Auto Racing: Jeff Gordon’s Chase a hair-raising event
By Tina Akouris email@example.com September 12, 2012 9:04PM
NASCAR driver Jeff Gordon speaks during the NASCAR Contenders Live event at the House of Blues in Chicago, Ill., on Wednesday, September 12, 2012. | Andrew A. Nelles~Sun-Times Media
Nascar race weekend
At Chicagoland Speedway, Joliet
Gates open, 11 a.m.
Sprint Cup practice, noon
Nationwide practice, 1:40 p.m.
Final Cup practice, 3 p.m.
Final Nationwide practice,
Gates open, 9 a.m.
Sprint Cup qualifying,
Dollar General 300, 2:30 p.m. (ESPN2)
Gates open, 9 a.m.
GEICO 400, 1 p.m. (ESPN)
Tickets: Call (888) 629-7223
Updated: October 15, 2012 9:45AM
For one day, at least, the most talked-about story in NASCAR wasn’t the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship.
It was the rebirth of Jeff Gordon’s mustache.
“He’s got to grow back the eyebrows, too,” Tony Stewart said Wednesday at the House of Blues, where the 12 Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship qualifiers gathered to promote Sunday’s Geico 400 at Chicagoland Speedway. “It was kind of a matching set.”
Gordon is growing a mustache for the second time in his career, harkening back to his early NASCAR days during the 1990s when he was dubbed “Wonder Boy” and challenging the late Dale Earnhardt for championships every year.
“My wife (Ingrid) started all this because she reminded me, and Twitterville, of the commitment I made a month ago (to grow one),” Gordon said Wednesday. “Someone brought up the mustache and I said, ‘Listen, we make this Chase and I’m bringing back the mustache.’”
He’s hoping it also brings him some luck.
Gordon, a four-time NASCAR champ, conceded Wednesday he is past his driving prime. Only a desperate rally Saturday at Richmond earned him the last wild card spot in the Chase, edging Kyle Busch, and prevented him from missing NASCAR’s “playoffs” for the first time since 2005.
“At this point, this is the defining moment for me at this stage in my career,” Gordon said. “Not making this Chase could have had devastating results. For Kyle, it’s not. This kid is talented, has a great team and they will be battling for more championships.”
Gordon will join teammates Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne, the other wild-card driver, when the Chase begins with Sunday’s GEICO 400 at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet.
“My teammates had to contribute to help me get in,” Gordon said. “They all charged and fought until the end to make sure that we got in. We’re going to continue to work together and share information.”
Gordon is all smiles now, but he hasn’t been for much of 2012. He won just once, at Pocono in August, and failed to finish three races — none of which compared to a stunning turn of fate at Martinsville in April.
Gordon led 329 laps, only to bump into Clint Bowyer on a late restart, spin out and finish 14th. It marked only the second time in Gordon’s 20-year NASCAR career where he led more than 300 laps and failed to win a race.
Then came Richmond. Gordon struggled with his car, but crew chief Alan Gustafson ordered major adjustments throughout the race to help Gordon finish second to Bowyer. Gordon entered the race 12 points behind Busch for the last wild-card spot, but finished three points ahead of Busch to advance.
“That fight gives us a whole new life in this Chase,” Gordon said. “I genuinely felt for Kyle, because that very easily could have been us and we went through so many emotions this year and through that race.”
Gordon, 41, isn’t saying when he will retire. But he did say he doesn’t have another 10 years of racing left in him.
“But I have more than two or three years left,” Gordon said. “I’m not in the prime of my career. I’m just putting it in perspective, where I’m at versus other guys.”