Jeff Gordon skips final Coca-Cola 600 practice due to back spasms
MAY 24, 2014 10:45a ET
Hendrick Motorsports' Jeff Gordon will skip the remainder of Saturday's Coca-Cola 600 practice after suffering back spasms during his final run in Thursday night's knockout qualifying session.
Gordon ran 11 laps in practice Saturday morning and posted the sixth-fastest time of the session, but was in pain and decided to skip the day's final practice. The team will not practice in the final session, as Gordon is happy with the handle of the car.
"I've had some spasms in the past, but this one is a little bit different," Gordon told FOX Sports 1. "I just want to really be cautious and take care of it. It doesn't do me any good to be in the car right now, especially when the car is as good it is. It's really about getting prepared for 600 miles tomorrow. 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."
While Gordon remains confident in his ability to run the full distance on Sunday, Regan Smith will be on stand by as a potential relief driver.
Crew chief Alan Gustafson fully supports his driver's decision and is confident he will be back in the car for Sunday's race.
"He's extremely tough and extremely dedicated," Gustafson said. "I know he's very competitive and it's difficult anytime to have to not be able to do your job based on physical requirements or something that's personal. I know that's not easy for him, but I know tomorrow he'll do everything he can to get in and go.
"These guys go through a lot physically, and he's done it over a long period of time," he said. "His body has taken a long toll. It's amazing he's in as good shape as he is, and is as good of condition as he is week-in and week-out. I'm sure he'll fight through this as best he can."
Asked what it would take to keep Gordon out of the Coca-Cola 600, his former crew chief Ray Evernham laughed out loud.
"I think as long as he's breathing and his heart's beating, he's in the race," said Evernham, who now works as a consultant with Hendrick Motorsports.
"That guy's tougher than people think," said Evernham. "I've seen him do some unbelievable things. You have to remember, we won the Southern 500 one time when he started throwing up halfway. He threw up all day in the race car and still won the Southern 500. I've seen him win Sears Point, Watkins Glen with a hole in his hand and skin hanging off of it."
Tom Jensen contributed to this article.