DAYTONA BEACH, FLA., FEB. 14 -- Pole-winner Davey Allison and heavily favored Dale Earnhardt both led from start to finish today in winning 125-mile qualifying races for Sunday's Daytona 500.
Neither was really challenged, although Ernie Irvan, who started from the pole in the second 50-lap sprint, stayed with Earnhardt throughout and lost by a car length at Daytona International Speedway.
Earnhardt, who last year won a qualifying race, a Busch Grand National race and led 155 of 199 laps in the 500 before a shredded tire cost him victory in NASCAR's crown jewel race, was equally in control today.
Allison, who last Saturday won the pole position for the 500-miler with a lap of 195.955 mph, was as impressive as Earnhardt.
Richard Petty, the seven-time Daytona 500 winner, gave a rain-soaked crowd of 100,000 its biggest thrill of the day by following Allison across the finish line to take second place after a battle with Hut Stricklin.
The start of the first race was delayed 3 1/2 hours by rain and the first four laps were run under caution. It ended under a yellow flag after NASCAR rookies Dorsey Schroeder and Sammy Swindell crashed in the third turn on Lap 49. Petty, who started seventh in the 29-car field, was up to second by Lap 32. Stricklin, driving for Bobby Allison, Davey's father, and married to the daughter of Davey's uncle Donnie, worked his way up from ninth place to challenge.
Stricklin moved his Buick Regal past Petty into second on Lap 42 and appeared ready to challenge Allison's Ford Thunderbird on the last lap before the caution flag.
At that point, the leaders raced for the finish line and Petty, 53, winless since July 1984, used the lapped car of Ted Musgrave to block Stricklin and take second place by about two feet.