span&amp;amp;amp;gt;p;lt;/p&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;
Hendrick GM: Jeff Gordon to drive at Indy if Dale Jr. can't
RELATED: Drivers react, offer thoughts on Earnhardt Jr. news Hendrick Motorsports indicated that Jeff Gordon would return to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition in place of Dale Earnhardt Jr. next weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway if Earnhardt has not fully recovered from concussion-like symptoms. Gordon , a four-time champion in NASCAR's premier series, ended his full-time driving career last season. All of his 93 victories and 797 starts came during his 23-year career with Hendrick Motorsports, which fields four cars including the No. 88 Chevrolet driven by Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports announced Thursday that Earnhardt would miss this Sunday's New Hampshire 301 (1:30 p.m. ET, NBCSN, PRN, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio) with concussion-like symptoms. Earnhardt also missed time in the 2012 season, sitting out two races after sustaining two concussions in a stretch of six weeks. Doug Duchardt, Hendrick Motorsports' general manager, revealed the striking news of Gordon's possible Indy return on July 24 in the Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard during a press conference Friday morning at New Hampshire. Gordon is NASCAR's all-time winningest driver at the historic Brickyard with five Indianapolis victories on his Hall of Fame-worthy resume. Duchardt said that there was no timetable for Earnhardt's return to competition, reiterating the organization's stance from Thursday's announcement. "I really don't want to speculate past Indy," Duchardt said. "I think we just want to take it one race at a time here. I think putting any speculation past that is assuming that Dale is not going to be ready for that amount of time. We will obviously be thinking about contingency plans, but we don't have anything formalized for sure past Indy." Alex Bowman will be making his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start of the season in the Hendrick No. 88 Chevrolet. Bowman, 23, is also a part-time competitor for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR XFINITY Series. Duchardt indicated that Gordon was not strongly considered for this weekend's duty at New Hampshire because before Thursday, all indications were that Earnhardt potentially needed only a relief driver instead of a full-fledged replacement. Additionally, Gordon revealed Thursday that he was currently in France, which would have made for a tight turnaround to prepare for competition in New England this weekend. NASCAR spokesperson David Higdon said that for Earnhardt to return to racing, competition officials would need notice of medical clearance from an independent, board-certified neurologist. Duchardt said that the team would make a determination by the middle of next week for the driver of the No. 88 Chevrolet at Indianapolis. "For (crew chief) Greg (Ives) and the team, certainly the way Jeff sits in the car and what we have to do to prepare the car for Jeff they have to get ready for that," Duchardt said. But, I think I would be looking around Wednesday time frame." Ryan Newman , a 15th-year veteran with Richard Childress Racing, said that a driver of Gordon's caliber would likely be capable of competitively rejoining the series without signs of rust. "Yeah, just because you go to the nude beach for a couple of months doesn't mean you don't know how to put your underwear back on," Newman said, prompting laughter in the NHMS media center. </p>
4 in a Row: Relive Jeff Gordon's win over Mark Martin in 1998
Watch as Jeff Gordon passes Mark Martin in the Pepsi 400 in 1998 at MIS with 9 laps to go to take home the checkered flag. This victory was Gordon's fourth consecutive win in a season where he went on to win 13 races.
Jeff Gordon and Junior fans react at Indianapolis
Several Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans offer their reaction to Jeff Gordon substituting for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Watch Jeff Gordon climb in the No. 88
Watch as Jeff Gordon climbs inside the No. 88 AXALTA Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. The four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion is filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.