Gordon: SHR reached out before Daytona 500
RELATED: Full schedule for Indianapolis " Gordon through the years SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Jeff Gordon 's "un-retirement" from competing in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series began in earnest Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion is filling in for Hendrick Motorsports teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Indianapolis and next weekend at Pocono Raceway while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Almost as surprising as Gordon's return to the driver's seat -- he retired from full-time competition after the 2015 season -- was his disclosure that he had been approached about filling in for the injured Tony Stewart in this year's Daytona 500 . Stewart, driver of the No. 14 Chevrolet and co-owner of the four-car organization, missed the first eight races after suffering a broken back in an off-road driving incident prior to the start of the 2016 season. Gordon's role as a FOX NASCAR analyst (the network provides coverage of the season's first 16 points races) prohibited him from returning to competition. "The crazy thing about all of this (is) I was asked to drive Tony Stewart 's car in Daytona to start the season," Gordon said Friday. "I wasn't able to do it because of my commitments to FOX. Now Rick (Hendrick, team owner) has some amazing ways to convince people into things that the average person might not be able to. I don't know, maybe he could have called Eric Shanks or something, but no, I don't think so." Shanks is President, COO and Executive Producer of FOX Sports. Stewart is competing in his final season as a driver. Sunday's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard will be his final appearance at the famed 2.5-mile track, where he has earned two of his 49 career victories. That Gordon was asked about filling in earlier this season was news to Stewart. "I wasn't (aware)," Stewart said, "but that would have been awesome. That probably would have been one of the coolest things to happen this season. If that happened, I would have been all for it. … "I wasn't aware of that, but that would have been a really cool deal for us." MORE: Dale Jr. out, Gordon in No. 88 at Indianapolis, Pocono
NASCAR sees investment growth from FORTUNE 100 brands
The list of blue-chip brands involved in NASCAR continues to grow. According to a recent internal analysis, the number of FORTUNE 100 companies investing in NASCAR has increased 5 percent year-over-year. Also, the number of FORTUNE 500 companies investing in the sport has either grown or sustained year-over-year since 2012. Overall, more than one in four FORTUNE 500 companies integrate NASCAR into their marketing strategies. A charter agreement with race teams, five-year track sanctioning deals and a bevy of new or renewed long-term partnerships have contributed to NASCAR's business growth over the last several years. FORTUNE 500 companies Auto-Owners Insurance , Stanley DeWalt, Fastenal, O'Reilly Auto Parts and Axalta have all renewed with or entered the sport this season, highlighting the momentum across the industry. Repucom's SponsorLink survey shows NASCAR surpasses all other sports properties in fan sponsor consideration. Seven out of 10 NASCAR fans are loyal to a sponsor's brand when it supports the sport, and three out of four NASCAR fans would consider a sponsor's brand. While being a FORTUNE 500 company is the gold standard of success for publicly traded companies in the United States, there are several global corporations involved in NASCAR that weren't included in the analysis because they do not meet FORTUNE's criteria. A number of blue-chip brands significantly involved in the sport did not qualify, including Mars, MillerCoors, Shell and Toyota.
Gordon talks return, Dale Jr. at Indianapolis
SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Fans lined up two- and three-deep outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center hoping for autographs from four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon , who is returning to NASCAR competition this weekend. The five-time Indy winner will drive for the injured Dale Earnhardt Jr. for two races -- at Indy and next week at Pocono -- while Earnhardt recovers from concussion-like symptoms. Gordon, 45, was all smiles and admittedly still a little overwhelmed with the new part-time job as he addressed the media for the first time Friday morning. He was primarily concerned with his former Hendrick Motorsports teammate Earnhardt's recovery. "Most of all, I'm proud to be here and help this team out," Gordon said. "This is his team and what we want the most is to have him healthy and strong for the long term. My goal is to come here and give this team the best effort I can." Gordon said the whole opportunity to fill in for Earnhardt began with a simple cell phone text he received while vacationing with his wife in France. "Call me," read the text from team owner Rick Hendrick. "I can tell you, you sit down when you call," Gordon said smiling. "It hasn't happened a lot, but when it does, it's usually something big. "I was in the South of France at that time, second day of our vacation. I got that text and looked at my wife and said, 'Oh, boy, here we go.' "Rick said to me, 'Are you coming to Indianapolis?' And I told him I was coming on Saturday. He said, 'You better bring your uniform.' Then he started telling me what was happening, and I told him, 'You're messing with me. I know you're messing with me.' "I knew right away the seriousness, that he wasn't joking. That this was serious. I