NASCAR & Auto Racing

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon moving to TV booth for Fox in 2016

Jeff Gordon stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Concord.
Jeff Gordon stands in the garage area during practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 21, 2015 in Concord. Getty Images

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon might be in the midst of his 23rd and final season as a driver, but that doesn’t mean several trips to the race track aren’t in his future.

Fox Sports announced on Thursday that Gordon, who has served as a Fox analyst for three Xfinity Series races this season, will be joining Darrell Waltrip and Mike Joy as a full-time analyst for the network’s Cup series broadcasts in 2016.

Gordon’s multi-year contract begins this season with in-race reports during certain races. His first race as an analyst will be in February at Daytona International Speedway.

“I can’t wait to start a new chapter in racing with this new relationship with Fox and to be in the booth with Mike and Darrell,” Gordon said in a statement. “I feel so lucky to be a part of a sport that I feel very passionate about and now I get the opportunity to share that passion to millions of race fans from a whole new perspective.”

Gordon’s move to the booth adds to a long list of his accomplishments off the track that have increased NASCAR’s exposure. He’s the only driver to ever host “Saturday Night Live” and has been a co-host on “Live! With Kelly Ripa” more than 10 times.

Johnson caught off guard: After Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 team received a warning but no penalties from NASCAR on Tuesday for altering the side skirts on their car during Saturday’s All-Star Race, Johnson said on Thursday that he was surprised to hear NASCAR looked into the matter.

“We were shocked to hear that there was an issue and actually we had crash damage on the right-side of the car,” Johnson said. “Then it certainly turned out that way.”

NASCAR made a rule change before the 2015 season that prohibits teams from tampering with the sheet of metal in front of the rear tires during pit stops.

“I think leaving the race track NASCAR was upset and thought there was a lot more intent and something going wrong with the side skirt being pulled out,” Johnson said. “Then as video became available and they looked through it and watched and saw what was done, it calmed down.”

Dirt Showdown: The stars of the World of Outlaws Sprint car series will be in competition Friday at the Dirt Track at Charlotte, with a 30-lap feature to cap the night’s activities.

Before the show, fans can meet the series’ drivers during an autograph session on the main concourse, which begins at 4:30 p.m. The first 500 fans through the gates at 4 p.m. will receive a free limited-edition commemorative poster.

Opening ceremonies for Outlaw Showdown are scheduled for 7:15 p.m. Following the 30-lap A-Main for the World of Outlaws, the SECA Late Model Series will compete in an race. Jim Utter

Race with fans: ENEOS Motor Oil will give race fans a chance to compete against drivers Kyle Larson, Steve Arpin and Shane Stewart in the ENEOS 250 on Friday at GoPro Motorplex in Mooresville. Between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., the first 240 fans can sign up to race for free.

The top-16 overall one-lap times from the day will advance to the final race. Those 16 drivers will then compete against Larson, Arpin and Stewart for the ENEOS 250 crown. Following the race, Larson, Arpin and Stewart will participate in an autograph session. JU

Meet Denny at Denny’s: Fans can meet driver Denny Hamlin and the custom-made “Denny’s Denny’s,” a mobile Denny’s restaurant, on Saturday and Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Various prizes will be handed out throughout the weekend, with Hamlin expected to make a surprise appearance. “Denny’s Denny’s” will be open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday and 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Sunday. JU

For the troops: This weekend, each driver’s windshield sports the name of a member of the United States Armed Forces who died while serving their country.

The names, plus patriotic race car designs on display this weekend, are a part of NASCAR’s efforts to honor military service members and their families on Memorial Day Weekend. P.J.