Don't plan Jeff Gordon's farewell tour just yet.

Gordon's well-documented back problems, exacerbated by a hard crash during qualifying at Dover in May, fuelled speculation that retirement might be imminent for the four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion.

In announcing Jimmie Johnson's contract extension through 2015, however, Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick indicated Gordon, who has a lifetime contract with the organisation, was likely to drive the #24 Chevrolet at least through 2012.

"Jeff and I have an agreement," Hendrick said. "As long as he drives in Cup, he's going to drive our car. I'm hoping he's going to drive a bunch more years. We know it's going to be at least three or four."

Gordon, whose back has responded favourably to treatment and exercise, took no issue with that assertion.

"As long as I'm healthy and competitive and we have sponsorship, and we're out there enjoying ourselves, I'm going to keep doing it," Gordon said. "I don't like to put a number on that. You know, things can happen in a hurry. Right now things are going well. My back is better, and we're having a good year.

"Things are going well. So, to me, seasons like this add years to my career. Seasons like last year (when Gordon failed to win a race) take away from them. Last year I was frustrated, not feeling good. I was like, 'Give me a couple more years.' Now I'm like, 'Oh, four, five - who knows?'"

by Reid Spencer/Sporting News

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