As Jeff Gordon’s France vacation came to a premature end, he remembered what his initial plans were supposed to be for last Sunday.
The retired racer had agreed to drive the Pace Car for the Crown Royal presents the Combat Wounded Coalition 400 at the Brickyard. He was going to arrive on Saturday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The winner of a record five Brickyards would become the first to ever drive the pace car for an Indianapolis 500 (last year) as well as the NASCAR race.
All that changed when NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick summoned Gordon from France to drive for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is sidelined with a concussion.
Gordon texted public relations representative Jon Edwards.
“Have you spoke to the Speedway?” Gordon asked.
“Yeah, we’ve got an announcement getting ready to come out,” Edwards responded, referring to an IMS release on the Pace Car.
Uh, not so fast.
“You need to hold off on that announcement,” Gordon texted.
As Gordon concluded a Friday press conference at the track, he apologized to IMS President Doug Boles for not being able to drive the Pace Car. Boles graciously understood, but wasn’t letting go of a great idea.
“So we can get a rain check on that?” Boles said.
“Yes, absolutely, Doug,” Gordon said. “I owe you one, for sure, on that. I’d be honored to do that. Thank you for considering me.”
It’s not like Gordon and Hendrick had ever talked about continuing their relationship after last season. The only driver to ever race in all 22 Brickyard 400s thought he had said his goodbyes last year.
“We never talked about it because you gave me your helmet when you got out of the car,” Hendrick said to Gordon, referring to 2015’s final race at Homestead, Florida.
“I should have given you the seat and the steering wheel,” Gordon said.
So go ahead and write it down: Gordon will drive the Brickyard 400 Pace Car in 2017.
On second thought, print that in pencil. One never knows what could happen.
“I do not anticipate coming back to the Brickyard (to race) unless I get a text from Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said with a smile.