Jeff Gordon returns to the TV booth for the third and final time this season when he works as an analyst in Saturday’s Xfinity Series race at Talladega Superspeedway.
Will he appear more frequently on Fox Sports next year when he vacates the No. 24 Chevrolet for the first time since 1993?
We could know soon.
“That decision will be made, I think, before the summer,” Gordon recently told NBC Sports. “It’s not something I think that needs to happen last minute. This is Step One to me and them, whether this is realistic.”
The four-time series champion was an analyst for Xfinity Series races April 10 race at Texas Motor Speedway and April 18 at Bristol Motor Speedway. Though he admitted to being jittery before his debut, he settled in and enjoyed calling the race, which marked Erik Jones’ first Xfinity win.
“That was pretty cool to see him win his first race,” Gordon said. “I was energized, and the adrenaline was flowing, and it was fun. I was certainly very nervous to start.”
He said the feedback mostly has been positive.
“When I look at social media, most of it is biased toward me, so I don’t always want to put too much into that, but they could have said bad things,” he said with a laugh. “From speaking to the Fox folks, they seemed happy.”
Darrell Waltrip retired from driving in 2000 and began working for Fox Sports the following season as the network began NASCAR’s national broadcast deal. Jeff Burton will make a similar leap in July when NBC Sports will begin its 10-year deal of broadcasting Sprint Cup.
If he follows that path with Fox, Gordon also would be interested in being a Sprint Cup analyst
“There’s certainly a lot more involved, a much bigger time commitment, a longer race,” he said. “It becomes a bigger business. It’s fun to dabble with it on an Xfinity race, but I take it very serious if I were to do (Sprint Cup). Even though it’s half a season, it’s a full-time commitment.”
Alex Bowman fastest in final Cup practice at Auto Club Speedway
Bowman also had the best 10-lap average at 175.317 mph.
Kurt Busch recorded the most laps with 47.
The only incident in the session was defending race winner Kyle Busch brushing the wall in Turn 3 after his car got away from him on the bumps in the corner. Repairs were made to the car and Busch returned to the track with 17 minutes left in the session.
Busch addressed Elliott and Larson entering the bounty ring Friday during his media session at Auto Club Speedway.
“It’s all good,” Busch said. “I think it’s going to be interesting, exciting, whatever you want to term it. I guess Cup drivers in the truck series do sell tickets. You know, take that for what it’s worth. I think it’s a unique opportunity for more attention on the series, which is good. Maybe if more drivers had more teams than had rides, there would be something else there besides just myself.”
“It’s brought a whole new chatter to (the truck series,” Busch said. “Whether that’s excitement or just chatter, I’m not sure which. I think we’ll see when we get to Atlanta what the grandstands look like and how the race goes.”
Even before the announcement by the drivers Thursday night, Busch had already given thought to the Cup competitors he could potentially square off against for the bounty and who his biggest threat was.
“I don’t remember who I told, but once Harvick kind of put the idea out there, I was like, ‘The guy who is really, really, really, gonna have a shot is Larson at Homestead,” Busch said.
The 1.5-mile track in Florida is widely viewed as Larson’s best track. He’s made three starts there in the truck series. He has two top fives, including placing fourth there in 2016 with GMS Racing.
But the first stop in the bounty challenge is Chase Elliott and his home track of Atlanta.
Harrison Burton, who raced for Busch last year in the truck series, shared his experience competing against Busch at Atlanta last year, a race Busch won.
“It’s going to be hard to beat Kyle, I know that much,” Burton said Friday. “I ran trucks last year and ran second to him for a lot of laps at Atlanta especially. I remember thinking, ‘Well, I’m about a tenth better than the field and he’s about three-tenths better than me so this is pretty impressive.’ Ran second most of that day. Didn’t finish second, but Chase is going to have his work cut out for him there and (Kyle) Larson is going to have his work cut out for him at Miami. Kyle hasn’t raced Miami in a truck in a long time because of the playoff schedule so that might be — Chase has a steeper hill to climb than Larson.”
Atlanta and its owner, Speedway Motorsports, also are getting involved in the show.
SMI and the track announced Friday a way for fans to contribute $5 to the charities of Elliott, Busch or Harvick through ticket purchases.
Fans who purchase a ticket to the March 14 NASCAR doubleheader – which includes the truck series race (1:30 p.m. on FS1) and a Xfinity Series race (4:00 p.m. on FS1) – can choose the driver and driver foundations that will benefit.
If additional challengers emerge, the drivers and their respective charities will also become eligible.
Fans can ensure their ticket purchase helps the driver charity of their choice by purchasing through the AMS ticket office (877-9-AMS-TIX) and stating the driver and foundation of choice or by going to https://www.atlantamotorspeedway.com/bounty/ and choosing their preferred driver. Tickets for the Saturday NASCAR Doubleheader – which includes the Georgia 200 bounty challenge race – are free for children 12 and under.
“The anticipation for this race and the buzz around this bounty is growing every day,” said SMI CEO Marcus Smith in a press release. “Where the drivers saw a chance to inject more fun and excitement into this race, we see a chance to step it up even more and help some people in need through some very worthy driver charities.”