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Back pain to force Jeff Gordon to retire?
Jeff Gordon nursing back in Dover Friday
Jeff Gordon has had no recurrence of the sharp pain he had in his back last week at Charlotte Motor Speedway, indicating that he won’t need a backup driver this weekend at Dover International Speedway.

Gordon appears to have a handle on the degenerative discs in his back, which required an epidural and shots of cortisone last week.

After missing most of practice Saturday at Charlotte, he made it through the entire Coca-Cola 600 on Sunday, finishing seventh, and has continued with stretching and icing to prevent the knifing pain.

If those sharp, shooting pains return, he’ll need a backup driver. And if they return with any sort of frequency, he won’t be racing at all.

“If I don’t stay loose and ice and do other things that keep me loose when I get to the race weekend, what happened could possibly occur again,” Gordon told reporters after practice Friday at Dover International Speedway.

“That’s the biggest thing I’m focused on, I’m not thinking or focusing on anything else (like retirement). I can tell you that if that happens many more times, I won’t have a choice.”

A four-time Cup champion with 89 career victories, the 42-year-old Gordon leads the Sprint Cup standings. He has battled back issues for several years and always deals with stiffness and soreness. He said he was a little more sore than normal after running 600 miles last week.

“The issues I had in the past weren’t like what I dealt with last weekend,” Gordon said. “That was the first time something like that happened. … Once the blood is flowing and the adrenaline and all those things get going, it’s not so bad.

“Monday and Tuesday were a lot tougher (than the race).”

The 400 laps at Dover won’t be easy with banking all around the 1-mile oval. He said he will have to be more conscious about how he handles the down time during the race weekend as far as staying loose, especially with longer periods between practice and qualifying. He said the seat in his car is in the best position possible.

“I wouldn’t say I’m 100 percent,” Gordon said. “I’m back closer to normal, which is just always aggravation and some discomfort. I’m still feeling some of the effects from what I went through last week.

“I felt good in the car. I didn’t have any sharp pains. I just had a week of rest and normal activity, lots of ice this week.”

Gordon, who hinted and joked before the season about possibly retiring after this year, said one of the repercussions of missing practice was talk about whether he could be forced to retire.

“Luckily Sunday went well and we got through it. … That did more good for us for this season and our chances for a championship than anything else,” Gordon said. “That’s where my focus is.

“But you guys, feel free to ask me all the questions you want about retirement. I don’t have an answer for you." Sporting News

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