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 star Scott Dixon to test skills on ‘American Ninja Warrior’

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Scott Dixon will be the latest IndyCar driver to enter the realm of reality TV when he auditions in Indianapolis next week for “American Ninja Warrior.”

The four-time IndyCar champion, nicknamed “The Iceman,” thought it sounded fun when he was approached with the idea of trying out. As the competition has drawn near, Dixon is wondering what he got himself into.

“I feel a lot of pressure on this one,” Dixon told The Associated Press before heading to this weekend’s Honda Grand Prix of Alabama IndyCar race at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama. “When it got to be about a month away, I figured I should start training for it, and it’s pretty hard stuff.”

IndyCar drivers Helio Castroneves, Josef Newgarden and Tony Kanaan all auditioned for the show, which follows competitors as they tackle a series of obstacle courses in qualifying rounds across the country. None of IndyCar’s contestants advanced out of the first round and neither did NASCAR driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

Dixon’s appearance comes about the same time the Game Show Network has Sebastien Bourdais as a guest host for “Daily Draw” for the entire week leading into the month of May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Most recently, Alexander Rossi and Conor Daly teamed to finish fourth on “The Amazing Race,” and James Hinchcliffe was a runner-up last year on “Dancing With The Stars.” Castroneves is a former “DWTS” winner.

Dixon, the 2008 winner of the Indianapolis 500 who ranks fourth on IndyCar’s all-time wins list, is accustomed to success. But the New Zealander not so sure he’s going to become the next great ninja. Most of his fitness work focuses on endurance training, and preparing for the obstacle course has taken Dixon out of his element.

“It’s not my wheelhouse,” he said. “This is agility kind of stuff and I’m looking forward to the process. I’m not looking forward so much to the failure, because it’s going to happen at some point, so I guess I just have to make the most of it and enjoy the experience.”

Dixon was famously robbed at gunpoint in the drive-thru of a Taco Bell last year hours after he won the pole for the Indy 500. Asked if his ninja training will have him better prepared should that happen again, he did not think so.

“I suppose if I run away it would help,” Dixon said. “But I don’t exactly have a ninja toolkit to get me through that situation.”