Jeff Gordon interested in 24 Hours of Le Mans but isn’t sure if he’ll race the NASCAR entry

Jeff Gordon Le Mans
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Jeff Gordon is interested enough in the 24 Hours of Le Mans next year to “go play around” once Hendrick Motorsports takes delivery of its specially modified Camaro.

But the NASCAR Hall of Famer and Hendrick Motorsports vice chairman stopped short of declaring himself ready to come out of racing retirement for the first time since being part of the winning overall team in the 2017 Rolex 24 at Daytona.

“As far as competing (again), I don’t know,” Gordon said Thursday morning during an interview with “The Morning Drive” on SiriusXM’s NASCAR channel. “This Le Mans program looks interesting. Probably going to do a little simulator work for them. My last race was the 24 Hours of Daytona. I love that event. We had good success by winning it with Wayne Taylor Racing and with Cadillac.

LE MANS ANSWERS, ANALYSIS: More on NASCAR’s Hendrick entry for the 2023 race

“And so this program is something that would be exciting to go to Le Mans. I want to be a part of it. We are a part of it with Hendrick, but I just don’t know if I’ll be able to get behind the wheel and drive it in that race. I’m certainly going to go play around with the car when we get it. Play around with the simulator and see if it’s something that’s realistic.”

There have been few hints about the driver lineup since the announcement last month of NASCAR’s expected return to Le Mans in 2023 with Hendrick fielding a Camaro ZL1 as the “Garage 56” entry in the 100th edition of the sports car classic.

The program will be overseen by Hendrick vice president of competition Chad Knaus, who has been calling strategy since last year in IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship races for the No. 48 Cadillac that includes Hendrick’s seven-time Cup champion, Jimmie Johnson.

When asked about the driver lineup for Le Mans during a March 17 news conference for the project at Sebring International Raceway, team owner Rick Hendrick said with a laugh that “we’re going to put Gordon on a diet, and then we’ll get Jimmie back.”

Johnson since has talked about racing Le Mans with Hendrick, who also would like to have an active Cup star as part of the expected driving trio for the race.

‘HENDRICK WOULD LOVE ME IN THE CAR:’ Le Mans project intrigues Jimmie Johnson

Rolex 24 veterans Kyle Larson (whose versatility fits the bill well) and Chase Elliott would be natural candidates (and Corvette driver Jordan Taylor also would be an option with Le Mans experience).

But before settling on drivers, there still is much to be done, including formal approval by the ACO (the race’s organizers) and finalization of the car’s specs. It’s expected the car would have a hybrid engine, and it would need other major adjustments (working lights, durable brakes, etc.).

“There’s a lot involved,” Gordon said. “You’ve got Dallara, one of the primary partners, that’s going to build a one-off chassis that, underneath the skin, is going to be quite a bit different to be able to run 24 hours — the powerplant, the fuel cell, the tires. There’s a lot of things that are in the plans and a lot of work to be done between the folks at IMSA, Chevrolet, Hendrick and NASCAR.

“It’s going to be a fun project but also a very challenging one. In a short period of time, you think next June is plenty of time to prepare, but it’s not an easy task. We’re so far in the early stages that it’s hard to really get you any really solid answers on how everything is coming together right now.”

Somewhere on that list of unknowns is the availability of Gordon, who clearly would be an appealing choice as a four-time Cup Series champion whose highly marketable personality and transcendent popularity still would resonate in France and around the world.

Gordon, 50, occasionally still drives in a Hendrick program called “Track Attack” that brings older, modified Cup cars to club tracks (such as The Thermal Club near Palm Springs, California). But he said it’s unlikely he would attempt a NASCAR one-off similar to Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Xfinity Series at Martinsville Speedway last week.

“I don’t want to say never,” said Gordon, who retired from full time Cup competition after the 2015 season and returned to make eight starts in 2016 as a substitute for Earnhardt. “I just have so much respect for the competitors, for the effort it takes to build a car and put a team out there. I want to make sure whatever that effort is, that my effort would equal it, to be able to go have fun and be successful. I just don’t see where I have the time to do that these days.”

Even if the former USAC dirt-track star would have liked a shot this weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I’m still bummed out that I’m not back out there because I really would have loved to have driven a stock car on dirt,” Gordon said, pausing to laugh. “And no, that’s not going to happen in the future.”

The 24 Hours of Le Mans, though, long has interested Gordon, who spoke about the possibility six years ago.

“I’ve always said that if the right opportunity came along I would like to,” Gordon told Reuters in a February 2016 story. “If I feel healthy enough with my back. Physically fit enough to handle the (high gravity forces) … make the lap times. It would definitely be the goal.”

