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SCHUMACHER LEADS TOP FUEL QUALIFYING

Defending Top Fuel champion Tony Schumacher led qualifying Thursday in the season-opening NHRA Winternationals.

Schumacher had a quarter-mile run of 4.513 seconds at 331.53 mph.

Scott Kalitta and Greg Anderson also topped their divisions at Auto Club Raceway.

Kalitta was quickest in Funny Car, posting a 4.818 at 322.65 in his Toyota Solara. But one of the two parachutes that help slow the car failed to open after he plowed into the safety sand traps. Kalitta wasn't injured, but the Solara body on his car needed extensive repairs.

John Force was 14th in his Ford Mustang after making a comeback from a serious crash last season at Dallas.

Anderson powered his Pontiac GXP to a 6.635 at 208.91 to lead Pro Stock.

Media picks JEFF Gordon: In voting on nascarmedia.com, Jeff Gordon is the preseason pick to win the 2008 Sprint Cup title.

More than 200 who cover the sport voted. Hendrick Motorsports teammate and defending champ Jimmie Johnson was runnerup. Tony Stewart was third.

Rounding out the preseason Chase choices: Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth, Kyle Busch, Carl Edwards, Kurt Busch, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Clint Bowyer and Jeff Burton

BUD SHOOTOUT POLE: Kurt Busch drew the lucky flag to earn Saturday's Budweiser Shootout pole position at Daytona International Speedway (Lineup, 9C).

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