Text started Jeff Gordon on busy journey from France to Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s car

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INDIANAPOLIS — “Oh boy.’’

Jeff Gordon uttered those words to his wife as they vacationed in the South of France when he received a text from car owner Rick Hendrick.

“Call me.’’

So began a journey that brought Gordon back to the United States and quickly to Hendrick Motorsports to prepare for his first Sprint Cup race since last year’s season finale in Miami.

Gordon will drive the No. 88 Chevrolet this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and next weekend at Pocono Raceway for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who is recovering from concussion-like symptoms.

“There are certainly going to be challenges this weekend, but I feel like I am capable of doing it,’’ Gordon said. “Rick and the whole team have given me a lot of confidence in myself by choosing me and asking me to do this. I questioned Mr. H several times when he was asking me on the phone about this. That confidence that they have in me and then to go spend time with the team, Dale has a great team, I’m so impressed with Greg Ives and everybody at the No. 88 team.’’

While it will be jarring for fans to see Gordon drive a car other than the No. 24 — he’s never driven any other car number in 797 previous Sprint Cup starts — Gordon is more focused on all that he has to do this week.

He’s not worked with Ives since Ives has become a crew chief. Gordon has not raced this aero package at Indianapolis (last year teams raced a high-drag package). Gordon has not raced with the digital dashboard, which is new this year. Gordon didn’t even have a NASCAR driver’s license — he had only an owner’s license. He also had to get his NASCAR physical to be eligible to drive.

Gordon said after landing Tuesday in New York City, car owner Rick Hendrick had a plane waiting to take him to Concord, North Carolina, so he could be at the team’s shop. Gordon spent the evening with the team.

Hendrick Motorsports still had Gordon’s seat from his final race last year and put it in Earnhardt’s car.

Gordon’s homework included examining test data from Indianapolis this year, watching video from inside the car during the test. Gordon reviewed notes from the 2014 race — his record fifth win of this race — since last year’s race had a much different aero package.

Gordon took that information and the car’s setup and tested in a GM simulator.

While Gordon will drive for Earnhardt the next two races, how much longer is prepared to go?

“Let’s not speculate,’’ Gordon said. “Right now, it’s through Pocono. We’re very, very encouraged by Dale Jr.’s tweet today and comments and the way he’s feeling and hope that continues to progress and he’s back as soon as possible.

“The one thing I was encouraged by when I saw him Wednesday is his passion for racing. Like Rick  said he’s getting antsy, he wants to get back in there. We just want him there when he’s ready and when the doctors say he’s ready.

“I’ll do whatever I need to do.’’

Gordon said his goal is to help the team score as many points as possible to make the Chase for the owners title. Both the drivers and owners title has a playoff format. Should Earnhardt not make the Chase, the No. 88 car could still be eligible for the owner championship.

Sunday Texas Cup race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The first race in the second round of the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs is scheduled Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway.

Twelve drivers are racing for eight spots in the next round. Chase Elliott leads the standings by 15 over Joey Logano entering Sunday’s 500-mile event, the only Cup points race at TMS this year. Ryan Blaney, who is in the playoff group, won the All-Star Race at the track in May.

Chase Briscoe, Alex Bowman, Daniel Suarez and Austin Cindric are below the cutline entering the 3:30 p.m. ET (USA Network) race.

MORE: Big race celebration? Try Waffle House

The playoffs will continue at Talladega Superspeedway (Oct. 2) and the Charlotte Motor Speedway Roval (Oct. 9).

Details for Sunday’s Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway:

START: The command to start engines will be given by “Top Gun: Maverick” actors Jay Ellis and Lewis Pullman at 3:38 p.m. (ET) … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Cup garage opens at 12:30 p.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … The 1st Cavalry Division Band will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 334 laps (501 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 105. Stage 2 ends at Lap 210.

MORE: Ryan Blaney’s team to appeal penalty

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 2:30 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 2:30 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Partly cloudy skies. High of 96 with a 5% chance of rain.

LAST TIME: Kyle Larson won by .459 of a second over William Byron last October. Larson led 256 of the race’s 334 laps.