Kyle Larson wins third consecutive High Limit Sprint race at Eagle Raceway, Rico Abreu second again

Larson High Limit Eagle
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It took four attempts for Kyle Larson to win his first High Limit Sprint Car Series race in the series he co-owns with brother-in-law Brad Sweet, but once he found victory lane, he has been undefeated with his win at Eagle (Nebraska) Raceway. For the second week, Abreu led early only to fall prey to Larson.

The win was Larson’s third straight victory and the fifth consecutive top-five, giving him a perfect sweep of the season after finishing 10th in last year’s inaugural race at Lincoln Park Speedway in Putnamville, Indiana.

Larson started third behind Abreu and Brent Marks but was embroiled in a fierce battle with Anthony Macri for third during the first dozen laps. Larson slipped by Macri in traffic until a red flag waved for a flip by Lachlan McHugh.

Meanwhile at the front of the pack, Marks retook the lead from Abreu on Lap 18. Larson followed one lap later and then caution waved again. Tyler Courtney lost power and fell to 24th after starting eighth.

Marks scooted away on the restart but tragedy struck in Lap 26. Leading the race, Marks hit a pothole in Turn 1, bicycled and then flipped, handing the lead to Larson.

Abreu caught Larson again during the final laps and in a reprise of their battle at Tri-City Speedway, the two threw sliders at one another for several laps until Larson built some separation and ran away to the checkers.

“I didn’t feel like my pace in [Turns] 1 & 2 slowed down a ton,” Larson said from victory lane. “I missed it once there and then I saw his nose in 3 & 4. I didn’t know if he nailed the bottom that well behind me and I think he might have slid me in the next corner, so he was definitely on the top.

“I was nervous to move up there because my car was really pogoing up in the entry of 1. I got up just in time, made a few mistakes and he threw a couple more sliders at me but he was just a little too far back and I was able to squirt around him. Then I really had to commit to hitting my marks – back my effort down a bit to avoid mistakes.”

After leading early, Abreu fell back as far as sixth, but faith in his car kept hope alive.

“I just needed to do a few things a few laps before I did and fix some angles, then my car got a whole lot better,” Abreu said. “I’m thankful for this team; they do an amazing job. They don’t give up on me. I know my car is going to be there right at the end of these races, so it’s just the discipline of being patient.”

For Abreu, it was his third near-miss this season. He was leading at Lakeside in the 2023 opener until a tire went flat in the closing laps and he lost the lead to Larson late in the Tri-City Speedway race. Abreu has finished sixth or better in his last three High Limit races with each result being progressively better until his pair of runner-up results.

Third-place finisher Scelzi was the hard charger, advancing from 17th.

“I had a very specific plan; don’t go near [the hole in Turn 1],” Scelzi said. “It worked out. No one wanted to start on the top. I think I gained a couple of rows there on the choose cone and ran the middle, which seemed to be better than right around the bottom.”

Michael “Buddy” Kofoid in fourth and Macri rounded out the top five.

World of Outlaws star and former NASCAR driver Kasey Kahne was one of 41 entrants, but he was not among the 26 starters. He failed to advance to the Main after finishing eighth in the B Main and seventh in his heat.

Feature Results

A Feature (40 Laps): 1. 57-Kyle Larson[4]; 2. 24-Rico Abreu[1]; 3. 18-Giovanni Scelzi[17]; 4. 71-Michael Kofoid[5]; 5. 39M-Anthony Macri[3]; 6. 9-Chase Randall[9]; 7. 26-Zeb Wise[14]; 8. 1X-Jake Bubak[15]; 9. 8-Aaron Reutzel[10]; 10. 14D-Corey Day[18]; 11. 11-Cory Eliason[12]; 12. 5T-Ryan Timms[11]; 13. 88-Austin McCarl[13]; 14. 21H-Brady Bacon[22]; 15. 48-Danny Dietrich[16]; 16. 7S-Robbie Price[19]; 17. 21-Brian Brown[23]; 18. 22-Riley Goodno[26]; 19. 52-Blake Hahn[25]; 20. 15H-Sam Hafertepe Jr[21]; 21. 3J-Dusty Zomer[6]; 22. 14-Cole Macedo[7]; 23. 19-Brent Marks[2]; 24. 7BC-Tyler Courtney[8]; 25. 25-Lachlan McHugh[20]; 26. 53-Jack Dover[24]

2023 High Limit Sprint Car Series

Race 1: Giovanni Scelzi wins at Lakeside Speedway
Race2: Anthony Macri wins at 34 Raceway
Race 3: Kyle Larson wins at Wayne County Speedway
Race 4: Kyle Larson wins at Tri-City Speedway