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Jeff Gordon sits out practice, relief driver standing by for Sunday

Saturday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Saturday morning at Charlotte Motor Speedway on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Coca-Cola 600 weekend at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Greg Engle

Jeff Gordon ended his practice early Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway site of Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup series Coca-Cola 600. Gordon only ran 11 laps in the first of two scheduled sessions before parking his Hendrick Motorsports Chevy.

Jeff Gordon ran only  11 laps in practice Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Jeff Gordon ran only 11 laps in practice Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

“Unfortunately I had a back spasm the other night in that last qualifying run that I made,” Gordon said. “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.”

Gordon, who has suffered back issues for several years and at one point admitted that those issues threatened to end his career, did get treatment during the off season. Until Saturday Gordon had no complaints about his back.

“I made 11 laps and it was everything I could do to do that,” Gordon said. “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 added that the team has plan should be not be able to race Sunday.

“At this point we’re going to have Regan Smith standing by for tomorrow,” Gordon said. “Again, luckily we had a good 11 laps there (in first practice session) and we’ve got our teammates and information that we’re going to be able to gather from them. It’s all coming together very fast right now.”

Prior to leaving Saturday Gordon said he and the team were still unsure about Sunday’s race which just happens to be the longest of the NASCAR Sprint Cup season.

“I’ve had some spasms in the past, but this one it a little bit different,” Gordon said.” 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.”

Gordon’s crew chief Alan Gustafson said that they have one plan for Sunday.

“The plan is for him to race,” Gustafson said. “Our plan is for Jeff to get in the car, start the 600, finish it and win it. That’s what we are going to get and do.”

Gordon was sixth fastest in the first session; he will line up 27th Sunday.