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Press Snoop: Stewart wins, Waltrip gets in.


TONY STEWART won the first of the two Gatorade Duel at Daytona races Thursday afternoon at Daytona International Speedway. He led 37 laps in the 62-lap race, more than any other driver. This finish guarantees him a spot on the inside second row for the NASCAR Nextel Cup Daytona 500 on Sunday.

Stewart said: "We have two more days of practice. I was up there a lot yesterday. So I know what we've got. I felt like I could win the race from the bottom. Yeah, the qualifying races and shootouts and the July race are great, but I really want this race on Sunday badly."

So far no-one has won the Bud Shootout, the Duel qualifying race and the Daytona 500. Stewart is two-thirds the way there, aiming for his picture to be hung in the Wall of Fame - reserved for the Daytona 500 winner.

Second was DALE EARNHARDT Jr, who recovered from an earlier tap from MICHAEL WALTRIP, which sent Junior spinning down into the infield. Earnhardt said: "I was surprised. Sometimes people get real tight coming up off that corner. It is a bad place to lose a nose and it happens a lot. I suspect that is the case. I don't think Michael would do anything like that intentionally to anybody. He is a pretty nice guy."

Third through fifth were JEFF BURTON, DAYTONA 500 polesitter DAVID GILLILAND - who was the top Ford - and DENNY HAMLIN. Gilliland joins several other drivers whose cars have had illegal parts confiscated this week. He and his Robert Yates Racing team-mate, RICKY RUDD, had unproved probe heaters in the transmission. Their parts were added Thursday to the NASCAR display of illegal parts, outside the NASCAR hauler. No penalties were announced.

Another driver, DAVE BLANEY, added to the NASCAR display Thursday. His windshield braces were in violation of NASCAR regulations. He retired with transmission woes.

Chevrolet was the marque of choice for seven of the top ten finishers in the Duel, and so far no Chevrolets have been invited into the NASCAR penalty box.

Waltrip was the top Toyota in ninth place, forced into a back-up car after his primary car was confiscated last Sunday by NASCAR for a thorough going-over. He ran the back-up car of team-mate DAVID REUTIMANN, as he thought it better than his own. Waltrip made the field for the Daytona 500 and, after the Duel, thanked his wife and NASCAR president Mike Helton for keeping him in the race when he wanted to go home Wednesday.

Last Sunday, NASCAR penalised Waltrip for violations found during pre- and post-qualifying for the Daytona 500. His intake manifold was taken before qualifying for having an unapproved substance and it was sent back to the NASCAR R&D Centre in Concord. Waltrip was allowed to qualify, but it was with a new manifold, and afterwards his car was impounded. He was told he would be allowed to run the Gatorade Duel in a back-up car.


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Tony Stewart - Home Depot Chevrolet   [pic credit: GM media]
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Stewart-Haas Racing team co-owner Gene Haas (Photo Credit: Streeter Lecka/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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