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He's back: Jeff Gordon relishing the mere mention as a Cup contender after 12-year drought

  • 44564a3223e99323400f6a7067006bab.jpg

    Driver Jeff Gordon races through the tri-oval during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.(AP Photo/Dave Martin)The Associated Press

  • 93ee6a2823ce9323400f6a70670032b3.jpg

    Driver Jeff Gordon races through the tri-oval during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.(AP Photo/Dave Martin)The Associated Press

  • db0b33dc23e19323400f6a7067006e6d.jpg

    Driver Jeff Gordon watches in the garage area as his team works on his car during practice for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.(AP Photo/Jay Sailors)The Associated Press

  • 499bd5d023b29223400f6a706700511e.jpg

    Driver Kyle Busch leans on his car as he waits during practice for Sunday's running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.The Associated Press

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    Driver Kevin Harvick prepares to practice for Sunday's running of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series auto race at Talladega Superspeedway in Talladega, Ala., Friday, Oct. 18, 2013.The Associated Press

It wasn't that long ago people were wondering if Jeff Gordon was all washed up.

Well, looks who's in contention for a Sprint Cup championship.

Gordon heads into Sunday's race at Talladega Superspeedway fourth in the points and hoping to take advantage of a perilous track where the standings can change in a hurry.

He's still a bit of a long shot, with Matt Kenseth and Jimmie Johnson holding down the top two spots. But just the fact that Gordon is being mentioned as a championship contender is rewarding to the 43-year-old driver, who hasn't won a title since 2001 and figures it's been a half-dozen years since he made a serious run at the top spot.

Gordon says he doesn't "have the words to describe how much it would mean."