Gordon ‘back’ on track

DOVER, DE - MAY 30:  Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 30, 2014 in Dover, Delaware.  (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

DOVER, DE – MAY 30: Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Drive to End Hunger Chevrolet, looks on during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series FedEx 400 Benefiting Autism Speaks at Dover International Speedway on May 30, 2014 in Dover, Delaware. (Photo by Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

DOVER, Del. – Jeff Gordon says his aching back is “close to normal” as he prepares for Sunday’s 400 miler at Dover International Speedway.

The Sprint Cup Series points leader said that stepping away from his car after running only 11 practice laps at Charlotte Motor Speedway last Saturday was “one of the hardest things I’ve ever done in my racing career. But my body was telling me it was the right thing to do.”

Gordon says he was sore on Monday and Tuesday after finishing seventh in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600, NASCAR’s longest race. But he is no longer experiencing the knifing pains he did a week ago and doesn’t expect a problem this weekend, even though Dover is regarded as one of the more physically demanding tracks for a driver.

He also said that  given his age (42) and his recent back issues, it’s no surprise that inquiring minds are asking him about the “R” word — as in “retirement.”

“Feel free to ask me all the questions you want about retirement,” Gordon told the assembled media in the Dover media center on Friday. “I don’t have an answer for you. When the time comes, it comes.”

Gordon, who has a victory and nine top-10 finishes this season, was in contention until shortly after the final restart at Charlotte. The four-time Cup champion said last week’s trials and tribulations were nothing but a positive for his race team. “I think it just gave us more momentum, with what we went through, to have that kind of race.”

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