TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) – Jeff Gordon will chase his fifth Sprint Cup title with a bad back.

Gordon expects to drive with some discomfort this season and the pain he felt last week at Phoenix International Raceway has not entirely subsided. The four-time Cup champ said the tracks in Richmond, Va.; Martinsville, Va.; Bristol, Tenn.; and the road courses could affect him later this year.

The short tracks would affect Gordon the most because they tend to be more physically grueling.

“I’m getting stronger and I don’t expect it to happen overnight and go away,” Gordon said Friday.

at Talladega Superspeedway. “It’s going to take time.”

The aches, pains and spasms haven’t affected Gordon’s performance. He snapped a 47-race winless streak at Texas, has six top-10 finishes and holds an 85-point lead over Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jimmie Johnson in the Sprint Cup standings.

Gordon said his creaky back made it difficult to communicate with his team last week, and he couldn’t really give crew chief Steve Letarte information and feedback. He refused to use his health as an excuse for a poor performance at Phoenix.

A mistake by his pit crew, he was forced back into the pits for leaving pit row without a lug nut on his left front, helped drop him to a season-worst 25th place finish.

“We had some trouble there,” he said. “All the way around, it seemed like we underperformed and it’s a good wake-up call for us.”

Gordon, Johnson and Mark Martin have won the last three Cup races for Hendrick Motorsports. Dale Earnhardt Jr., the fourth Hendrick driver, has yet to win this year but has five career Cup wins at Talladega Superspeedway. Gordon also has six wins at Talladega.

“I think there is a great opportunity for a Hendrick car to win again this weekend and keep that streak alive,” Gordon said. “I think on a personal note for Rick (Hendrick), I think the ultimate would be for Junior to win this weekend and have four different drivers win four straight races.”

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