Tony Stewart celebrated in victory lane Monday after winning the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips at the Glen.

Meanwhile, Jeff Gordon, formerly known as NASCAR's King of the Road Courses, could only grimace.

Going into the event, Gordon and Stewart were tied for the most wins at Watkins Glen International. By the end of the day, Stewart had the record to himself while Gordon had plans to follow-up with his physician after a harrowing crash aggravated an existing back injury.

It was ironic that just a day earlier, Gordon was interviewed during a rain delay and talked about his 17-year career in NASCAR racing. I can still remember how he looked back then -- the micro-mustached Gordon who was dubbed "Wonder Boy" by the late Dale Earnhardt. Now a husband, father and back-pain sufferer, those days must feel quite distant to the 38-year-old racer.

Talking about his home life, the slightly graying Gordon is obviously much more of a family man than "The Kid" he used to be.

But don't call him "old" just yet. Gordon said he doesn't expect his back to be an issue at this weekend's CARFAX 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

"Michigan is pretty easy," he said. "If we were going to Bristol next week, I'd be concerned. So we've got a couple of weeks to hopefully heal."

That would be Bristol Motor Speedway, the half-mile track famous for "beatin' and bangin.'" It's a rough track, a place where NASCAR became famous for being a contact sport.


It's so rough, in fact, that some in the media have suggested that Gordon sit it out so that he can heal for The Chase.
Gordon is sitting securely in third place in the standings, they reason, and he'd only drop 151 points if he skips Bristol.

But it will never happen. There is no way Gordon would step out of the car, even if he were locked into The Chase -- which he isn't.

Yes, he's in a solid position. But the sport is way too crazy. Anything could happen in the remaining races -- blown engines, wrecks, perhaps even a bout with the flu -- and Gordon knows he needs all the points he can get. And the only way to get points is to race.

In the June race at Michigan, after starting from the rear of the field due to an engine change, Gordon finished second to teammate Mark Martin.

Add to that the fact that Gordon has started every race since joining the sport fulltime in 1993, and you know that Gordon won't be skipping any Sprint Cup series races anytime soon. That won't help his back anyway.

"There's nothing you can do," Gordon said. "You've got to get out there and you've got to just hope you don't get into situations."

-- Ellen Siska writes about NASCAR for The York Dispatch. She can be reached at