NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow made its second appearance at Daytona with therunning of the Gatorade Duel 150 qualifying races on Thursday afternoon.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. put the familiar Earnhardt stamp on the firstqualifying race, as he led 25 of the 60 laps en route to his thirdvictory in the Gatorade Duels. He also won in '03 and '04, with thelatter win preceding his victory in the Daytona 500. It was Earnhardt'sninth top-five finish in nine Gatorade Duels, and he's finished fourthor higher in all nine Duels.

"First off, I've got to thank the engine guys," said Earnhardt Jr. afterhis most recent win "We had a little problem yesterday but they workedovernight to get us the package that was durable and also competitive,and it was good enough to win the race. Can't thank those guys enough."

The engine problem manifest itself earlier in the week and was "an issuebetween the camshaft and the lifter," said Jeff Andrews, engine programdirector for Hendrick Motorsports.

Without engine troubles, the No. 88 team of Earnhardt Jr. and crew chiefTony Eury Jr., armed with a Bud Shootout win last Saturday and a Duelwin on Thursday, is clearly the favorite going into Sunday's 50thrunning of the Daytona 500.

"I think we've got a great shot," Earnhardt Jr said while stopping shortof predicting victory in the 500. "We've won some races down here, so Ithink we've got to be in the group if there is a group (of favorites)."

Brian Vickers and Kenny Wallace earned spots in the 500, although a spinby Vickers on lap 4 brought out the race's first caution. Vickers andWallace were among drivers seeking to race their way into Sunday's race.

"Wow, where do I start?" Vickers said when asked to describe histumultuous afternoon in the Red Bull Toyota. He had previously spunduring morning practice for the Nationwide Series. "I was thinking, Ohno, not again," he said of his spin in the Gatorade 150.

Wallace was driving the Furniture Row Chevrolet powered by a HendrickMotorsports engine. He gave credit to his team for bringing him back forDaytona Speedweeks this year and said his brother Mike Wallace, hisspotter this week, was due a lot of credit for his run Thursday. "Ididn't win the race because Mike was spotting," said Kenny Wallace, "buthe inspired me."

Reed Sorenson finished second in the first Duel and said he is enjoyingrunning at Daytona this year more than any other in restrictor plateracing. "These cars are really weird," said Sorenson of the Car ofTomorrow. "When you get these cars stuck together, they really pick up alot of speed."

Kurt Busch was an early casualty, as he was forced out of the event withwhat was reported to be an electrical problem. Busch will use aprovisional for past champions to make the field for the 500. Busch'sDodge was the only car not running at the finish of the first Duel,which had 27 cars taking the green flag.


Denny Hamlin prevailed in the second Gatorade 150, winning in his JoeGibbs Racing Toyota to become the first driver since 1954 to visit aNASCAR Cup victory lane in a foreign brand. It was Hamln's first win inthe Gatorade Duels and he also gave Toyota its first victory in Cupracing.

Hamlin's Gibbs Racing teammate, Tony Stewart, finished second, and KyleBusch was 11th in the third Gibbs entry.

"I thought we definitely had a very strong car," said Hamlin. "Idefinitely thank the motor room for doing such a good job of hard hoursgetting these motors down here and prepared for us to try to run thisrace."

The second Duel was red flagged for just over six minutes following acrash by Patrick Carpentier on the 59th lap.

Toyota driver Dale Jarrett, of Michael Waltrip Racing, and JohnAndretti, driving a Chevrolet for car owner Bob Jenkins, each raced hisway into the Daytona 500, with Jarrett finishing ninth and Andretti10th.

Jarrett was a sentimental favorite to make the lineup for the Daytona500. After a career that includes a 1999 Cup points championship andthree wins in the 500, Jarrett will run only select races this year,including the first five to allow Waltrip's team to take advantage ofthe provisional for past champions.

The provisional for past champions was not available for Jarrett inSunday's race, however, as Kurt Busch's early exit in the first Duelgave Busch that provisional as the most recent qualifying champion.

Drivers who reached the Daytona 500 lineup on Thursday but who were notguaranteed spots: Brian Vickers, Kenny Wallace, Kurt Busch, DaleJarrett, John Andretti, Joe Nemechek and David Reutimann.

The most significant absence from the Daytona 500 will be the No. 21Ford of Wood Brothers Racing, a team that had previously missed only two500s, the last time in 1962.


1. Dale Earnhardt Jr.
2. Reed Sorenson
3. Ryan Newman
4. Casey Mears
5. Carl Edwards
6. Bobby Labonte
7. Juan Pablo Montoya
8. Kenny Wallace
9. Sam Hornish Jr.
10. Paul Menard
11. Brian Vickers
12. Joe Nemechek
13. A.J. Almendinger
14. Martin Truex Jr.
15. Scott Riggs
16. Bill Elliott
17. Regan Smith
18. Clint Bowyer
19. Boris Said
20. Jeremy Mayfield
21. Sterling Marlin
22. Elliott Sadler
23. Jimmie Johnson
24. Carl Long
25. J.J. Yeley
26. Kyle Petty
27. Kurt Busch


1. Denny Hamlin
2. Tony Stewart
3. Jeff Gordon
4. Kasey Kahne
5. Mark Martin
6. David Ragan
7. Kevin Harvick
8. Greg Biffle
9. Dale Jarrett
10. John Andretti
11. Kyle Busch
12. David Reutimann
13. Michael Waltrip
14. Robby Gordon
15. Matt Kenseth
16. Travis Kvapil
17. David Gilliand
18. Ken Schrader
19. Patrick Carpentier
20. Eric McClure
21. Dave Blaney
22. Jeff Burton
23. Jacques Villeneuve
24. Jamie McMurray
25. Stanton Barrett
26. Dario Franchitti