February 16, 2006

Sadler and Gordon win Daytona 500 qualifying

By Lewis Franck

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (Reuters) - Thursday Elliot Sadler and
Jeff Gordon won their respective 150-mile qualifying races for
the Daytona 500 on Thursday, NASCAR's premier and
season-opening event.

Under unique Daytona 500 rules, the front row of the 43-car
field was locked in last Sunday with the Chevrolets of Jeff
Burton and three-times 500 winner, Gordon, starting one-two

The majority of the grid, however, is determined by
performances in the qualifying races.

Sadler, who drives a Ford, took the lead as the result of a
quick pit stop on lap 28 of the race originally scheduled to go
60 laps. It actually ran 64 laps because of the clean up of an
accident on lap 60.

"I definitely didn't want to see the caution come,"
explained Sadler, who had a comfortable lead until then. The
accident allowed Carl Edwards to close in on the race winner.

Edwards, also in a Ford, finished second by a mere 0.162
seconds. Dale Earnhardt jr., son of the late Dale Earnhardt who
died here five years ago in a late-race accident, finished
third in a Chevrolet.

The first race was delayed for more than an hour because of
a rain shower. The second race also went to extra laps for a
clean-up after a crash shortly before the 60th lap.

Gordon dominated the second race, leading 38 of the 64 laps
run at the 2.5 mile high-banked oval. It was his third
qualifying race victory. His team mate, Kyle Busch, finished
second. Jamie McMurray finished third in a Ford.

The second race resembled the first as Gordon took the lead
away from Busch as the result of a pit stop with Busch falling
as far back as seventh before he returned to second.

"Kyle had a very good car, and could get by all of us,"
Gordon said. "My guys got me out (of the pits) first."

The 48th running of the Daytona 500 is scheduled for Sunday
with a record purse in excess of $18 million. The winner is
guaranteed a minimum of more than $1.4 million.