honestly didn't have to think twice." So Gordon flew back from Paris to New York on Tuesday, a day earlier than expected and Hendrick had a plane waiting on its "new" driver to transport him to the team's headquarters in North Carolina. Once in Charlotte, Gordon had to get a NASCAR driver's license -- he currently held one as a team owner -- and get the required physical tests to certify he was ready for competition. The team still had Gordon's seat and steering wheel from last season's Cup finale at Homestead. Gordon said he spent time studying data and GoPro video from inside the cars of Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Chase Elliott when they tested last week at Indy. Gordon said he also spent time speaking with crew chief Greg Ives. "The cool thing about Greg Ives is he reminded me that he worked for Robbie Loomis when Robbie was my crew chief and he was telling some great stories about working with Robbie," Gordon said. "I've known Greg for a long time and always been impressed with him. But, I have never had the opportunity to work with him. I'm looking forward to working with him. I think he's a great crew chief and they have a great race team." An hour before Gordon and Hendrick spoke to the media in Indianapolis, Earnhardt sent a message to his fans on social media. "Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel," Earnhardt wrote on Twitter. RELATED: Earnhardt gives update on his health "I certainly woke up feeling good when I saw Dale Jr.'s tweet, that he's seen progress," Gordon said. "I texted him right away as soon as I saw that. So, that is great news. Great way to start the day." Hendrick also reiterated how proud of Earnhardt he was for recognizing a problem and taking correct and cautious measures in terms of racing. And, he noted, Earnhardt was in the race shop Wednesday spending time with his team. "He looks good and he's in great spirits," Hendrick said. "He's encouraged and following the doctors' orders and we're really excited. He wants to get back in the car. "He wants to race, but he also knows that the regimen they have him on will get him right for a long time. So he's following doctors' orders, but I can tell he's getting a little antsy. But he's going to do well." Gordon conceded that in addition to getting used to the 2016 Cup cars -- and the digital dash, which he has never used -- was the simple and obvious thing of remembering he's driving the No. 88 Chevrolet. For 24 seasons, Gordon drove the No. 24 Chevrolet for Hendrick, earning four series titles and a record five Brickyard 400 trophies. Now, rookie Chase Elliott drives that car. "I'm going to be racing against the No. 24 car out there," Gordon said, allowing a slight smile. "It's a race car and I'm going to be focused on driving, not focused on anything else. "To me, once I get behind the wheel and I'm inside the car I don't know what is on the outside of that car." RELATED: Other times legendary athletes wore different numbers In addition to this role driving for Earnhardt, Gordon revealed he was asked in February to fill in for then-injured Tony Stewart in the season-opening Daytona 500 . He couldn't because of contract obligations with his new on-air role with FOX Sports. Certainly, few of Gordon's competitors Sunday have any doubt whatsoever that he will be competitive here. "He has the best stats of anybody or as good of stats as anybody here at this race track as far as top fives and top 10s," Richard Childress Racing driver Ryan Newman said. "I think that he is driving the same equipment, it's not like he's in somebody else's race car. He knows what he's driving, he knows the people he is driving for, so I don't see any reason why he is not one of the guys to beat." Teammate Jimmie Johnson echoed the prevailing sentiment in the garage. With both Stewart and Gordon in their final Brickyard, there will be plenty to watch. "It is big, the way it worked out obviously, but to have Tony Stewart in his final race, Jeff Gordon in his final race -- Part Two, it is a big time," Johnson said. "Jeff has always been so well supported by the fans at this race track. I can only imagine how loud they are going to be at driver intros -- and how bonkers this place would go if he is able to win." RELATED: Stewart would consider substitute role in '17 In another nod to the team's regular driver, track crews took down a sign the Speedway had placed above the No. 88 team's garage that identified Jeff Gordon as the driver of the car instead of Dale Earnhardt Jr. Gordon insisted that it was Earnhardt's car regardless of who was driving it this weekend. Gordon looked good in opening practice for Sunday's Brickyard 400 with the ninth-fastest speed, and no one has proven himself better here. "I'm certainly a little overwhelmed over everything that has happened over the last week," Gordon said. "But, most of all, I'm proud to be here and help his team out. This is his team. What we want most is to have (Earnhardt) healthy and strong for the long-term. Today is a great sign of things to come for him. "For me, my goal is to come here and give this team the best effort that I can, and give them the best result ... hopefully a good one. So really, this is just me helping out the organization. We will see what happens on Sunday. If we are out there having fun, and put a good result together, I can tell you what is in it for me is to make that team proud, and not let them down." &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;gt;
Larson: 'I would love to run the Indy 500'
Kyle Larson talks about the potential of running the Indianapolis 500 in the future.
