Jeff Gordon will race in his last Daytona 500 later this month while starting from the first position.
Gordon announced earlier this year that he would not compete for a championship after the 2015 season. He did not specify that he would retire, leaving open the possibility that he could race beyond 2015 on a limited basis. He has specified, however, that this Daytona will be his last.
For the first time in more than half a century the qualifying was conducted in so-called "knockout rounds" in which all cars qualify for the race simultaneously instead of one at a time.
While Gordon and other drivers escaped a congested track and posted high speeds, several cars wrecked during the inaugural qualifying run.
The controversial format was criticized by driver Clint Boyer, whose car was involved in a five-car wreck.
Six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmy Johnson qualified for the second position, and will join Gordon in the first row.
- Will Green