DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. --- As a former Busch Series champion, Kenny Wallace has enjoyed a lot of special racing moments in his life. But nothing compared to Thursday's eight-place finish in one of the Gatorade Duel qualifying races.
At times Wallace fought back tears after he earned a spot in the starting lineup for Sunday's Daytona 500.
"This the Daytona 500, and I raced my way into it. This is better than anything in my life, other than my wife and children," he said.
Brian Vickers recently parachuted from 13,000 feet, but that paled in comparison to making the 500 lineup. He finished 11th in the first qualifier to lock himself into the race.
"My heart rate today and my stress level today was a lot higher than jumping out of an airplane," he said. "I'm not going to lie to you: when you jump out and see the ground coming at you at 200 mph, there's some stress. But it doesn't hold a candle to making the Daytona 500. They just don't compare."
Wallace and Vickers took two qualifying spots from the first 150-mile qualifying race; John Andretti and Dale Jarrett took two spots from the second.
"This is a victory for us," Vickers said. "I haven't felt this good since I won my last race."
Fourteen drivers came into the qualifiers with a chance to win one of the four remaining spots in Sunday's main event.
Among those who didn't make it were: two-time Daytona 500 winner Bill Elliott , three-time winner Sterling Marlin and former Indy-car and Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve .
"I don't think there are words that can describe it, but that's life," Elliott said. "There will be days like this. I'm just bummed out."
Elliott drove the famed No. 21 Ford for Wood Brothers Racing. That team competed in the first Daytona 500 in 1949.
"I'm going to be here; the car won't be," team owner Eddie Wood said. "I don't know what that's going to feel like. I'm sure it's going to be bad. The Daytona 500 is just not another race. It is the Daytona 500. To me, it's bigger than the Indy 500 and all that."
A.J. Allmendinger , Vickers' teammate, missed the show after finishing 13th in the first 150-miler.
"This stinks," he said. "It's good that Brian got in for the guys back at the shop, but my guys deserved better than that. It's one of only 36 races, though. This will take a weekend to get over, for sure."
KEEP ON TRUCKING: Joey Clanton crashed his best race truck during testing a month ago at Daytona International Speedway.
The wreck apparently made it better.
His Ford F-150 was third-fastest in the final practice session Thursday and will be one of the favorites in tonight's Chevy Silverado 250 for the Craftsman Truck Series. The race starts at 8 p.m. (Speed).
"It actually drives better than it did then," Clanton said. "It just seems to turn better off the corners. The body is better. They had to put a new body on the truck, and the guys in the fab shop did an excellent job."
Reach Don Coble at email@example.com.