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“This is what champions are made of.” Ironically, under the rules that NHRA operated under for the previous 54 seasons, Fuller would have clinched the title with his victory last Sunday in Las Vegas. This time around, Fuller is 52 points ahead of the pack that includes Larry Dixon, Brandon Bernstein and three-time defending champion Tony Schumacher. “I’m upbeat,” said Fuller, who also failed to get into the field after two runs at Infineon Raceway last July, but rebounded to qualify third. “If we can’t make one good run in four attempts, we don’t deserve to be in and don’t deserve the championship. This is a tough class. We’re not the only car not running good. “I’ve not won anything yet and this is a prime example.” Running once a day on Thursday and Friday poses a problem unlike any other event on the NHRA circuit. “We have a ton of confidence,” Fuller said. “We’ve just had a few gremlins. We had a mechanical malfunction on the first run and the motor broke at 1,000-foot. It was going to run a mid-4.50. We dropped a cylinder at the hit today and just missed the tune-up. “Am I in panic mode? No. We’re not going to be down. We’ll come out tomorrow and get in. We can’t get a grip. That’s not an excuse, it is what it is.” Todd, who announced he would be teaming with Morgan Lucas in 2008, said Fuller’s task will be “tough.” “He has his work cut out for him,” said Todd, who didn’t think his run would stand up. “It could get hotter but (Fuller crew chief Rob) Flynn is plenty capable of getting that car set. It’s exciting for the Countdown.” There’s no such drama in Funny Car. Torrance native Tony Pedregon, who has a commanding 91-point lead on Gary Scelzi, is 12th among the 26 cars that took a pass. Ron Capps is fourth, Scelzi seventh and Robert Hight ninth. In Pro Stock, the four title contenders are in the top five. In additional to Connolly, points leader Greg Anderson is third and Allen Johnson fifth. Earlier this year, Martin Truex Jr. got his first NASCAR Nextel Cup win. Now he has his first pole, too. The 27-year-old Dale Earnhardt Inc. driver turned a lap of 193.105 mph at Texas Motor Speedway to grab the top spot for the Dickies 500. The pole came in the 79th race of Truex’s Cup career and it came in a Chevrolet that had to undergo major repairs after a crash Sunday at Atlanta. His pole wasn’t assured until series leader Jeff Gordon, the second to last of 48 drivers to make a qualifying attempt on the 1.5-mile oval, came up just short at 192.424. Gordon was followed by rookie Juan Pablo Montoya at 192.417, Kevin Harvick and rookie A.J. Allmendinger, both at 192.239, Kurt Busch at 192.164 and Denny Hamlin at 192.130. Carl Edwards has a good starting spot for the race that can clinch his NASCAR Busch Series title. Edwards had a fast lap of 190.745 mph to qualify third for the O’Reilly Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway. Edwards only has to finish today’s race 36th or better to clinch the season title with two races still left after that. A week after his first Busch victory at Memphis, David Reutimann earned his first career pole with a qualifying lap of 191.646 mph at the 1 -mile Texas track. Reutimann is second to Edwards in season points, but is 531 behind the leader. Tony Stewart, making his 12th Busch start of the season, had a lap of 190.954 mph and will start on the front row beside Reutimann. Ted Musgrave broke a 66-race winless streak, taking the checkered flag under caution after the two trucks in front of him crashed going into the first turn of what was supposed to be a green-white finish. Chad McCumbee spun the tires on his Chevrolet on the final restart and when he tried to keep Jack Sprague from passing him on the restart, the two made contact and slammed into the wall at Texas Motor Speedway. Dickies 500 O’Reilly Challenge Silverado 350k Alonso leaves Two-time Formula One champion Fernando Alonso left McLaren after a stormy first season with the British team. Alonso joined McLaren after winning the championship the past two years with Renault. He clashed with management and teammate Lewis Hamilton throughout the season, and finished behind champion Kimi Raikkonen of Ferrari and Hamilton. Staff writer Louis Brewster contributed to this report.160Want local news?Sign up for the Localist and stay informed Something went wrong. Please try again.subscribeCongratulations! You’re all set! AD Quality Auto 360p 720p 1080p Top articles1/5READ MOREStriving toward a more perfect me: Doug McIntyre JR Todd remained atop the class with his pass of 4.521 seconds at 328.22 mph he posted Thursday. Todd and Jeff Arend in Funny Car managed to keep the top spot, while Richie Stevens Jr. and Chip Ellis moved to number one in Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle. Arend, with mother Sylvie watching him race for the first time in his 30-year career, did not improve on Thursday’s pass of 4.781 at 324.90. Stevens bumped Jeg Coughlin out the top spot with a run of 6.665 at 206.76 to edge Countdown contender Dave Connolly. In PSM, title contenders Chip Ellis and Matt Smith are one-town, with Ellis’ 6.965 at 191.46 the day’s best. But the Top Fuel drama was the talk of the day. “This isn’t a story yet,” Fuller said after he dropped a cylinder when he hit the throttle. “I have plenty of confidence. It’s not even in my head that I don’t qualify. From news services Nothing like adding a little drama to the final day of qualifying for the NHRA Auto Club Finals. Rod Fuller, the driver atop the Top Fuel dragster points standings in the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series Countdown to One, is not yet in the 16-car field for Sunday’s finals. Fuller is 18th among 22 entries following the first two of four qualifying runs at Pomona Raceway. The final two passes are set for today at Fairplex. The first round is at 11 a.m.