H2H: Tackling three key questions on Gordon, Junior
PHOTOS: Big-name drivers in No. 88 " Junior through the years For at least the next two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races, starting this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon will be behind the wheel of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet as Dale Earnhardt Jr. continues to recover from concussion-like symptoms. The high-profile changing of seats prompts several questions -- for the recovering Earnhardt Jr., the returning Jeff Gordon and the No. 88 team itself. NASCAR.com reporters Holly Cain and Zack Albert tackle a handful of these questions in a quick reporter roundtable. 1. Will Dale Jr. still make the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs? HC: Of course, this depends on the length of time doctors would like Earnhardt to heal. But should he return in two weeks' time, I still think it's absolutely a good bet he makes the Chase, perhaps even wins a race. He's won seven races in the last two seasons. And he has five wins at tracks that would still be on the schedule to set the Chase field -- a pair at Michigan and three victories at the regular-season finale venue, Richmond. ZA: Getting healthy -- not even necessarily for a return to NASCAR, but in general -- remains the overall priority for Earnhardt Jr., but the team must press on regardless of who is in the driver's seat. A two-week absence will drop Earnhardt from the 16-driver provisional Chase grid, placing urgency on winning when he potentially returns. The almost certain granting of a Chase eligibility waiver from NASCAR competition officials should guarantee that the opportunity exists. But should his absence last longer, the thought of shelving this season in favor of a full-fledged 2017 return may make the most sense. 2. What do we expect from Jeff Gordon ? HC: Frankly, how could our expectations be too high here? Especially at Indy, where Gordon is the all-time winningest driver with five trophies. He is the dream substitute -- a pillar of the Hendrick Motorsports organization, fresh off a Chase final-four season and trackside all year in his role as a FOX Sports race analyst. Earnhardt's Chevrolet will be in good hands. The biggest issue may only be making sure Gordon doesn't pull into Chase Elliott 's No. 24 pit stall. ZA: This isn't exactly Michael Jordan puttering around in a Washington Wizards jersey. Half a season off doesn't exactly allow for the accumulation of rust, especially when considering that Gordon, one of the sport's all-time greats, retired from full-time competition at the height of his game. The expectation is for Gordon to be sharp as ever. The results are anyone's guess. 3. What does this do for both drivers' legacies? HC: Even should Gordon pull off an amazing victory in Earnhardt's car this week at Indy or next at Pocono, the four-time Cup champ's legacy is already NASCAR Hall of Fame bound. For Earnhardt, getting out of the car and setting a standard in the sport's concussion treatment will be as important a legacy as his two Daytona 500 victories and 24 other Cup wins. He is the sport's reigning superstar and his responsible and inspiring actions only increase his stature. And that's saying something! ZA: Jeff Gordon 's legacy in the sport is already secure in quick-drying cement. His comeback's only possible augmentations (and they'd be nominal boosts to his already transcendent portfolio) would be another victory or reaching the 800-starts plateau, a mere three appearances away. Earnhardt Jr.'s legacy -- and popularity -- may only grow as he continues to lead the charge in the research of sport-related brain trauma. That contribution to stock-car racing is far greater than any possible unchecked boxes on his career list of on-track accomplishments. </p>
Hamlin returns to site of Daytona 500 win, eyes sweep
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Since Denny Hamlin first arrived in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series full time in 2006 he had an immediate positive relationship with Daytona International Speedway winning his first-ever Budweiser Shootout as a rookie in the days leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500 . Since then, Hamlin has won that event two more times including this February -- just 8 days before he pulled off an amazing last lap pass to claim his maiden Daytona 500 victory in the closest finish in the race's great 58-year history. A win in Saturday's Coke Zero 400 would give Hamlin another unique claim to Daytona fame -- a season sweep of the Sprint Cup events plus a win in the Shootout giving him three victories (including both points races) at the track in a single season. Only Bobby Allison (1982) and Fireball Roberts (1962) have swept both Daytona premier series races and won an exhibition event too. Jimmie Johnson (2013), Cale Yarborough (1968) and LeeRoy Yarbrough (1969) are the other drivers to win both Sprint Cup races in a year. "It was about five years ago that something happened on the restrictor plate race tracks where I just -- it clicked and I got it," Hamlin said Thursday. "I can name a few instances it's really helped me, but I don't want to necessarily say that, but I just feel comfortable. I feel like I know what I'm doing and the results have showed it." The driver of the No. 11 FedEx Toyota hasn't finished worse than sixth in his last five Daytona starts, including a runner-up in the 2014 Daytona 