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Published: Thursday, 9/13/2012

Gordon rejuvenated heading into Chase for Cup

NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, 41, got his start on Sesame Street as lovable Elmo. NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon, 41, got his start on Sesame Street as lovable Elmo.

CHICAGO -- The infamous mustache is making a comeback -- and Jeff Gordon believes he is, too.

The four-time NASCAR champion grabbed the final spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship away from Kyle Busch with a vintage performance last week. He will try to end his long "Drive for Five," starting Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway.

It's fair to say he's feeling just a little rejuvenated.

"This is the defining moment for me at this stage of my career," Gordon said. "Not making this Chase could have had devastating results."

He's in because of a dramatic performance at Richmond.

Gordon came in trailing Busch by 12 points and beat him by three, making major adjustments to his Chevrolet throughout and coming on strong after falling a lap behind to finish second in a race hampered by rain.

Now, the question is: At age 41 and 11 years removed from his last championship, can he string together 10 strong races to capture title No. 5?

If nothing else, he's showing he's a man of his word. Gordon had vowed to bring back the mustache he sported at the start of his NASCAR career if he made the Chase, and his facial hair is once again the talk of the sport. He had a salt-and-pepper 5 o'clock shadow, the early makings of a beard, on Wednesday.

He insisted it will be a mustache by the weekend.

"My wife started all this because she reminded me and Twitterville of the commitment I had made a month or month and a half ago," Gordon said. "I meant it when I said it and I hoped that we would be in this position, be in the Chase and sporting the 'stache. So here we go. Get ready."

Gordon couldn't remember exactly what led to the vow to bring back the mustache, widely ridiculed after its debut when he was a 21-year-old Sprint Cup Series rookie.

Bringing it back might have popped into his head from a comment on Twitter. He's not sure. He just remembers the reaction to his promise.

"They were all like, 'Yeah, yeah, yeah,'" he said. "I have fans all the time on Twitter, off Twitter, other competitors, messaging me, 'Bring back the 'stache.' And I guarantee, it's not because I was cool."

Gordon's fans will really be loving the look if he pulls off the title.

Gordon figured he had nothing to lose midway through the race at Richmond, so why not make some "wholesale, huge" changes to the No. 24 Chevy?

"To me, it's classic when I think of [Dale] Earnhardt, Sr.," Gordon said. "He would start the race. You'd lap him. By the end of the race, they're winning or coming after you for the win. To me, that's sometimes the box that you put yourself in that can be more beneficial. What we've learned from that is we've got to go out every weekend for these next 10 weeks and be fully committed to pursuing winning. If we're in fifth, we've got to have that same attitude like we're in 26th. We've got to absolutely go after it."

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