The stage is set for the Daytona 500

The stage is set for the Daytona 500

DAYTONA BEACH, FL (WMBF) - The wait is over. The 2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup season begins Sunday. In the spotlight: a Sprint Cup rookie trying to make history, and his veteran teammate looking to win the Great American Race for the third time.

"I'm so happy for him," Dale Earnhardt Junior said of his running mate Chase Elliott. "He's got a lot of things on his plate. So for him to go out there, he's got the Cup season looming over his head, got a lot of things going on." Elliott won Saturday xfinity Powershares QQQ 300. He's the pole sitter for Sunday's Daytona 500.

"For me, I was standing out there in the middle of the front straightaway at Daytona with a checkered flag in front of me, with a bunch of people in front of me, a speedway with a history all around," Elliott said Saturday night. "You should enjoy them because you don't know if you're ever going to get another one of them."

He made sure to take time to soak in one victory before thinking about the biggest race of his young career.

Elliott drove his way to the top in qualifying, clinching the front row spot with the fastest time a week ago. Earnhardt Jr. had to race his way in to the spot right behind the newcomer, running away with the first of two Can-Am Duels Thursday.

"I was so nervous," Earnhardt Jr. said with a smile. The nerves weren't over winning, though. They were over keeping his car safe. He named it Amelia. "I know how good it was versus what we have. What we have is a capable car in the trailer, but this thing is special. So I'm real excited."

Defending Sprint Cup Champion Kyle Busch won Duel number two and will start right next to Elliott. He moves up because Matt Kenseth wrecked Thursday and will have to move to the back of the pack.

"I didn't win this race to qualify myself for the fourth starting position," Busch said, "but with our teammate having trouble there at the end of the race, they'll have to go to a backup car, it looks. We'll get a chance to start on the front row. That's pretty cool."

Those three drivers will lead the pack of 40 when the green flag d rops Sunday at 1 p.m.

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