• Jeff Gordon gets behind mic for NASCAR

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    Recently retired NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, shown here signing an autograph for a fan, is looking forward to working as a commentator for the race series with Fox Sports. NASCAR.COM

    Recently retired NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, shown here signing an autograph for a fan, is looking forward to working as a commentator for the race series with Fox Sports. NASCAR.COM

    Recently retired NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon is back on the track, this time as the newest commentator for Fox Sports.

    Gordon climbed out of his No. 24 Hendrick Motorsports car for the last time in November 2015 after four championships and 93 career wins, finishing third in the Sprint Cup Series during his final season. He’ll be sharing the booth with NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time championDarrell Waltrip and play-by-play announcer Mike Joy.

    “It is a very Fox thing to do: to get the most popular athlete coming out of the sport to join our family,” Fox Sports president Eric Shanks said. “It adds a level of energy and there’s no question it adds a layer of relevancy to what’s happening on the track.”

    Despite retiring, Gordon still has more than 25 races on his schedule this year through his role with Fox and commitments he’s made to racetracks, along with planning meetings, promotional appearances and other preparation work. Gordon said he is fascinated by the behind-the-scenes work of broadcasts and even enjoys the weekly conference calls that remind him of debrief sessions at Hendrick Motorsports.

    “I enjoy the process. I enjoy the sport,” he said. “I was hoping this would be interesting and keep me busy, and it certainly has done just that. Because the transition is similar to a race team, I love that part of it.”

    Waltrip has warned Gordon that the toughest moment might be during the first practice session, when the No. 24 car rolls onto Daytona International Speedway without Gordon in it.

    “I think it’s going to hit me at that point,” Gordon said. “And when whoever wins the Daytona 500 pulls into victory lane and there’s that excitement and celebration, it’ll hit me I don’t get to be part of that again as a driver. There’s nothing that compares to that.”

    But Gordon has no regrets about retiring and doesn’t expect to have a change of heart. “I think the timing was certainly right for me,” he said.

    It’s helped that he’s been able to still feel connected to what’s happening on the track. Despite the Sprint Cup Series’ move to a lower downforce rules package this year, it’s not foreign to Gordon — he drove it in two races last season.

    And his former team has called on him to assist with a debrief session. Hendrick crew chief Alan Gustafson asked him to join a meeting with the No. 24 team engineers and rookie Chase Elliott in which the team reviewed Gordon’s notes from last year’s Daytona 500.

    “I was happy they asked me to be a part of it,” said Gordon, who indicated he would help again if Gustafson called on him. “I told them, ‘Thanks, this was fun.’ That’s my little bit of still staying involved.”

    VJ BACUNGAN

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