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Daytona 500 Qualifying: Kurt Busch Wins First Gatorade Duel, Will Start On Front Row

The front row is once again set for Sunday's running of the Daytona 500 from Daytona Motor Speedway in Florida.  Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon had been slated to start one-two in Sunday's race, but Earnhardt crashed his car during practice yesterday meaning he will have to start the race from the back of the pack.  That moved Gordon to the Pole position with the spot next to him up for grabs in the first of today's Gatoroade Duels.  

Kurt Busch, using a helpful push from Regan Smith, won the first Duel and will start from the outside of Row 1 on Sunday.  It has been a strong week already for Busch after he won the Budweiser Shootout, an exhibition race that annually kicks off Speed Week at Daytona.

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Sentimental favorite Bill Elliott - a two-time winner of the 500 - also qualified for the race based on his finish in the first Duel.  Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is different than any other NASCAR race.  The first two spots are dictated by qualifying speed, while the rest of the positions are determined by the results of the two Duels.  42 spots in the 500 are held for drivers based on points, while 4 positions are granted to provisional starters based on how they finish in the Duels.

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The second Duel is in progress.

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Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.