With a rough start to the weekend with back spasms and a questionable status on running the Coca-Cola 600 today at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon ran an impressive race leading at four different points during the 600 laps and posting a seventh place finish.
The No. 24 team sat out of final practice on Saturday and had Regan Smith on stand-by in case Gordon was not well enough to run the longest race of the season.
Current and past crew chiefs, Alan Gustafson and Ray Evernham, spoke highly of Gordon’s toughness and dedication to his team on Saturday when it was unsure whether he would race today or not.
After the race, Gordon commented on how difficult it was for him to race with back issues. He stated, “It was better than Saturday morning and that was what I was thankful for. I think the procedures and different forms of therapy that I did. Thanks to all the folks- there are quite a few people that were tending to me and I appreciate every one of them. I don’t think I would have gotten through this long race. It was tough. I was aching in there. There was one time when I got on the brakes into (Turn) 1 and it triggered something. I didn’t know what was going to happen after that, but it settled down. Luckily I started getting off the brake. We had such a great race car. I’m really proud of this Drive to End Hunger Chevy team. Alan and all the guys-I love that call there at the end. Just like the call that was made when we won the first race here. I don’t know if I could have held off Matt (Kenseth) but we were going to give them a heck of a run. The car was feeling pretty good right there so just a matter whether it was going to tighten up over 20 something laps. I got a decent restart there, but when Matt got to my outside I got real loose. At that point I was kind of just a sitting duck it got real tight. It was a good effort. I’m happy that I got through it. It tells me a lot about what kind of threshold I have and I just want to show this team the kind of commitment I have to them because of what they have shown me this year.”
Gordon will have little turn-around time before getting his back in shape for the Monster Mile next weekend at Dover International Speedway. He said, “I mean the one thing we didn’t have this weekend was time. It happened on Thursday. I was hoping I would be okay by Saturday. I wasn’t and then we got real aggressive from Saturday to Sunday. Luckily that paid off. Now having some rest and being able to take it easy and do my normal therapy I should be fine by Dover.”
The green flag will fall on the FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks next Sunday, June 1, at 1:00pm local time at Dover International Speedway.