Concord, NC (SportsNetwork.com) - Four-time Sprint Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon had very little practice time on Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway and could miss Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 due to back spasms.
Gordon, who is the current points leader and winner of the most recent Sprint Cup race two weeks ago at Kansas, made just 11 laps during the 50-minute practice session in the morning before got out of his No. 24 Chevrolet and told his Hendrick Motorsports team that he could no longer continue.
The 42-year-old Gordon has had back problems in the past. He began to experience pain in his back during Thursday night's qualifying session for the 600-mile race at Charlotte.
"Unfortunately, I had a back spasm the other night in that last qualifying run that I made, and I've been trying to get it worked out by today, but I got in the car, and it just wasn't," Gordon said. "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."
Nationwide Series regular Regan Smith is on standby should Gordon either miss Sunday's race or need relief at any point during the event. Smith drives for JR Motorsports in the series. Rick Hendrick is part owner of that team.
The No. 24 team did not participate in the final one-hour practice session, held in the afternoon.
"I knew [Gordon] had some discomfort after Thursday night, and he had been working on it, trying to get it fixed up," Gordon's crew chief, Alan Gustafson, said. "After the first run [in Saturday's practice], he just felt like it was pretty detrimental to him physically to continue to practice.
"Fortunately, the guys did a great job on the car, and I didn't think there was much we were going to learn anyway. We've been here for a long time and got a good idea on what we need to race with. Glad the car was good. It made the decision pretty easy."
The Coca-Cola 600 is the longest race of the NASCAR season. Gordon's first career win in NASCAR's premier series came in this event 20 years ago. Gordon has 736 career starts in the series, all of them consecutive.
Just days before the 2009 Coca-Cola 600, Gordon underwent a back procedure in hopes of alleviating pain that had been getting progressively worse. The facet block procedure involved an injection of local anesthetic and anti- inflammatory into a joint in the spine. The treatment was successful. He qualified third and finished 14th in the 600 that year.
"I've had some spasms in the past, but this one is a little bit different," he noted. "I just want to really be cautious and take care of it..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."
Sunday's race at Charlotte is scheduled to start shortly after 6 p.m. ET.