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Kurt Busch wins first Daytona qualifier



Daytona Beach, FL (Sports Network) - Kurt Busch held off Regan Smith in a two- lap overtime finish to win the first qualifying race for the Daytona 500 on Thursday at Daytona International Speedway.

Busch, who also won the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona last Saturday, passed Kasey Kahne with a push from Smith just after the final restart on the second to last lap.

Smith attempted to pass Busch for the lead on the last lap, but Busch blocked him as they crossed the finish line.

"This has been an incredible Speedweeks, and I just don't want it to end," Busch said after winning a qualifying event at Daytona for the first time. "I want to make sure we keep doing everything right."

Busch and Smith worked well in drafting throughout the 62-lap race.

An incident involving Michael McDowell in the closing laps set up the green- white-checkered finish.

Smith finished second, while Kevin Harvick, who led the most laps with 20, took the third spot. Matt Kenseth and Kahne rounded out the top-five.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished 13th in his first opportunity to drive his Daytona 500 backup car. Earnhardt Jr., who won the pole for 500-mile race last Sunday, wrecked his primary car during Wednesday's practice. He had to start from the rear of field in the first qualifier.

Earnhardt Jr. will also start in the back for the Daytona 500.

J.J. Yeley earned a starting position in the Daytona 500 after racing his way in with a 17th-place finish.

"This is huge," Yeley said. "It wasn't as good as obviously you hoped when we came down here, but I wouldn't be [in the Daytona 500] if it weren't for Marcos Ambrose. He was a heck of a pusher."

Bill Elliott will not need to use his qualifying time to put him into Sunday's race. Elliott's 15th-place run was good enough to give him a starting position. Therefore, Michael Waltrip will make it into the Daytona 500 based on his qualifying run.

Waltrip, the 2001 and '03 Daytona 500 winner, will compete in the second qualifying event.

02/17 16:41:48 ET