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Gordon feels better, on track for Dover

May 30, 2014, Holly Cain, NASCAR.com

Jeff Gordon

Last week's stand-by driver Regan Smith says he hasn't been called this week

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DOVER, Del. -- Jeff Gordon said Friday that his ailing back feels much better this week, so much so that last week's stand-by driver Regan Smith said he hasn't been asked to repeat that role here for Sunday's FedEx 400 benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway.

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The four-time champion Gordon suffered from severe back spasms last week in the days leading up to the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. The pain was so bad, he sat out final practice and had the NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader Smith in the pits on race day to climb in the No. 24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet should Gordon not feel up to finishing NASCAR's longest race.

Not only did Gordon finish, but he also took the checkered flag in seventh place for his ninth top-10 of the year, an effort stellar enough for him to retain the points lead.

"I have not had anything said to me yet so as of now, I'll be going home Saturday night and watching it on TV," Smith said, acknowledging that while he was happy Gordon was doing better, it was a compliment to be asked last week. "Drivers don't want opportunities like that because of those circumstances, but at same time, opportunities like that can be far and few between."

Gordon told MRN Radio early Friday that it was a bulging disk causing the discomfort, but that after a week of stretching and treatment, he expects to participate fully this weekend
.

"I wouldn't say 100 percent, but I'm closer to normal," Gordon said. "I'm still feeling some of the effects from last week, but I felt good in the car, didn't have any sharp pains. I just had a week of rest and normal activity, lots of ice.

"I was pretty sore Monday and Tuesday after that long 600, but that's not that unusual, just a little more I'd say."

Gordon said he hasn't had to make any changes to the car in terms of adjusting his seat in the race car. He acknowledged the high-banked Dover 1-miler is typically tough physically, but said so far he hadn't experienced any of the same sensations that concerned him at the 1.5-mile Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"The thing that made me get out of the car last week, was I pushed down the clutch pedal and had shooting pain in my back. … I knew the very first lap I ran in practice, I probably wasn't going to run the rest of the day.

"So that's what I look for now. If there's shooting pain, I'm probably going to need to get out. There hasn't been that (here)."

Gordon also dismissed the notion that the physical pain he experienced made him more inclined to think about retirement.

"Really it pointed more toward things I need to address during a race weekend and how I handle the down time," Gordon said. "I've been focusing on exercising. ... but the problem is that's tightening me up.

"I can tell you if that happens many more times, I won't have a choice."

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