Back Spasms Will Keep Gordon Out Of Final Practice
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on May 24, 2014 | 11:04 A.M. EST
Back spasms will force Jeff Gordon to skip Satuday's final Sprint Cup practice at Charlotte. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jeff Gordon skipped Saturday’s final Sprint Cup practice Saturday afternoon and will have Regan Smith on standby for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 because of back spasms.
Gordon ran only 11 laps in Saturday morning’s practice before getting out the car and telling his team he was done because of his back.
“It doesn’t do me any good to be out there in the car right now especially when the car is as good as it is,’’ Gordon told Fox Sports 1. “It’s really about getting prepared for 600 miles (Sunday). I have no doubts that I can be in this car and be competitive (Sunday) if I take it easy over the next 24 hours.’’
Gordon has a history of back problems and underwent a procedure a few days before the Coca-Cola 600 in 2009. He had a facet block procedure done at that time.
Gordon suffered back spasms Thursday when he qualified 27th. With no track activity Friday, Gordon rested his back but he still was in pain Saturday.
“I know he’ll do everything he can to get in there and go,’’ crew chief Alan Gustafson said about Gordon driving in the 600.
Gustafson said it will be “based on his condition” if Gordon starts Sunday’s race.
“We’re planning on him to race,’’ Gustafson said.
Gordon has never missed a start in his Sprint Cup career, starting 736 consecutive races - the longest streak among active drivers. Ricky Rudd holds the all-time streak with 788 consecutive starts.
Smith did not drive the car in the final practice session.
“We’ve tested a lot with Regan and have a really good baseline,’’ Gustafson said, noting Smith drove Gordon’s car at the NASCAR test at this track in December. “We’re real confident knowing what he’ll need as far as the car drives.’’
Smith said he sat in Gordon’s car to adjust to his seat on Saturday and planned to call Gustafson on Saturday night to go over details about the car. Smith didn’t get to talk to Gustafson earlier because Smith drove in Saturday’s Nationwide race and took the points lead.
Smith planned to attend Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 before being asked to be available for Gordon.
Smith is not unfamiliar with Hendrick Motorsports. He drives for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series. He drove two races for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in 2012 when Earnhardt was out because of concussion symptoms. One of those races was at Charlotte. Smith also practiced and qualified Jimmie Johnson’s car at Richmond last September so Johnson could be with his wife for the birth of their second child.