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May 24, 2014 - 03:08 PM
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Back spasms knock Jeff Gordon out of Happy Hour; Regan Smith standing by for 600
Posted by: ASkyler on May 24, 2014 - 03:03 PM
Feature Articles
Back spasms knock Jeff Gordon out of Happy Hour; Regan Smith standing by for 600


By Reid Spencer, NASCAR Wire Service

CONCORD, N.C.—After winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race May 10 at Kansas Speedway, Jeff Gordon said he felt 25 years old again.

On Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway—not so much.

Gordon, 42, suffered back spasms on his final qualifying run Thursday night at the 1.5-mile race track, and the lingering effects could jeopardize his participation in Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

NASCAR Nationwide Series title contender Regan Smith is standing by in case Gordon needs a relief driver for the sport’s longest race.

Gordon, who is celebrating the 20th anniversary of his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory this weekend, ran 11 laps in Saturday morning’s first practice session before bringing his car to the garage and parking it for the rest of the day.

"Unfortunately, I had a back spasm the other night in the last qualifying run that I made," Gordon said after exiting the No. 24 Chevrolet. "And I’ve been trying to get it worked out by today, and it just wasn’t.

"The good news is that the car is awesome. So 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 (Sunday)."

 

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If Gordon starts Sunday’s race and subsequently turns the car over to Smith, he’ll collect driver championship points based on the car’s finish. Even if he can’t take the green flag, Gordon won’t need a medical exception to preserve his Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup eligibility because he qualified the car.

If Gordon is in the car, he’ll start 27th, the position on the grid he earned Thursday. If Smith starts the 600, he will drop to the rear for the green flag because of the driver change.

"I know it’s not easy for him," Gustafson said, "but I know (Sunday) he’ll do everything he can to get in and go. These guys do a lot physically, and he’s done it over a long period of time.

"His body has taken a long toll. It’s amazing he’s in as good shape as he is and is in as good condition as he is week in and week out. I’m sure he’ll fight through this as best he can."

FULL-TIME CUP RIDE FOR TREVOR BAYNE

Four years after his stunning victory in the 2011 Daytona 500—in his second start in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series—Trevor Bayne will have a full-time ride at NASCAR’s highest level.

Like the No. 21 Ford he drove to victory at Daytona for the Wood Brothers, the No. 6 Ford he’ll drive for Roush Fenway Racing full-time in 2015 likewise has a rich history.

With 50 Cup starts already to his credit in a limited scheduled with the Wood Brothers, Bayne will drive the car under sponsorship from AdvoCare. The Daytona 500 shocker is the only victory in the series for Bayne, and one of his three career top 10s.

"This is obviously the biggest news I’ve ever had in my life," Bayne said at the Saturday morning announcement at Charlotte Motor Speedway. "Although we’ve had some big news before, this takes the cake. I’m really excited to be sitting up here beside (team owner) Jack Roush and Mike Vaught, (director of sponsorship) from AdvoCare…

"I could have never done all of this without the people who have been behind me. I just left the Wood Brothers’ hauler from talking to Eddie and Len (Wood), so if I’m a little shaky and look like I might have been teared up a little bit, it’s from talking to those guys, and just the support they’ve given me over the last three years—to be able to get to a place where I could have this opportunity.

"To drive that 21 car has been incredible, and now I get to move on to another legendary number in the 6 car. This is something I’ve waited on since I was five years old."

Mark Martin, who collected the first 35 of his 40 victories in Roush’s No. 6 Ford, made his feelings known in a video announcement.

"Jack Roush and I went racing together over 25 years ago and, yes, we experienced our share of heartaches as we grew in this sport, but we would go on to experience great victories as well," Martin said.

"My time in the 6 car will always be special to me and, yes, there is a part of me that will always be No. 6. Because of that, I’m excited to say that Jack Roush is bringing back the No. 6 Ford to the Sprint Cup Series full-time in 2015."

KYLE BUSCH TAKES A HIT

Two laps into final NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice Saturday at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Kyle Busch smacked the Turn 4 wall with his No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota—after setting fastest lap in the session (188.640 mph).

The damage was severe enough that the No. 18 team rolled out the backup car. After a little more than 30 minutes, Busch was on the track turning laps in the backup.

The car change, however, means that Busch will have to give up the seventh-place starting position he earned during Thursday’s qualifying and drop to the rear for the start of the Coca-Cola 600. And before he takes the green flag, the backup car will need some work.

"Not even close," Busch said after running two laps in the backup, noting the new car didn’t compare with the primary.

Danica Patrick, on the other hand, had no issues in practice and continued to show the speed that landed her in the fourth starting position for Sunday’s race.

Patrick was third fastest in Happy Hour at 187.846 mph.

TOPICAL TROPHY

Considerable thought and research went into the creation of the trophy for Saturday’s History 300 NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Conceived and fashioned by Rick Dale, star of HISTORY Channel’s "American Restoration," the trophy, unveiled before Saturday’s race, is a symbolic representation of the building of the 1.5-mile track.

A granite base in the shape of the speedway represents the rock that had to be blasted and removed from the site in 1959. Sticks of dynamite represent the blasting itself. And a pair of .38 Special revolvers harken back to conflicts that arose during the construction.

Documenting the production process, the HISTORY filmed an episode of "American Restoration" dealing with the creation of the trophy. Fans can catch the episode during the upcoming season of American Restoration, beginning Monday, June 2 at 10 p.m.


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