Waltrip Stewart Duel Winners

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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Michael Waltrip and Tony Stewart took Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona twin qualifying races at Daytona International Speedway and the field for Sunday's 47th running of the Daytona 500 is set.

While Waltrip and Stewart stood in victory lane, four other drivers had reason to celebrate by earning a spot in Sunday's race - Kenny Wallace, Mike Skinner, Martin Truex, Jr. and Kevin Lepage.

The foursome's finishes were bad news for two other drivers trying to make the field, Robby Gordon and Kerry Earnhardt, who will now both miss the season-opening race.

In the opening race, Michael Waltrip edged Dale Earnhardt, Jr. in a photo finish as the DEI team posted a 1-2 finish.

The performance was vindication for the DEI organization after its well-publicized struggles in Sunday's qualifying session.

"It was tense," said Waltrip. "I knew when I got to second behind Dale Junior that I had a shot. I just followed Dale down there."

The win was Waltrip's second in the Thursday pre-Daytona 500 qualifying races, which were increased from 125 to 150 miles this season.

Mike Skinner, Ryan Newman and Ricky Rudd wound up the top-five.

Skinner, driving a Bill Davis Racing entry in a deal that came together late in the preparation for Daytona, earned a spot in Sunday's Daytona 500.

Kurt Busch, Jeff Gordon, Jamie McMurray, Kyle Busch and Kenny Wallace completed the first ten.

Wallace edged Kerry Earnhardt for the tenth position, good enough to claim the other Daytona 500 spot available in the race.

"It was just one move on the white-flag lap," Wallace said. "I had a run, I swear I was running 220 mph. Don't let people lie to you. My gut has been torn out all week and I haven't been able to sleep. But we earned it, we did it, and I am so excited."

A multi-car crash marred the nightcap that saw Stewart drive his Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet home to the checkered flag.

As the field raced out of the fourth turn on lap 36, Kevin Harvick put the nose of his GM Goodwrench Chevy inside of leader Jimmie Johnson. Johnson's Lowe's Monte Carlo slid across the backstretch and before the incident was over the cars of Rusty Wallace, Mark Martin and Joe Nemechek were destroyed in a grinding crash. Harvick's car was hit hard two separate times while Wallace's Dodge went airborne after being hit from behind.

Fortunately, no drivers were hurt in the accident. Hurt feelings were another matter.

"You don't bump draft somebody in the middle of a turn," a visibly upset Johnson said. "It's a shame. He just tore up six or seven good race cars. I hope Richard Childress either fires him or does something about it. It's just ridiculous."

"It's pretty simple," Johnson continued. "The #29 was a total idiot and came down from the center of the turn. I'm just thankful our car wasn't destroyed."

Not surprisingly, Harvick had another view of the incident.

"I couldn't get off of him," he said, not before dodging a water bottle thrown his way by an irate Joe Nemechek. "It was not something where you want to bump draft in the middle of the corner. He slowed down and got sideways and I got in the back of him."

Nemechek summed up the melee this way.

"He just drives stupid," he said. "He'll get it back. It was totally uncalled for what happened out there. Everybody is racing and he's trying to turn people around in the middle of the corner. It's ridiculous."

Audio: Tony Stewart says that teammate Bobby Labonte was a key to victory

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NASCAR Sprint Cup, 2005

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