500 and a third place showing in last year's Coke Zero 400 -- a streak of success even better than one of the track's true superstars, Dale Earnhardt Jr . Earnhardt has a pair of Cup race wins during that same five-race span -- including the 2014 Daytona 500 and this race last year -- but finished 36th in this year's Daytona 500 and 14th in this race in 2014. Despite the impressive numbers, Hamlin is well aware that his current success streak is a rare outcome at a restrictor plate track. "Eventually, we're going to get in a wreck," Hamlin allowed with a slight smile. "I think we did at -- yeah, we did at Talladega, but I've just been very fortunate on superspeedways and the bad finishes that I've had it's not because something I feel like I did. It was something that I could caught up in, so I've been fortunate. "It's been a great battle with the 88 ( Dale Earnhardt Jr .) probably the last four years with me and him. There's been a lot of one-two finishes with us and hopefully I'd love to complete the sweep winning the Unlimited, the 500 and the July race. I feel like I gift basket-ed him that dual win on Thursday this year, so I'd like to get him back here in July." A win this weekend would be key not just in Daytona historical context. Other than a fantastic runner-up finish to Tony Stewart on the Sonoma Raceway road course last week, Hamlin hasn't posted the kind of consistently good showings he might have liked. Especially with the way the season began. In the last seven races, Hamlin has three top-10s and three finishes of 30th or worse -- two of those sub-par finishes, a result of crashes. But just looking at Hamlin's face and his demeanor, it's easy to tell he brings an unmistakable confidence to Daytona Beach. And he's earned it honestly. He'll start ninth in the Coke Zero 400 -- surrounded by all his three Joe Gibbs Racing teammates who qualified second ( Carl Edwards ), third ( Kyle Busch ) and seventh ( Matt Kenseth ). Toyota driver Martin Truex Jr ., who Hamlin edged for the Daytona win in February, will start 15th. "Anytime we can work together, I try for sure," Hamlin said of his Toyota teammates. "I don't know that it was a plot to take out one car by any means. I thought we showed a lot of speed with just our cars in practice looking at lap times with what we would run as a group of five. Simple math says what the pack was going to run and I knew that if we could stay in a line and commit to each other, it would be tough for others to pass us. It worked out well. "Legitimately there were five Toyotas out to win on the final lap and that's really all we could have asked for. It was something that was in the works for a long time and it was executed perfectly by our whole organization and it worked out. Obviously any time you are successful like that you try to repeat it, but the competitors have a lot of say in that, so there are others who are going to have issue with what our plan is." "Really this track has been very good to me throughout my career," Hamlin said. "We hope to complete the sweep this weekend."
Sights and Sounds: Camping World RV Sales 500
Relive all of the action from the Camping World RV Sales 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.
Race Rewind: Camping World RV Sales 500
Take a look back the action from Talladega Superspeedway's Camping World RV Sales 500 as Jamie McMurray steals a win from the drivers competing for the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Bobby Pierce making a name for himself at Eldora despite faltering in the end
RELATED: Results " Standings " Updated Chase Grid ROSSBURG, Ohio -- Kyle Larson had never heard of Bobby Pierce until last year's running of this event, when the dirt track standout earned the pole, led 39 laps and finished second. After Wednesday night's Aspen Dental Eldora Dirt Derby Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway, won by Larson, there's a good chance the Sprint Cup Series driver -- and NASCAR fans in general -- won't be forgetting his name any time soon. Pierce, in just his seventh career truck start, stomped the field to a tune of 102 of 150 laps led, sometimes approaching a full 5-second lead on the half-mile short track. But the 19-year-old had his shifter stuck in fourth gear and was unable to get it unstuck before an impending restart with less than 30 laps to go. The issue relegated him to a disappointing 25th-place finish after wrecking and slowly landing against the inside wall. "Kind of what bit me there was I couldn't get it out of fourth gear on the caution, so I was riding around there just beating it, just trying to get it out," Pierce told NASCAR.com after he was cleared and released from the infield care center. "I was restarting in second or third and I'm sure that's what Larson was doing, too, but on the restart I just couldn't get going. "I got to second (place) and I caught him there and just kind of drove it in a little too hard. Kinda hit the baby powder or whatever it was. The baby powder made it a little slick getting in, and that was all she wrote. Hit the wall, knocked the right rear off the rim." Pierce was unable to get his truck moving after hitting the wall and, despite his pleas to get pushed back on the track, was required to exit his vehicle and make a trip to the care center even though he "only hit the wall going about 1 mile per hour." Even if he'd been able to get it going again, it was unlikely that his team could've fixed the shifter, patched