Jeff Gordon will not drive No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Michigan

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Jeff Gordon says he will not drive the No. 88 car for Dale Earnhardt Jr. next weekend at Michigan International Speedway because of a prior commitment.

“I didn’t know I was going to be doing all of this,” Gordon said.

Gordon would not say what the commitment was but said he would only be at Michigan on race day. Hendrick Motorsports confirmed that Alex Bowman will drive the No. 88 car at Michigan if Earnhardt is unable to race. Bowman drove for Earnhardt last month at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and finished 26th.

Earnhardt has not said what his status for Michigan is. Thursday, Earnhardt posted a series of pictures and videos on his Instagram account showing some of the physical and mental exercises he is doing to aid his recovery.

Gordon said it’s simple why he’s not driving at Michigan.

“I can’t be there all weekend,” he said.

Asked if he could drive on race day only at Michigan, Gordon said: “It doesn’t make sense. I’ve not driven that (reduced downforce) package. I think it’s only fair, and I’m pretty sure that Alex Bowman would be in the car, it wouldn’t be fair to him, it wouldn’t be fair to this team. I’m not so sure I’m even the best choice for that package at that race anyway to get the most points for the car owner (standings). That’s my primary goal.”

The Sprint Cup Series will use the reduced downforce package at Michigan that was run there earlier this year and at Kentucky. That package is expected to be set for next season.

Gordon qualified 11th for Saturday night’s Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. This will be his fourth race filling in for Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has been out because of a concussion suffered in June at Michigan. The symptoms, though, did not show up until weeks later. Bristol will be the fifth race Earnhardt has missed. Gordon drove for him at Indianapolis (finished 13th), Pocono (27th), Watkins Glen (14th) and Bristol.

Watkins Glen marked Gordon’s 800th career Sprint Cup start.

Gordon said he would be available to run in the Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway if Earnhardt was still unable to be back in the car by the Sept. 4 race.