Kurt Busch tries to hold onto lead

Staff WriterMay 2, 2009 

— Who's next?

So far this season, whoever has risen as NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series points leader has also taken a hard fall from that perch.

First it was Matt Kenseth, who started the year with wins at Daytona and California but has dropped to 12th in the standings.

The latest victim was Jeff Gordon, who built a 162-point lead -- in part because of a career-first win at Texas -- but hasn't finished better than 25th in the two races since.

Following his sixth-place finish Sunday at Talladega, Ala., Kurt Busch became the newest member of the 2009 points leader club and holds a five-point advantage over Gordon entering tonight's Crown Royal Presents the Russell Friedman 400 at Richmond International Raceway.

But can he remain?

Busch will be starting 17th, while Red Bull Racing's Brian Vickers will start from the pole.

Gordon will start alongside Vickers in second.

Gordon "has had some problems as well as [Jimmie Johnson], and that's enabled us to gain the points lead," Busch said.

"But really it's just a matter of continuing to work as hard as we can to make our Dodge handle the right way and make sure that we keep up the consistency that we've put together so far."

Busch, the 2004 Cup Series champion, has one previous win at Richmond, in 2005, and three top-10 finishes in his past four races at the short track.

"This place, 400 laps is a long race," he said. "Pit strategy always comes into play when you pit for fuel for the final time. Do you do four tires or two tires with it?

"Maybe with cooler temperatures [tonight], we'll be dialed in like we need to be."

KYLE WINS NATIONWIDE RACE: Kyle Busch passed Carl Edwards on the first lap of a restart with 22 laps to go and won the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Richmond.

Busch, who led four times Friday night in the Lipton Tea 250, made the move that counted in the third and fourth turns on the 229th trip around the 0.75-mile oval.

jutter@charlotteobserver.com 704-358-5113

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