Busch, Burton win Daytona 500 qualifiers

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, Last Updated: 7:52 PM ET

Daytona Beach, FL - Jeff Burton and Kurt Busch won Thursday's Gatorade Duel qualifying races in thrilling finishes at Daytona International Speedway, while J.J. Yeley, Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip and Brian Keselowski raced their way into the Daytona 500.

Burton edged his Richard Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer by the slimmest of margins in the second race. He crossed the line 0.005 seconds ahead of Bowyer to win a Daytona 500 qualifying event for the first time.

Waltrip finished third, while Kyle Busch took the fourth spot and Keselowski, the older brother of Sprint Cup Series regular and 2010 Nationwide champion Brad Keselowski, was fifth.

Kurt Busch held off Regan Smith during a two-lap overtime finish to earn the win in the first qualifier. Busch passed Kasey Kahne with a push from Smith just after the final restart on the second to last lap. Kevin Harvick finished third, while Matt Kenseth and Kasey Kahne rounded out the top-five.

Elliott's 15th-place finish and Yeley's 17th-place run were good enough to earn them a starting position in the Daytona 500.

Busch started Speedweeks events at Daytona by winning last Saturday's pre- season Budweiser Shootout. He will start first in the Daytona 500 by virtue of his win in the qualifier.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. claimed the pole for the Daytona 500 this past weekend, but Earnhardt Jr. will have to start Sunday's 500-mile from the rear of the field, since he was forced to use a backup car after crashing his primary one in practice on Wednesday at Daytona.

Earnhardt Jr. got his first opportunity to drive his backup car in the first qualifier, finishing 13th in the 62-lap event.

Five drivers -- Casey Mears, Todd Bodine, Derrike Cope, Michael McDowell and Kevin Conway -- failed to make the field for the Daytona 500. Cope won the race in 1990. Mears finished second to Jimmie Johnson in the 2006 event.


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