If Jeff Gordon's Sprint Cup season demonstrated any one thing it was that NASCAR was no country for old men.
Once NASCAR's symbol of vitality and youth as his sport's "Wonder Boy," Gordon, now 41 after a birthday Saturday, appeared all but done while languishing at the edge of the top 20 in the points standings for much of this season.
But with a streak of good finishes and a victory at Pocono Raceway on Sunday, the "old man" has something left in the tank, including renewed hopes for a spot in the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup.
Gordon's win in the rain-shortened Pennsylvania 400 marked his first victory in 32 races, but career victory No. 86 was significant for another reason, propelling No. 24 into the second wild-card spot -- 13th overall, with the all-important victory.
And the way he's running, it might not be a stretch to think he can make a run at his first Chase triumph.
"I don't think a lot of people have really even put much emphasis and recognize, other than ourselves, how consistently we've been top 5, top 10 the last eight weeks," said Gordon, who counts a fourth-place finish at the Samsung Mobile 500 at Texas Motor Speedway among his 2012 highlights.
"We've been building momentum for several weeks with great finishes, as well as just really solid runs. That's the difference from the start of the season. We had great runs and just weren't putting any kind of results together."
His resurgence is more a testament of what can happen by merely showing up.
Gordon's winless stretch this season was indeed as much to do with bad luck as anything else.
Late accidents spoiled good runs at Bristol and Martinsville and a bottoming out at 24th in the standings.
He has six top six finishes, including Sunday, in his last seven races and has jumped 11 spots in the standings.
The Chase consists of the top 10 drivers in points, plus two drivers in the next tier of standings, 11-20, with the most victories.
Kasey Kahne, with two victories this season, has a firm grasp on one of the wild-card spots. Gordon is in good shape for the other with five races to go.
Gordon and Ryan Newman lead those drivers with one victory with 611 points, though Flash has the edge on tiebreakers -- most top-five finishes (five and three).
Kyle Busch has 599 and Joey Logano 575.
Last season's Chase runner-up, Carl Edwards, is 12th in the standings but has been shut out of victory lane in 2012.
"I got a front row seat to watch Jeff Gordon pull it off," Edwards said. "That's a motivator right there, to know that we can do this.
"We just have to go out and race these next five races like they're the most important races in the world."
Prosperity is fleeting. It could all change, well, in a flash.
Up next is the road course at Watkins Glen, N.Y., where Gordon has four career victories -- though his last was 2001 -- and nine top-10 finishes. His nine road-course wins are more than any other driver in Sprint Cup Series history.
A "good performing" car gives Gordon optimism about this weekend. That's something Team No. 24 hasn't had the past few years at Watkins Glen, Gordon said.
"We put ourselves into this hole that we're in," Gordon said. "But the last eight weeks, even with a few glitches along the way, we've been getting ourselves out of it.
"I hope the next five weeks we continue to do that."