Rainbow Reunion: Jeff Gordon to drive No. 88 car with Earnhardt out
And just like that a retirement is put on hold. The Rainbow Warrior, four-time Nascar Cup Series Winner, is coming out of retirement to race for none other than the great Dale Earnhardt, Jr., presuming Dale can’t go next Sunday in Indianapolis.
A Team Hendrick Motorsports member announced that if Junior couldn’t go, Jeff Gordon will drive the 88 car. This is unprecedented. This will actually help Nascar gain some viewers. While Dale Jr. Recovers from concussion like symptoms from two crashes in as many weeks, Gordon suits up to hopefully put an asterisk by his own name by winning while in retirement.
Gordon was/is a phenomenal driver, but Dale Jr. has a cult like following. For those of you who don’t know, Dale Earnhardt, Sr. was killed in a crash at Daytona International Speedway back in February of 2001. Dale Jr. was there. He was racing. He finished in 2nd place while his dad crashed to his death. While his father celebrated years and years of winning, seven total championships, 76 wins, he groomed his youngest to become another of the great drivers of the world and is revered by even the most average fan.
Jeff Gordon won so much so quickly, many grew to hate that rainbow colored, Dupont sponsored, 24 car. Gordon won 98 before his eventual retirement.
His comeback, even if only for one race, implants a buzz around a sport whose viewership is dwindling. Especially after the winner’s car, driven by Matt Kenseth at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, failed its post-race inspection. If something doesn’t change, Nascar will be a thing of the past. Not that it isn’t exciting to watch 40 plus, identical cars go streaming in circles in the sweltering summer heat…ok it isn’t. Really! If it was, it wouldn’t be failing.
The Masters golf tournament in late April gathered in 17.7 million prime time viewers for a 10.6 Nielsen Rating. That same weekend, NASCAR raced in Texas and brought in a 2.7 final rating; the lowest ever for a Fox covered race. The percentages are down as much as 26% from just three years ago.
If I asked you, “would you rather watch cars inches apart go 200 miles per hour for three hours or golf for five hours, which would you choose? You don’t have to answer, it’s golf. But why?
I have a theory. Drivers aren’t a household name. Racing is, “dangerous.” It isn’t realistic and the list goes on. It doesn’t seem possible to do what they’re doing even when you see it in person. These cars are ridiculously fast and exceedingly expensive. Each engine, most often custom made by each team is a whopping $45,000 to $80,000! They can also easily spend $20,000 on tires per race!
So who can relate to that? I guess only 1/5 of the people that enjoy a final round of golf on a Sunday. Fox has its work cut out for them, but I still believe a driver hero will have to appear to make his or her mark in such a way that we can’t not watch. Does anyone have Conor McGregor’s number?