Gordon And Busch Duel Winners

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch scored exciting victories in Thursday's Gatorade Duel at Daytona 150 mile qualifying races that set for the field for Sunday's 51st running of the Daytona 500.

Gordon showed he's ready to put last year's winless season behind when he started the day with a thrilling victory in the opening race.

Gordon held off Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson to pick up his first Sprint Cup Series checkered flag in more than a year.

"That’s what I’m talking about starting off 2009," said Gordon, who last won a points race in October of 2007. "Who says we can’t win? I’m really excited about the Daytona 500 after that race. It’s been awhile since I’ve been to Victory Lane. I’ve got to take advantage of this.”

Joey Logano and Aric Almirola rounded out the first five finishers.

Kurt Busch, who spun early in the race, came back to finish sixth. Kasey Kahne, Scott Riggs, Jamie McMurray and Paul Menard completed the top ten.

Riggs was able to secure a transfer spot into Sunday's Daytona 500 with the finish, a huge boost for the upstart Tommy Baldin Racing team.

"It feels absolutely awesome, it’s like we just won the race there,” Riggs said. “The racing drug that all of us are addicted to, that’s what kept us going.”

With Stewart also claiming a spot in the 500, Regan Smith was guaranteed a position in Sunday's field by virtue of his qualifying speed.

Bill Elliott had trouble in the Wood Brothers Ford when the transmission locked up early in the race. Fortunately for Elliott he was already guaranteed a spot in the 500 thanks to his qualifying effort.

"The transmission broke. It just hung in one gear," Elliott explained. "I tried to go to second and it locked it up over there. Well, it’s a good thing it happened the way it happened, because, if not, we’d have been out of the race. We’re still in the 500.”

Thursday's nightcap was another exciting affair that went down to the wire before Kyle Busch was able to outrun Mark Martin to the checkered flag.

The Joe Gibbs Racing driver drove his M&M's Toyota to the win over the Daytona 500 outside pole sitter with Brian Vickers, Juan Pablo Montoya and Denny Hamlin rounding out the top five.

"I saw Mark in the mirror kind of going high," Busch said. "I just wanted to work my way up there instead of pulling up in case he was already on my (bumper). It was a great race."

The second race also featured a pair of underdog stories in Jeremy Mayfield and A.J. Allmendinger who both raced their way into the Daytona 500 with upstart teams.

"I can't believe it," Mayfield said. "Just 23 days ago we didn't have a race team. I am really proud of all these guys."

"It means so much to the whole organization," Allmendinger said of the Richard Petty Motorsports team, which came together after a merger between Petty Enterprises and Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

"It was just a whole team effort. We're just happy to do what we set out to do."

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