The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion's back started bothering him during Thursday's qualifying session and he only ran 11 laps of practice on Saturday to save himself for the Coca-Cola 600.
“Yeah, unfortunately I had a back spasm the other night in that last qualifying run that I made," Gordon said. "And I’ve been trying to get it worked out by today, and I got in the car and it just wasn’t. The good news is that the car is awesome. So, I made 11 laps and it was everything I could do to do that. I just had to tell the team that I think it would be best if I sit out the rest of the day so that I can be prepared for this long, tough race that’s going to happen tomorrow.”
Gordon has had back issues in the past, but the problems haven't flared up recently thanks to a focused training program. If he was to miss the start of the race Sunday night, he'd be in good position for the Chase. He won at Kansas two weeks ago and is the Sprint Cup Series points leader, plus there's a NASCAR medical exemption for the Chase. It was used at California by Denny Hamlin, who had a piece of metal in his eye and missed the race.
Smith drives for JR Motorsports in the Nationwide Series and was Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s fill-in driver in 2012 when Earnhardt missed two races because of a concussion.
“It’s unfortunate," Gordon said about his back. "I’ve had some spasms in the past, but this one it a little bit different. 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; especially when the car is as good as 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.”
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