DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 14 (UPI) -- Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin won the two Daytona 500 qualifying races Thursday, with both outcomes creating NASCAR milestones.
Earnhardt won his second race in as many starts for Hendrick Motorsports, which he joined this year after leaving the team founded by his late father. Hamlin's victory was the first for a Toyota since that manufacturer joined NASCAR's top series last season.
Earnhardt, who captured the Bud Shootout exhibition race last weekend, will start third in Sunday's 50th running of the Daytona 500. Hamlin will be in the fourth starting position.
The top two spots on the grid were determined Sunday. Two-time defending series champion Jimmie Johnson and Michael Waltrip had the top two qualifying times, and thus earned first-row positions.
The rest of the field was determined by Thursday's two 46-lap races at the Daytona International Speedway.
Spots Nos. 5-10 Sunday will be taken by Reed Sorenson, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, Jeff Gordon, Casey Mears and Kasey Kahne.
Among those failing to make the 43-car field were Bill Elliott, Ken Schrader, Boris Said, Sterling Marlin and Jacques Villeneuve.
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