Jeff Gordon rolling along, but still keeping an eye on his back

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As great as it was to soak in the moment after winning his fifth Brickyard 400 last weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Jeff Gordon found a special sort of happiness a few days later.

“We happened to have a birthday party for [son] Leo this week, so I had the chance to be around a lot of family and friends,” Gordon explained today at Pocono Raceway.

“When you haven’t won a big race like that in a while and you win it, you’re in such disbelief that it takes a couple of days for it to sink in as to how much you respect and appreciate and how you just don’t take for granted those types of moments and days.

“I think for me, it was just a great week to reminisce with all my friends and family who either watched it on TV or were there in person. Those are the greatest moments as a race car driver or competitor that you can go through.”

But now, it’s back to business for Gordon, who leads the Sprint Cup championship standings and will start fifth in Sunday’s GoBowling.com 400 at Pocono.

Those who perform well at Indy tend to do well at Pocono, which is also a low-banked, high-speed track. But there are also many unique aspects about Pocono that isn’t found anywhere else on the circuit.

“The tunnel turn [Turn 2] is a lot like the turns that we have at Indianapolis,” said Gordon. “But the other two are quite a bit different. So, we take something that we learn from every track we go to and try to apply it. And I think we’ve applied some of those things this weekend that should work well.”

Right now, Gordon appears set to truly contend for a fifth Sprint Cup championship. The “Drive for Five,” ongoing since his fourth title in 2001, has become the primary story around him.

But not long ago, the talk around Gordon centered around him possibly hanging up his helmet due to his ailing back. During the Coca-Cola 600 weekend in May, Gordon had to step out of the car during a practice session because of back spasms.

After receiving treatment, Gordon competed in NASCAR’s longest race. But the legend believes that after what happened to him in Charlotte, he may have to deal with back issues for the remainder of his career – however long that may be.

“I don’t know what exactly transpired there, but it’s not the same,” Gordon admitted. “And I have to be much more careful. I’m just having to treat it more with ice and [electric 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. But, yeah, it’s not great, that’s for sure.”

IndyCar teams with NASCAR on IMS road course doubleheader in 2021

IndyCar NASCAR doubleheader 2021
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The NTT IndyCar Series will be sharing Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the NASCAR Cup Series in a race weekend doubleheader for the second consecutive season, but both series will be on the road course in August 2021.

IMS announced Wednesday that IndyCar will hold an Aug. 14, 2021 race on its 14-turn, 2.439-mile road course. It’ll be a day before NASCAR’s premier series runs the same layout for the first time after the Brickyard 400 was contested on the 2.5-mile oval for the first time in 27 years.

This season’s rescheduling of the IndyCar GMR Grand Prix to July 4, 2019 (a day before the Brickyard 400) led to the first NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader weekend. The Xfinity Series also raced on the IMS road course for the first time July 4 after the IndyCar race ended.

INDYCAR AT IMS THIS WEEKEND: Harvest GP schedule, entry lists

IndyCar will be holding its second race weekend this year at the IMS road course Friday and Saturday with the Harvest GP.

“Our first NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend was a big success last July, with positive feedback from
our loyal fans who watched the races on NBC and from the drivers, teams and participants
involved,” IMS president Douglas Boles said in a statement. “The Xfinity Series’ debut on the IMS road course provided exactly the kind of thrilling action from the green to checkered flags that we anticipated, so we know the teams and drivers of the Cup Series will put on a great show as they turn left and right for the first time at IMS.

“We can’t wait to welcome back fans to see NASCAR and INDYCAR together during this
exciting weekend as we add another memorable chapter in the long, storied history of the
Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”

It also will mark the first NASCAR Cup-IndyCar doubleheader with a crowd as fans weren’t permitted at IMS in July because of the novel coronvavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Over the course of Wednesday, NASCAR is releasing its 36-race slate for next season. IndyCar has yet to release its full 2021 schedule.