Earnhardt Jr. wins Daytona 500 pole

SPORTS NETWORK

, Last Updated: 4:26 PM ET

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Hendrick Motorsports once again swept the front starting row for the February 20 Daytona 500 after Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the pole position and Jeff Gordon locked down the second spot in Sunday's qualifying at Daytona International Speedway.

To the crowd's delight at Daytona, Earnhardt Jr. posted a fast lap at 186.089 m.p.h. for his tenth career Sprint Cup Series pole. His last top starting position came in March 2010 at Atlanta. It also was Earnhardt Jr.'s first pole for a points-paying race at a restrictor-plate track (Daytona and Talladega Superspeedway). He selected the first starting position for Saturday's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona during a random drawing the night before the pre-season race.

Earnhardt Jr. won the Daytona 500 in 2004 and finished second to Jamie McMurray in last year's race.

Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 champion, turned a lap of 185.966 m.p.h.

It's the second straight year and third time overall that Hendrick drivers will start on the front row for NASCAR's most prestigious race of the season. Mark Martin won the pole, and Earnhardt Jr. started second in the 2010 Daytona 500. Ken Schrader and Darrell Waltrip put their Hendrick cars on row one for the 1989 Daytona 500, with Waltrip winning the race.

While Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon have secured the front row for next Sunday's Daytona 500, the remaining 43-car field will determined in Thursday's Gatorade Duel twin-qualifying races.


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