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Funny Car leader Jack Beckman tops qualifying

POMONA, Calif. (AP) -- Funny Car leader Jack Beckman topped qualifying Friday in the season-ending Automobile Club of Southern California NHRA Finals with a 4.025-second run at 319.75 mph.

Beckman earned three points to extend his lead over second-place Ron Capps to seven points. Capps has failed to qualify in the first two rounds, with two more rounds set for Saturday.

Beckman had the fast run a day after the engine blew on his Dodge Avenger, sending the car's fiberglass bodywork flying in a fiery explosion during his first qualifying attempt Thursday.

"Those guys were able to take a car that was in really bad shape last night and bring back a great race car," Beckman said. "Now we can play around tomorrow and go for the throat on Sunday."

Morgan Lucas had the Top Fuel lead, Greg Anderson topped the Pro Stock field, and Andrew Hines led in the Pro Stock Motorcycle class.

Lucas at least temporarily took the spotlight from the Top Fuel title contenders by running a 3.761 at 324.98 in the first round of qualifying for the class, which lost its opening session to rain Thursday. Points leader Antron Brown, trying to become the first black driver to win a major U.S. championship, was sixth.

"We're looking at it as getting ready for next year," Lucas said. "We're having a problem with the car not wearing as much clutch as it normally would. It's been kind of inconsistent in that regard."

Four-time Pro Stock champion Anderson, who has struggled with a new Chevrolet Camaro for the past few months, moved to the top of the bracket with a 6.527 at 211.76. Anderson has been the No. 1 qualifier 75 times, but is looking for his first No. 1 of this season. First-round leader Allen Johnson, close to securing his first championship, dropped to second in the 16-car order.

"This is like Christmas for me. It's been awhile," Anderson said. "Hopefully this gets me back in the groove. There's not a lot of room left (to improve), but there were a couple of places that were not quite perfect, so if we can brush them up we've got a shot (to stay No. 1)."

Hines strengthened his hold on the top spot in the Pro Stock Motorcycle field by pushing his Harley-Davidson to a performance of 6.838 at 196.10. He had run of 6.872 on Thursday.

"I didn't think the round was going to be as quick as it was (because of marginal conditions for the motorcycles) so it was surprising to see some of the numbers that were coming up," said Hines, who won the event last year. "We got pretty much all of it on that run. I don't know how much more we can improve on that. It was pretty good all the way down the track."

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