up any body damage and gotten him back out on the track in time to compete for the win. That's just how racing goes, sometimes. "Heck, it's always gotta be something. If you're going to win the race, you've gotta have luck and be good at the same time," said Pierce, whose best CWTS finish of the season came at Kansas (23rd). "Larson had a flat there early on and he charged back through there, but unfortunately our deal was later on so we couldn't come in and get it fixed. Even if it did, I don't think they could've gotten the tranny fixed getting it out of fourth because I tried every single trick in the book to get it out and it just would not go." Pierce said he's planning on running the event again next year, and likely has to be the odds-on favorite at this point, whether or not Larson aims to repeat his win. While no more national series events are on his schedule for the season, Pierce isn't ruling them out for the future. "Heck, the two years I've done (Eldora) have been really good so far," Pierce said. "(MB Motorsports team owner) Mike Mittler has treated me really well so far; planning on doing it again next year. As far as asphalt goes, just gotta find sponsorship if I'm going to do it. "(I'm pursuing more races) a little. Our dirt late model year and the previous years have been so good that even if I don't get sponsorship to try it a couple more times or whatever, then I'll be all right. It's good to run these deals. It's good to run pavement, too, because it makes you a better driver, going back to the late model and trying to pick up sponsorship." People noticed. Some of whom are undoubtedly sponsors. Feel free to do a quick Twitter search. Race fans knew Bobby Pierce was there, and race fans know Bobby Pierce is a driver to watch after these thrilling performances. "Well, hey. If I can't win," he said. "At least I put on a good show, I guess."
Dale Jr. tweets update: 'I sensed improvement'
RELATED: Dale Jr. injury timeline " Views of Gordon behind the No. 88 SPEEDWAY, Ind. -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. took to social media Friday morning, updating his fans on his condition as he sits out his second consecutive race since being diagnosed with "concussion-like symptoms." Today is the 1st day in many that I sensed improvement. Seen small gains during my physical therapy as well. Light at the end of the tunnel. — Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) July 22, 2016 No determination has been made concerning Earnhardt's return to competition. At Indianapolis Motor Speedway, team owner Rick Hendrick said an appearance at the team's headquarters in Concord, North Carolina, earlier this week by his driver was a good sign. "Wednesday he came by the shop, and we got to visit," Hendrick said. "He looks good ; he is encouraged. … We're really excited. He is in great spirits." Hendrick, whose HMS organization fields entries for drivers Jimmie Johnson , Chase Elliott and Kasey Kahne in addition to Earnhardt Jr., said Earnhardt is eager to get back in the car, but is also following doctors' orders. "He wants to race," Hendrick said, "but he also knows the regime they have him on will get him right for a long time. He's following doctors' orders but I can tell he is getting antsy. But he is going to do what they say." Earnhardt initially visited doctors prior to this month's race at Kentucky for what he thought was a sinus infection. Eventually, however, it was determined his condition was likely the result of an impact (or impacts) in recent races. As a result, he was not cleared to return to competition. Alex Bowman , who has competed for Earnhardt’s JR Motorsports team this season in the XFINITY Series, was tabbed to fill in for the team last weekend at New Hampshire, where he finished 26th. Four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is taking over the driving duties for this weekend's Crown Royal Presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard at IMS (3 p.m., NBCSN, IMS, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio). He is also scheduled to be in the car next week when the series moves to Pocono Raceway. It is the second time Earnhardt has been sidelined for a concussion or concussion-like symptoms. He sat out two races in 2012 following a hard crash during a test at Kansas Speedway. "I really enjoyed spending time with him Wednesday," Hendrick said. "He misses this. He misses his team. He went to see his team. He saw the guys and it really lifted them. "I think between Jeff agreeing to drive the car and Junior walking in the shop, the team is really excited. Jeff's situation with our company, everybody there knows him; and when some unknown person is going to get in the car, or clearly not anyone of the talent that Jeff has here at Indy, so that excited the team. But more than anything, when (Earnhardt) walked in that building it just lifted everybody up. So, we're really excited. Everybody is there for Junior and his health is number one priority. But we feel good about where we are right now." It was also announced by HMS officials earlier this week that Earnhardt had "underwent further evaluation at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Sports Medicine Concussion Program." Gordon has not competed since stepping away from driving at the conclusion of the 2015 season. He is a five-time winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at IMS, making him the winningest NASCAR wheelman at the track.