Rick Hendrick: No pressure on Jeff Gordon in final season, he just has to win 14 races and championship

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Now that he knows 2015 will be Jeff Gordon’s final full-time season in the Sprint Cup Series, team owner Rick Hendrick isn’t putting any pressure on his longtime driver and business partner.

But he will be having fun with him.

During Thursday’s final session of the four-day annual NASCAR media tour in Charlotte, N.C., Hendrick jokingly told Gordon what he expected from him in his last go-round for Hendrick Motorsports:

“Mr. Gordon here has to win 14 races and the championship to go out in style. That’s his mission.”

Not surprisingly, Gordon, who shared the stage with Hendrick and teammates Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, quickly grew wide-eyed as an incredulous look blazed across his face.

I don’t know where he keeps coming up with these numbers,” Gordon laughed, glancing at Hendrick. “The numbers continue to grow every time I see him.

“So I have to top everything I’ve ever done before in my final season? Got it.”

For the record, if Gordon were to win 14 races and the championship, he could check off quite a few things on his bucket list:

  • Fourteen wins would be the most Gordon has achieved in any season in his 23-year Sprint Cup career (topping his modern-era record of 13 in 1998).
  • It would give Gordon 106 victories for his career. That would place him second on the all-time win list (one ahead of David Pearson) behind Richard Petty (200).
  • Gordon finally would achieve the “Drive For Five” with a fifth Cup championship that he’s been pursuing now for the last 14 years.

When a reporter asked why he looked worried, Gordon laughed. “Because he (Hendrick) just told me I have to win 14 races and the championship,” he quipped. “This whole being my final season just became a breeze other than that part.”

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Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick team up again on NBC’s Indy 500 coverage

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Mike Tirico and Danica Patrick will return to NBC Sports’ coverage of the Indianapolis 500, which will be broadcast Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. ET on NBC (green flag at 2:30 p.m.).

Tirico and Patrick, who both joined NBC Sports for its inaugural coverage of the event last year, will reprise their roles as host and studio analyst.

One of the most versatile voices in sports, Tirico also hosts NBC Olympics’ primetime coverage, Football Night in America and many other premier events, including hosting on-site at Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year for the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR crossover weekend.

AT THE BRICKYARD: Daily Indy 500 coverage schedule on NBC, NBCSN

He again will be joined during prerace, in-race, and postrace coverage by Patrick, who became the first woman to lead the Indy 500 in 2005 and also was the first female pole-sitter in NASCAR driver.

They will make their debut together duing practice coverage on Aug. 21, on NBCSN.

“My first Indy 500 last year exceeded my very high expectations in every way,” Tirico said in a release. “Although this year’s race will take place under unprecedented circumstances, I can’t wait to get back to Indy. I’m confident that our team at the Brickyard will provide viewers with as exciting a viewing experience as possible. I am also thrilled that Danica Patrick is along for the ride again this year. We had such a great time last May and look forward to bringing Indy home for the viewers again.”

Said Patrick: “The Indianapolis 500 is an event that transcends mainstream and motorsports which is why it’s so special. We are living during a time that if we can bring people together, we should. Even if it’s not physically. I am honored to be back with the NBC Sports team and Mike Tirico. The memories I have from 15 years at IMS hold such a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to make more this year in the booth, or however we are positioned in 2020!”

This will mark NBC Sports’ second season as the exclusive home of the NTT IndyCar Series, including the Indianapolis 500, which will take place in August for the first time ever because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.