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Elliott nips Earnhardt to win 2nd straight Daytona 500 pole

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JERRY MARKLAND/GETTY IMAGES

Chase Elliott won the pole at Daytona for the second straight year.

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Chase Elliott nipped Dale Earnhardt Jr. on the final qualifying lap Sunday to win his second straight pole for the Daytona 500.

Elliott turned a lap at 192.872 miles per hour to just edge Earnhardt’s speed of 192.864, becoming the first repeat pole winner in 27 years.

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The two drivers gave Hendrick Motorsports and Chevrolet a 1-2 front row for NASCAR’s biggest race Sunday.

‘‘I don’t really care who it is. I’m not going to feel bad about beating somebody,’’ Elliott said. ‘‘Dale’s a good guy. I’m happy to share the front row with him. Happier to beat him.’’

The 42-year-old Earnhardt, long NASCAR’s most popular driver, had the speed beat in his triumphant return after missing the second half of last season with a concussion. He missed the final 18 races with nausea, vision, and balance issues after at least the fifth concussion of his career following a June wreck. He was as sharp as ever in the No. 88 Chevrolet headed into his first race since last July.

‘‘Ain’t much to it. The car does all the work ,’’ he said.

The 21-year-old Elliott is the son of Hall of Fame driver and two-time Daytona 500 champion Bill Elliott. He became the youngest Daytona 500 pole winner a year ago and proved in the No. 24 Chevy that starting first last season was no fluke.

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Elliott also made it three straight years for the No. 24 on the pole. Jeff Gordon won the pole in 2015 in his final season before he retired and turned the car over to Elliott.

The rest of the field will be set Thursday in the two qualifying races.

Elliott will lead the field to green and try and avoid the problems that plagued him last season.

Elliott’s run at a Daytona 500 victory last season ended in the grass just 19 laps into the race.

The front end of his car lifted off the ground, and the rough ride caused enough damage that his car had to be towed to the garage.

Until the wreck, Elliott was the star of Speedweeks. He followed the pole with a win in the second-tier Xfinity Series race.

He’s back out front again and expecting a better finish this time.

‘‘I hope we can just try to get to the end of the 500 next,’’ he said.

‘‘We’ve obviously got to get through the Duels first. But, just making it to the end and having yourself in position, obviously, we’d love to have a shot to win this thing. It would be great, and I think we have a car that can do it.’’



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