Jeff Gordon on Tony Stewart: ‘Wish I could pat him on the back, give him a hug, talk to him’

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BROOKLYN, Mich. – Rick Hendrick experienced great tragedy when he lost his only son, brother, two nieces and six others in a plane crash in 2004, but dealt with the resulting pain and grief with incredible grace and strength.

At the same time, Jeff Gordon not only comforted his boss and friend, he was also a stoic leader in helping to keep the Hendrick organization on track both literally and figuratively.

That’s why it’s not surprising that Hendrick and Gordon both understand and know the kind of grief and mourning Tony Stewart is going through following the Aug. 9 sprint car tragedy that took the life of young Kevin Ward Jr.

Following Gordon’s win Sunday at Michigan, MotorSportsTalk asked Hendrick and Gordon their thoughts about Stewart. While neither man has yet to talk directly to Stewart out of respect, they helped paint a picture of what they think he has to be experiencing.

“I’ve talked to Eddie Jarvis (Stewart’s business manager and close confidant),” Hendrick said. “I didn’t talk to Tony. I’ve stayed in touch with them. I brought Regan up to the race in Watkins Glen (to fill in for Stewart in the No. 14 race car for last Sunday’s Sprint Cup race).

“I think they’re making the best of the situation that they’re in. Tony’s got a lot of good folks around him. I’ve told him I’m there if they need me. But I haven’t talked to him.”

Gordon, meanwhile, downplayed the leadership role he took following the Hendrick Motorsports plane wreck, but also can understand how much his fellow racer and good friend is hurting.

“We luckily had an incredible leader in Rick Hendrick,” Gordon said. “To me he set the example for all of us. I was just so motivated by his ability to go through something so tragic, lose family members, yet be so appreciative of the people that work at Hendrick Motorsports, their efforts.

“You’re always looking for something to get you out of that. Even though it takes time to grieve, there’s a period of time where that needs to find a solution and a way for each and every person to go through it. I think at the same time seeing the race team go and perform and win races, come together through a tough, tough time was huge for all of us. I think Rick played a bigger role in that than I did.

“I have not spoken to Tony. I have reached out to him through texts, knowing I’m not going to get a response, but just to let him know I was thinking about him.

“I just can’t imagine what he’s going through. Can’t imagine what the Ward family is going through. It’s a very, very difficult time.

“But I support Tony, definitely support him. Wish I could pat him on the back, give him a hug, talk to him. I’d love to.”

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IndyCar 2017 driver review: All posts, one place

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In case you missed any of MotorSportsTalk’s extensive 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series driver-by-driver reviews on NBCSports.com, we’ve combined them all into one post.

See the full rankings below. Of the 38 drivers that raced at least once this year, 23 of them ran anywhere from six races to the full 17-race schedule, and got a full review. Drivers who competed in four or fewer races were packaged into the “remaining part-timers” post.

1. Josef Newgarden
2. Simon Pagenaud
3. Scott Dixon
4. Helio Castroneves
5. Will Power
6. Graham Rahal
7. Alexander Rossi
8. Takuma Sato
9. Ryan Hunter-Reay
10. Tony Kanaan
11. Max Chilton
12. Marco Andretti
13. James Hinchcliffe
14. Ed Jones
15. JR Hildebrand
16. Carlos Munoz
17. Charlie Kimball
18. Conor Daly
19. Mikhail Aleshin
20. Spencer Pigot / 22. Ed Carpenter
21. Sebastien Bourdais / 25. Esteban Gutierrez
23-24, 26-38. All the rest