Atlanta Richie Stevens Stays Hot

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 14) - Fresh off his runner-up finish at the National Hot Rod Association's last event in Richmond, Va., Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens blazed into the top half of the qualifying field Friday night at the 19th Annual...

COMMERCE, Ga. (May 14) - Fresh off his runner-up finish at the National Hot Rod Association's last event in Richmond, Va., Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens blazed into the top half of the qualifying field Friday night at the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals. Stevens' second round pass of 6.966 seconds at 197.54 mph in the cool night air garnered him the No. 8 spot on the qualifying ladder.

Earlier in the day Stevens had posted a 7.024-second lap at 196.64 mph in his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, which was very competitive for the hot mid-afternoon session. "That first run really helped us," Stevens said. "The car spun a lot at the start and it shook a little at mid track, but for the most part it ran pretty well. It was nice to get a solid run right out of the trailer because it gave us a good baseline to work from. After that we have a real good idea of what the track would hold and what we need to do to go faster."

The knowledge the Valspar Refinish crew gained from the first session coupled with the rain-delayed 10 p.m. start to the second round helped produce Stevens' drastically improved time.

"We're in (the qualifying field) solid now," Stevens said. "Which is always a good place to be at the end of the first day. Running late at night might have made this last session the quickest of the weekend and the field could stay exactly where it's at right now. Although anything can happen tomorrow morning so we'll have to stay on our game and be ready to continue running good times. I really want to keep the Valspar machine in the top half of the field and keep lane choice on Sunday. It could be important.

"Round 2 was actually a pretty ugly run. Every time I pulled the gear shifter the car wanted to go some direction other than straight ahead. I felt like I was all over the place. If I had gone straight down the strip, I might've run a 6.93 or at least a 6.94. But we're all pretty happy with where we're at right now."

Stevens and the rest of the pro class-drivers will have two more chances to improve on their posted times during Saturday's two qualifying sessions, which are scheduled for 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. EST.

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Series NHRA