Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SPEEDWEEKS NOTEBOOK; Elliott, Kvapil, Stewart Qualify Based on Speed

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

SPEEDWEEKS NOTEBOOK; Elliott, Kvapil, Stewart Qualify Based on Speed

Article excerpt

Byline: DON COBLE

DAYTONA BEACH - There will be 18 cars fighting for the final four spots in the Daytona 500 during Thursday's 150-mile Gatorade Duel qualifying races.

Sunday's qualifying locked in 40 spots: the top 35 car owners from the 2008 season, the three fastest qualifiers who aren't in the top 35 and past champion Terry Labonte.

Martin Truex Jr. won the pole position and Mark Martin was second. Both were among the top 35 last year, so their spot in the biggest race of the season was secured before time trials.

Bill Elliott, Travis Kvapil and Tony Stewart all raced their way into the starting lineup with the fastest speeds among the "go-or-go-homers." Elliott was fifth overall, while Kvapil was eighth and Stewart was 10th.

Labonte, a two-time series champion, will use that exemption to start the race.

The other 18 cars must qualify during the 150-mile races Thursday. The top two finishers from that group in each race will move into the Daytona 500. Those who still need to earn their spots include Jeremy Mayfield, A.J. Allmendinger, Mike Skinner, Joe Nemechek, Geoff Bodine, Derrike Cope and Scott Riggs. Bodine and Cope are former winners of the Daytona 500.

Elliott had the fastest car in both practice sessions on Saturday. His Wood Brothers Racing Ford was fifth in Sunday's time trials.

"I have such mixed emotions," he said. "I'm disappointed for those guys that we didn't sit on the pole as good as we ran [on Saturday]. But on the flip side I looked back a year ago when we ended up loading that Motorcraft Ford up going home. It's such a fine line.

"You've got to look at it from the standpoint of first this is your best opportunity to get in the Daytona 500 as far as qualifying speed. If you miss that, then you've got a second chance on Thursday, but you want to do it one step at a time. …

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