Points leader is
no ‘Busch’ leaguer

Oct 12, 2004 7:27 AM

With six races to go in the chase for the Nextel Cup Championship, Las Vegas’ very own Kurt Busch continues to lead the way in points.

At first, many in the know were skeptical of Busch’s chances at winning because he hasn’t been able to let the race come to him, coupled by the fact he’s had some harsh luck in several races.

That no longer is the case. Busch has been on a tear since the chase began.

Over the last six races, Busch has accumulated more points than anyone else in the Cup series. He has 46 more than Dale Earnhardt Jr., who sits second. Busch holds a modest 29 point lead over Junior in the standings, but can now feel what’s happening more each week and is putting things into perspective. 

"It’s just a matter of putting 10 races together and we’re poised to do that with the tests that we’ve saved up and the luck that we’ve had recently," Busch said. "And just being able to be competitive is the biggest key. The ability to be able to run eighth place at all of these races."

Busch is now in position to play the points game like we used to see in the past with drivers who were leading around the halfway mark of the season. He could care less about winning the race. It’s all about winning the marathon.

At the betting windows, Busch is now the favorite to win the championship at 8-5. Junior and Jeff Gordon are just behind him at 2-1. Though Busch doesn’t have a top 10 finish in his career at this week’s race in Charlotte, he does run well at all five of the other tracks.

Boulder Station’s Kelly Airgood likes his chances.

"He’s showing off his maturity and how much he’s grown as a driver over the last few weeks," Airgood said. "He’s taken a page out of his teammate Matt Kenseth’s book who won the title last year and just racing for a good finish. Being from Las Vegas, I’d love to see him win. It will mean a lot to the city, which embraces its winners."

Bringing a Nextel Cup championship to home to Las Vegas would show just what a major player Las Vegas is in the world of motor sports. Not only is Kurt going for the Cup championship, but his brother Kyle is in a dog fight for the Busch series title. Also, Brendan Gaughan continues to show glimpses of a great future.

While Busch never fares extremely well at Charlotte, his teammate Matt Kenseth does. He’s currently seventh in points (180 behind Busch), but could make up some ground this week. Kenseth won his first Cup race at Charlotte in 2000 and has finished second twice. He also had a third place result earlier this year in the Coca-Cola.

Roush racing has done a terrific job of getting these cars in position to win. Up until last year, a Roush car had won five years in a row at Charlotte, two each by Mark Martin and Jeff Burton. The other was by Kenseth, who also won the non-points All-Star race a week prior to this year’s Coca-Cola.

Two of the last three Charlotte races have been won by Jimmie Johnson, who has fallen off the deep end of late. However, there is little doubt that he can rebound this week. He’s been brilliant in almost every race since beginning Cup racing and it’s probable he’ll be ready to get back into the top five swing again.

Look for a strong run from Jamie McMurray, who won this race two years ago subbing for an injured Sterling Marlin. McMurray has been one of the hottest drivers over the last 10 weeks. Mark Martin may have had the strongest entry in the Coca-Cola this year, but the car gave up late. This race is 100 miles shorter, which should bode well for them if using the same set-up