Atlanta ''Kid'' clinches spot in two separate fields

ATLANTA (May 6) -- The final day of professional qualifying for the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals saw third-year driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens earn a position in two separate Pro Stock fields. In one shot, Stevens...

ATLANTA (May 6) -- The final day of professional qualifying for the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts NHRA Southern Nationals saw third-year driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens earn a position in two separate Pro Stock fields. In one shot, Stevens secured a spot in the elimination rounds of this race and also earned enough points to place himself sixth on the ladder of the prestigious Holley Pro Stock Dominator Duel, a special race for the top eight qualifiers of the last 22 events.

Stevens' lap of 6.972 seconds at 196.42 mph held down the 14th position on the final elimination standings and extends his streak of consecutive races to 27 straight events. It also kept the 21-year-old from New Orleans in the elite group of eight that will compete for $50,000 at the next race in Englishtown, N.J. This will mark Stevens' second invite to the Duel, which means he's earned a spot every year since turning pro.

"This is a great moment for the Valspar team," Stevens said. "Spread the glory all the way around. My dad (Richie Stevens Sr.), crew chief Tommy Utt, John Utt, and all of our friends that help us out at every race, everyone helped us get to this point.

"It's a real honor to be a part of the Dominator Duel. Only the best eight cars get invited and we've done enough over the last year to earn a spot for the Valspar Firebird. Being a part of the Duel means that you have a consistent car, which is the key to success in drag racing. I can't believe we've already been invited twice. Now I hope we can win this deal. I won the last race in E-town so we know the track pretty well."

First things first. Stevens will open this Sunday's race action against points leader and No. 3 qualifier Jeg Coughlin, who posted a 6.924 at 198.26 mph earlier today. Coughlin has won five of the first six races this season but his sole loss came at the hands of Stevens, a fact that has the young driver feeling cautiously hopeful.

"He doesn't make many mistakes," Stevens said. "And he's got about five-hundredths of a second on me this weekend. But we still have to race and that means I still have a chance. I know (engine suppliers) Warren and Kurt (Johnson) want me to beat Jeggy more than anything so they're giving us their best motor to use. Even so, I'm going to have to be perfect to beat him. I'll do what I can.

"I'm just glad we get to play tomorrow. I was sweating it out in that last round because there were some good cars behind us that could have put us out. But we hung in there and now we start fresh in the morning."

The elimination rounds of the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, on TNN. They will be rebroadcast at midnight.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin