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Bad back plagues Gordon again

By The Associated Press

This article was published August 3, 2014 at 2:26 a.m.

jeff-gordon-right-talks-with-a-crew-member-after-a-practice-session-for-sundays-nascar-sprint-cup-series-auto-race-at-pocono-raceway-saturday-aug-2-2014-in-long-pond-pa-ap-photomatt-slocum

Jeff Gordon, right, talks with a crew member after a practice session for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Pocono Raceway, Saturday, Aug. 2, 2014, in Long Pond, Pa. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

LONG POND, Pa. -- Jeff Gordon turned a nostalgic weekend at the Brickyard into a powerful reminder that he can still win NASCAR's biggest races.

Oh, and a fifth championship.

But for all the proof that Gordon is still a driver to contend with in a championship push, he realizes he's not in the same physical condition when he won his first Brickyard in 1994. Gordon turns 43 on Monday with an achy back that he feels when settling behind the wheel of the No. 24 Chevrolet.

"It's not great, that's for sure," Gordon said.

Gordon hasn't been the same since he felt consistent, shooting back pain before the Coca-Cola 600 in May. He cut short his practice sessions, had treatments and needed a standby driver.

Gordon had serious issues years ago in his lower spine and returned to full strength thanks to anti-inflammatory medication and workouts with a trainer. He drove in pain during a winless 2008 season and briefly contemplated retirement.

For all his back woes, Gordon said he never felt the stabbing pain like he did at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

"I don't think my back is ever going to be the same after what happened at Charlotte," Gordon said. "I don't know what exactly transpired there, but it's not the same. And I have to be much more careful. I'm just having to treat it more with ice and (stimulation) and be more careful and do more stretching. Is it going to flare-up again? It could. But I'm just trying to be more cautious with the things that I do that I feel like contribute to that."

Gordon never showed any signs of discomfort last weekend at Indy, pulling away from Hendrick Motorsports teammate Kasey Kahne on the final restart to win for the second time this season. Gordon holds the points lead heading into today's race at Pocono Raceway, where he's a six-time winner.

Gordon and Kahne staged a similar battle in last August's race at Pocono. Unlike last week at Indy, Kahne won the restart and the race. Cruising from the outside, Kahne got the jump he needed, zipped past Gordon and pulled away with two laps left for the victory.

Kahne is winless this season and badly needs one if he wants to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field. Kahne led 70 laps and had the car to beat at Indy until his late fade ended with a sixth-place finish and his car out of fuel.

"It was the first time of the season we have put a full race together," Kahne said. "From me driving to them on pit road to pit calls, everything about it was right. That is something that we haven't done this year. We haven't even come close to doing that."

He could be in the mix today -- along with Gordon, and Hendrick drivers Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. The drivers have won the last four races at the track.

Sports on 08/03/2014

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