CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Jeff Gordon had an injection in his back to help ease the pain he’s had for more than a year, and the four-time NASCAR champion says he’ll be able to drive this weekend in the longest race of the season.

Gordon was treated Monday in a procedure that typically calls for an injection of lidocaine or anti-inflammatory medication. Gordon, the Sprint Cup Series points leader, is sore but looking forward to the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway .

“I’ll definitely take that brief bit of soreness if it stops the recurring back pain I’ve had,” he said Tuesday. “I hope that will end the back issues I’ve been having, but it’s too early to tell if that fixed the problem.”

Gordon zeroed in on a cause for his aching back last month. An MRI revealed a touch of arthritis and other issues he described as possibly related to “trauma, from a crash, or maybe just from years of beating it up.”

He silently suffered through chronic back pain all of last year, his first winless season since his 1993 rookie year. He revealed his condition at the start of this season when he began using a trainer to help him properly stretch his back before and after races.

He timed the medical procedure to give him relief before Sunday night’s 600 miles of racing. “This is a grueling race,” he said. “It’s tough on equipment, and it’s tough mentally. You have to mentally stay in the game and be focused for 600 miles. I’m really looking forward to the event. Obviously, I want to see how my back does, but I also think we can challenge for the win.”

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