After back spasms that forced him out of the car for the majority of Saturday practice, Jeff Gordon didn't even know if he would be running the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway.
But after treatment that included extensive therapy there Gordon was behind the wheel of his No. 24 Chevrolet on Sunday, just as he had been for the previous 736 races — the longest consecutive start streak among active drivers.
And though he woke up Sunday morning not optimistic that he would be able to go, Gordon gritted through the pain and never giving the appearance he was in pain. He left Charlotte with a hard-fought seventh-place finish.
"It was tough," Gordon said. "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."
In case Gordon needed relief, Hendrick Motorsports had Regan Smith on standby. But once he took the green Gordon says nothing was going to get him out as long as his long-term health wasn't at risk.
"I'm happy that I got through it," Gordon said. "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."
By finishing seventh Gordon maintained his position atop the Sprint Cup standings. Entering next week's race at Dover International Speedway, the four-time series champion holds an 11-point advantage over second-place Matt Kenseth, who finished third Sunday.
As for whether his back is up to the task of handling the speeds and g-forces associated with racing on the high-banked Dover track, Gordon isn't concerned.
"Having some rest and being able to take it easy and do my normal therapy," he said, "I should be fine by Dover."
Sprint Cup standings
|5||Dale Earnhardt Jr.||394||-38||1|
|25||Ricky Stenhouse Jr.||258||-174||0|
|26||Martin Truex Jr.||251||-181||0|