Sadler, Gordon win Duel qualifying races

Sadler, Gordon win Duel qualifying races

Race 1: Elliott Sadler ends up with the victory Mother Nature apparently is not a big fan of Speedweeks: the second major event of the ten-day race fest was delayed for over an hour-and-a-half due to inclement weather. Elliott Sadler...

Race 1: Elliott Sadler ends up with the victory

Mother Nature apparently is not a big fan of Speedweeks: the second major event of the ten-day race fest was delayed for over an hour-and-a-half due to inclement weather.

Elliott Sadler takes the checkered flag.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Jeff Burton finally led the field to the green flag for the first race, but for Burton this was nothing more than a practice session. Burton and Jeff Gordon are the only two drivers to have locked in their positions via time-trial attempts last Sunday.

Burton did, however, keep the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevy out front until lap 14 when Tony Stewart made the pass for the lead. The race ran green until lap 27 when Paul Menard brought out the first caution flag.

Menard was having a tire problem and had dropped off the pace, but did not make it to pit road before the tire blew sending the No. 15 Chevy around and into the outside retaining wall.

The wreck takes Menard out of the field for the Daytona 500, "The car was awesome for a long time, then it started to get tight. Really tight. Then we just lost the draft. I don't know if we had a slow leak but we ended up blowing the right front tire and going through the tri-oval."

The leaders pitted with Elliott Sadler beating Stewart off pit road for the lead. Sadler led on the lap 32 restart but NASCAR called a caution for rain the next lap. The race was red-flagged and the field brought to pit road and parked.

When the field restarted Sadler led unchallenged until lap 59 when the caution came out for the No. 92 driven by Chad Chaffin who hit the wall. Under the caution as the cars came around they tried to dodge a huge piece of debris on the track which caused contact between several cars with Sterling Marlin and Dale Jarrett getting the worst of it.

That set up a green/white/checker finish. Sadler led on the restart at lap 63 with two laps to settle the event. In the end, no one had anything for the Yates power plant under the No. 38 Ford.

That locks Sadler into the second row for the Daytona 500.

"Man, this is a great feeling," said Sadler. "Tommy (Baldwin, crew chief) and the guys have been pumped up so much coming back down here. To get a win for M&M's is a great feeling. We were shut out last year and Tommy came on board and it gave us a new outlook on racing and new ideas about things. To get Ford Fusion's first win in NASCAR is great and something I will always remember."

Carl Edwards, Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Jimmie Johnson and Matt Kenseth completed the top five.

"I was able to get back to the top five and we were up in the top five," explained Earnhardt whose team made an engine change forcing him to start from the rear. "We still have some more work to do, I am not quite that happy with the way the car handles.but I think we can get it worked out.we have a great car if we can get it to turn then we will be able to do that (get up front and lead)."

Race Two: Jeff Gordon takes the win

Jeff Gordon, already locked into the outside pole position for the 500, took the green flag on the second race, and led until lap four until Bobby Labonte in the No. 43 Dodge passed for the lead.

Jeff Gordon and Bobby Labonte battle for the lead.
Photo by Eric Gilbert.
Labonte stayed out front until lap seven when Kyle Busch wheeled the No. 5 Hendrick Chevy to the front. Busch led until lap 28 when the first caution fell for smoke on Joe Nemechek's No. 01 Chevy.

That brought the field to pit road with Gordon getting out first shuffling previous leader Busch back to seventh. Gordon restarted on lap 32 and led through a caution at lap 51 when Dave Blaney in the No. 22 Dodge blew a tire.

The No. 24 Hendrick Chevy led the field to the restart on lap 55 but like the first race with one lap to go, the rear of the field got itchy with David Stremme, JJ Yeley and Travis Kvapil getting together.

That set up another green/white/checker finish with the cars lined up for a two-lap shootout to settle the duel. In the end no one had anything for Gordon who easily sailed the No. 24 Chevy to victory lane.

"Car was awesome," said Gordon. "We wanted to be out in front the whole time.Kyle was pushing me the whole time. That young guy is so full of enthusiasm and youthfulness you never know what he is going to pull. But it was a great race."

Kyle Busch, Jamie McMurray, Bobby Labonte and Mark Martin completed the top five.

Among the notable drivers missing the 500 show are Kenny Wallace, Mike Skinner, Randy LaJoie and Scott Riggs.

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Series NASCAR-CUP