PITTSBORO, Ind. (WISH) – The Brickyard 400 just got a whole lot more interesting. Jeff Gordon is returning to Sprint Cup racing this Sunday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s concussion-like symptoms gives one of NASCAR’s all-time greats another chance to go out on top.
Gordon never ruled out an occasional return when he stepped out of the number 24 car last season. Now he will return this weekend to the track where he has already won five times, including the inaugural Brickyard 400 in 1994.
IMS President Doug Boles was thrilled to welcome Gordon back to the iconic track.
“It’s really exciting to have Jeff Gordon back. We absolutely love Jeff Gordon in Indiana, certainly at the Brickyard,” Boles said. “Last year we made such a big deal about his last race because we really thought it would be. I guess the downside of having Jeff come is we’re going to miss Dale Jr., the most popular driver in the series for a long time, so that’s a double-edged sword. But when you’re in Indiana and you have an opportunity to have Jeff Gordon run at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, especially after he’s retired, it’s pretty exciting to have him here.”
The confirmation of Gordon’s participation in the Brickyard this year created more activity at the IMS ticket office as well.
“I know our ticketing team is excited,” Boles said. “Our phone has been ringing in a way it hasn’t been ringing in quite some time, just because there is so much momentum behind Jeff Gordon.”
Boles isn’t the only one excited to see Gordon back on the racetrack; so are many people who live in Pittsboro.
Gordon moved to Pittsboro from California when he was a teenager. He lived there for several years before moving to North Carolina.
Even though Jeff Gordon doesn’t live in Pittsboro anymore, those who live there say he’s left a lasting legacy.
“Everybody loves Jeff Gordon in this town,” said resident Dan Martin.
Many people in the town of about 3,000 still remember him growing up there.
“His mom and dad would come in here for lunch. Jeff would come in and join them for lunch. He was 18 and driving for the (NASCAR) Busch series,” said Gerard Mason, owner of the Mason Inn.
Now, years later and about one year after announcing his retirement, Gordon will make a return to the racetrack at the Brickyard.
Pittsboro resident George Klein says he’s followed Gordon’s career, and he says he’s not surprised the five-time Brickyard 400 winner will be back on the track.
“When he said he retired, he never said he was fully retired. He’s always left the door open, so it wasn’t totally surprising,” Klein said.
“I think everybody in the town is pretty excited about Jeff Gordon stepping in for Mr. Dale Earnhardt (Jr.),” added Martin.
Many people at the Mason Inn on Wednesday say they’re fans of Gordon because of his accomplishments, not because he grew up in their town.
“Not so much because he was from here or graduated from Tri-West and so forth, but just so much because he was a good driver,” says Klein.
Tickets to the Brickyard 400 are still available and can be purchased through the speedway’s website.