DAYTONA BEACH, Fla., Feb. 17 (UPI) -- Kurt Busch captured the pole for the Daytona 500 Thursday by winning the first of two qualifying races leading to Sunday's running of NASCAR's biggest event.
Jeff Burton claimed the second of the two 150-mile races, setting the stage for a Daytona 500 that should be unlike any seen before.
Drivers quickly learned after practicing at the newly-resurfaced Daytona International Speedway that the quickest way to get around the track was to hook up in two-car tandems. Fans used to seeing a large group of cars racing bumper to bumper and side to side will now see groups of two cars working together.
Busch moved into the pole position after original pole setter Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in a wreck during practice this week. Earnhardt had won the pole during the one-lap qualifying session, but because he will have to use a different car than the one in which he qualified he must start at the back of the pack.
Busch held off Regan Smith to win first qualifying race and Burton edged Childress Racing teammate Clint Bowyer by .005 seconds to win the second.
Bill Elliott, Michael Waltrip and Brian Keselowski were among those who raced their way into the Daytona 500 Thursday after beginning the qualifying events without a guaranteed spot in the field.
Busch won Saturday in the Budweiser Shootout, which unveiled the special kind of racing that will be seen Sunday.
"This has been incredible and I just don't want it to end," Busch said. "I want to make sure we keep doing everything right."