CONCORD, N.C. (AP) — Sprint Cup points leader Jeff Gordon cut short his practice because of back spasms and the No. 24 team has Regan Smith on standby should the four-time champion not be able to run the Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday night.
Gordon went just 11 laps Saturday before he told his crew he couldn't continue. He left out of a side door of his hauler and was escorted out of the track to get treatment. Crew chief Alan Gustafson said the team would not run the car in the final practice session and instead will get it ready for Sunday's race.
"I've had some spasms in the past, but this one, it was a little bit different," said the 42-year-old Gordon. "And so 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."
Gustafson said the plan was for Gordon to start the longest event in NASCAR. Should the pain be too much, then Smith would take over the Hendrick Motorsports car.
Gustafson said Gordon felt back pain after qualifying Thursday night and had hoped things would improve before Saturday's practice sessions. But "after the first run, we talked about it and it was pretty detrimental to him physically to continue," Gustafson said.
Gordon said on Twitter he planned to rest and "be ready for 600 miles 2moro."
The four-time series champion is having one of the steadiest starts of his career with eight top-10 finishes in the first 11 races. Gordon moved into the points lead following a second-place finish at Texas Motor Speedway in early April and he's stayed out front ever since. He cemented his place in the Sprint Cup's championship Chase two weeks ago with a victory at Kansas Speedway.
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