Daytona 500 Qualifying: Dale Earnhardt Jr. Wins Pole Position

NASCAR couldn't have hoped for a better story than this: Dale Earnhardt Jr., the sport's most popular driver, has won the pole for next week's Daytona 500.

Earnhardt Jr. topped the qualifying charts with a lap of 186.089 mph on Sunday afternoon, edging Hendrick Motorsports teammate Jeff Gordon (185.966 mph) to claim a pole at Daytona International Speedway for the first time in his career.

The Hendrick duo led a contingent of eight Chevrolets in the top 10 – though only Earnhardt Jr. and Gordon will retain their starting positions for the Daytona 500.

Everyone else will wait until after Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile races to learn their starting spot.

It marked the second straight year that Hendrick Motorsports has swept the front row.

Sunday was also a success for three drivers who locked themselves into the Daytona 500 field based on their speeds –Bill Elliott, Travis Kvapil, Joe Nemechek – and Terry Labonte, who guaranteed himself a spot by using a past champion's provisional.

Other drivers such as Michael Waltrip and Dave Blaney still have a shot to make the Daytona 500 via speed if either Elliott, Kvapil or Nemechek claim a transfer spot in the Gatorade Duels (see list below).

Here are the full qualifying results for the Daytona 500 (Note – This is not the starting lineup for the Daytona 500):

  1. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (locked into No. 1 spot)
  2. Jeff Gordon (locked into No. 2 spot)
  3. Trevor Bayne
  4. Paul Menard
  5. Clint Bowyer
  6. Jeff Burton
  7. Ryan Newman
  8. Mark Martin
  9. Greg Biffle
  10. Tony Stewart
  11. Kurt Busch
  12. Juan Pablo Montoya
  13. Marcos Ambrose
  14. Kevin Harvick
  15. Jimmie Johnson
  16. David Ragan
  17. Bill Elliott* (locked in based on speed)
  18. Carl Edwards
  19. AJ Allmendinger
  20. Travis Kvapil* (locked in based on speed)
  21. Joe Nemechek* (locked in based on speed)
  22. Matt Kenseth
  23. David Reutimann
  24. Brad Keselowski
  25. Michael Waltrip*
  26. Dave Blaney*
  27. Jamie McMurray
  28. Regan Smith
  29. Kasey Kahne
  30. Kyle Busch
  31. Bobby Labonte
  32. Brian Vickers
  33. Martin Truex Jr.
  34. Joey Logano
  35. Todd Bodine*
  36. Kevin Conway*
  37. Casey Mears*
  38. David Gilliland
  39. Steve Wallace
  40. Michael McDowell*
  41. Robby Gordon
  42. Terry Labonte* (locked in based on past champion's provisional)
  43. Robert Richardson Jr.
  44. Denny Hamlin
  45. JJ Yeley*
  46. Andy Lally
  47. Derrike Cope*
  48. Brian Keselowski*
* – Required to qualify on time
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