Daytona Beach, Fla. Defending Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip and reigning Winston Cup champion Jeff Gordon each won a Gatorade 125-mile qualifying race Thursday. The way they did it, though, couldn't have been more different.
After a sedate, caution-free opener in which Gordon took the lead from rookie teammate Jimmie Johnson on the first turn of the first lap and led the rest of the way, the second race was a wild affair.
Gordon and Waltrip will start from the second row of the 43-car field in Sunday's Daytona 500, behind only pole-winner Johnson and Kevin Harvick, who earned their front-row positions in first-round qualifying Saturday.
Gordon, a two-time Daytona 500 winner and a four-time champion in NASCAR's top stock car series, led a five-car breakaway in the first race and was able to outdrive Dale Earnhardt Jr. in a battle of Chevrolets at the end.
Fourteen drivers from each race automatically made it into Sunday's lineup. Shawna Robinson wound up 24th but still got in, thanks to a qualifying speed from Saturday's time trials.