May 24, 2014, 10:53 AM EDT
Back spasms forced Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon to cut short his Saturday morning practice session, caused him to skip the final afternoon practice session and his status is uncertain for the longest and most grueling race of the season, Sunday night’s Coca-Cola 600.
Although he’s been hampered by back issues in the past – at one point so severe that he began to consider retirement – Gordon told Fox Sports that the condition had been under control until a flareup Thursday.
“Unfortunately, I had a back spasm the other night in the last qualifying run I made,” Gordon said. “And I’ve been trying to get it worked out by today. I got in the car today and it just wasn’t (right).”
Gordon comes into this weekend still riding the momentum of his first win of the season two weeks ago at Kansas. And although Gordon was sixth-fastest in Saturday morning’s practice session, he could be seen walking and moving around slowly and gingerly.
“The good news is the car was awesome, so I made 11 laps and it was everything I could do to do that, Gordon said. “I told the team that I thought it would be best that I sit out the rest of the day so that I could be prepared for this long, tough race that’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 is a 400-lap event around the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Gordon is NASCAR’s reigning iron man, having made 736 consecutive starts since making his first Cup start in the 1992 season finale at Atlanta.
Gordon will skip Saturday afternoon’s practice and likely rest and receive therapy on his back. At this juncture, he still plans on competing in Sunday’s race, but provisional plans have come together quite quickly.
“At this point, we’re going to have Regan Smith standing by for tomorrow,” Gordon said. “But I don’t think they’re going to do anything more today. I have no doubts that I can be in this car and be competitive tomorrow if I just take it easy over the next 24 hours.”
After his interview on Fox, Gordon could be seen greeting a group of fans by his hauler. Despite the pain he was in, Gordon was ever gracious, managing to bend slightly and give a female fan a hug.
“It’s unfortunate,” Gordon said of the pain he and situation he is in. “I’ve had some spasms in the past, but this one is a little bit different.
“I just want to really be cautious and take care of it. It doesn’t do any good to be out in the car right now, especially with how good (the car) is. It’s really about getting prepared for 600 miles tomorrow.”
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