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Brandon Jones wins Xfinity pole at Texas Motor Speedway

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Playoff driver Brandon Jones won the pole position Saturday morning for Saturday afternoon’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race at Texas Motor Speedway.

Jones was clocked at 185.637 miles per hour. He has won three of the past four Xfinity poles.

MORE: Texas Xfinity qualifying results

MORE: Texas Xfinity starting lineup

Scheduled for 3:30 p.m. ET Saturday on the USA Network, the race is the opening event of the Xfinity playoffs.

Following Jones in the top five were Noah Gragson (winner of three consecutive Xfinity races), Daniel Hemric, John Hunter Nemechek and Sam Mayer.

MORE: Post-race celebration? Try the Waffle House

The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile track. Drivers will be battling heat in the mid-to-high 90s.

 

NASCAR Saturday schedule at Texas Motor Speedway

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NASCAR Cup and Xfinity teams will be busy Saturday at Texas Motor Speedway.

The Cup Series enters the second round of the playoffs with 12 drivers remaining for the title. Cup teams will practice and qualify today.

The Xfinity Series begins its playoffs Saturday with 12 drivers in championship contention. Xfinity teams will practice and qualify before racing.

All track activity will be broadcast on USA Network. The temperature will climb into the mid-90s Saturday, according to Weather Underground.

Saturday, Sept. 24

Garage open

  • 8:30 a.m. — Xfinity Series
  • 9:30 a.m. – 3 p.m. — Cup Series

Track activity

  • 10:30 – 11:05 a.m. — Xfinity Series practice (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 11:05 a.m. – noon — Xfinity Series qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 12:35 – 1:20 p.m. — Cup Series practice (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 1:20 – 2:30 p.m. — Cup Series qualifying (USA Network, NBC Sports App)
  • 3:30 p.m. — Xfinity Series race (200 laps, 300 miles; USA Network, NBC Sports App, Performance Racing Network, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio)

Saturday Texas Xfinity race: Start time, TV info, weather

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The Xfinity Series playoffs begin this weekend. Noah Gragson and Ty Gibbs enter as the favorites. They’ve combined to win 11 of the 26 races this season.

Gragson, who has six wins this season, seeks to win his fourth consecutive victory.

MORE: Noah Gragson’s special celebrations at Waffle House

Gibbs, who has five victories this year, is one of four drivers in the Xfinity playoffs for the first time. The other three are Josh Berry, Austin Hill and Sam Mayer.

Also in the playoffs are reigning series champion Daniel Hemric, Justin Allgaier, AJ Allmendinger, Brandon Jones, Jeremy Clements, Riley Herbst and Ryan Sieg.

Details for Saturday’s Xfinity race at Texas Motor Speedway

(All times Eastern)

START: The command to start engines will be given by Andy’s Frozen Custard executives Andy Kuntz, Dana Kuntz and Carol Kuntz at 3:38 p.m. … Green flag is scheduled to wave at 3:49 p.m.

PRERACE: Xfinity garage opens at 8:30 a.m. … Practice begins at 10:30 a.m. … Qualifying begins at 11:05 a.m. … Driver introductions are at 3 p.m. … The invocation will be given by Bret Shisler of Texas Alliance Raceway Ministries at 3:30 p.m. … Janie Balderas will perform the anthem at 3:31 p.m.

DISTANCE: The race is 200 laps (300 miles) on the 1.5-mile speedway.

STAGES: Stage 1 ends at Lap 45. Stage 2 ends at Lap 90.

TV/RADIO: USA Network will broadcast the race at 3:30 p.m. Countdown to Green begins at 3 p.m. on USA Network. The post-race show will air on USA Network. … Performance Racing Network coverage begins at 3 p.m. and also will stream at goprn.com. SiriusXM NASCAR Radio will carry the PRN broadcast.

STREAMING: NBCsports.com

FORECAST: Weather Underground — Sunny with a high of 96 degrees and no chance of rain at the start of the race.

LAST TIME: Tyler Reddick gave Big Machine Racing its first series win in May. William Byron was second and Sam Mayer was third.