What Jeff Gordon is doing on Sunday is his own special version of the Indianapolis/Charlotte double.
Gordon is driving cars at both Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Charlotte Motor Speedway, but his role at the two tracks is vastly different.
With his family in attendance, Gordon led the field to the green flag in the Indianapolis 500 in the Chevrolet Corvette Z06 pace car before flying back to Charlotte to compete in what will be his final Coca-Cola 600 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.
When Gordon moved from California to Pittsboro, Ind., as a young child, the initial plan was for the racing prodigy to pursue an open-wheel career. That changed when Gordon shifted his focus to NASCAR racing, but the driver of the No. 24 has no regrets.
“I feel like I've accomplished more than I ever expected or hoped to in racing,” Gordon said. “But the one thing that kind of did elude me and we pursued -- I say 'we', my dad, my mom, and myself -- when we were trying to go to the next level, was getting a chance to race here in the Indianapolis 500.
“I've said this many times -- I still believe it -- winning the inaugural Brickyard 400, to me, fulfilled that dream. Now I've had a chance to win it four more times. This is a special place for me. I love getting a chance to race here.
“Would I have liked to have at least run one Indy 500, know what it's like? Sure, I would have. It won't be happening, but I would have liked to have known what that was like. But as far as being honored to a whole 'nother level, this today is it.”
Gordon’s Indy 500 experience was destined to be short-lived. Unlike drivers in the past who have completed the 500 before heading for Charlotte, Gordon had time to drive the pace car and return to Charlotte in time for the Coke 600 drivers’ meeting, thereby preserving his 18th-place starting position.
“As far as getting back to Charlotte, we've seen guys compete in this race and still make it to Charlotte,” Gordon said before the start at Indianapolis. “Now, you give up your starting position, which I certainly didn't want to do.
“I'll probably watch a couple laps. Like I mentioned, I have my wife and kids here. I want to see them see how fast these cars go through the corner. I actually took my son to Pocono a couple years ago. He got to see some IndyCars at the hotel when we checked in. He's all excited about that.
“I want them to see at least a few laps. Unfortunately, we can't stay any longer. We'll head to the airport, take off, make it in plenty of time to make the drivers' meeting.”
True enough, Gordon had no issues arriving at the drivers’ meeting on time and preserved the starting position he earned during Thursday’s time trials.