DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Dale Earnhardt Jr. won the first qualifying race Thursday night for the Daytona 500 to earn a starting spot on the second row for NASCAR's biggest event.
It was Earnhardt's 17th career win at Daytona International Speedway, and came on the 15th anniversary of his father's death. The late Dale Earnhardt was killed on the final lap of the 2001 Daytona 500, and led all drivers with 34 career victories at Daytona.
Earnhardt dominated the 150-mile race and easily darted around leader Denny Hamlin with six laps remaining to cruise to the victory.
Defending Daytona 500 winner Joey Logano was second and Ryan Blaney was third. Blaney's finish opened up a transfer spot into the Daytona 500, which went to Michael McDowell based on his 14th-place finish.