Columbus: Quarterfinal round claims Richie Stevens

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 18) -- A weekend brimming with promise ended abruptly in the second round of eliminations for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens. The Valspar Refinish-sponsored, third-year pro had started the 36th annual Pontiac ...

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 18) -- A weekend brimming with promise ended abruptly in the second round of eliminations for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens. The Valspar Refinish-sponsored, third-year pro had started the 36th annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals with a convincing win in Round 1 but as quickly as Lady Luck had visited Stevens' pit, she was gone and he lost his quarterfinal race by .01 of a second.

Stevens opened the day with a hole-shot win over higher-ranked pro Troy Coughlin. He left the starting tree with a .469-second reaction time in front of Coughlin's .511-second launch and held on to win in 7.036 seconds at 193.93 mph compared to Coughlin's 7.007-second pass at 194.63 mph.

"It felt great to get a win at the starting line," Stevens said. "It's something I've been concentrating on and I was glad to see us get the win. I thought it was the start of something great. It gave us lane choice over Allen Johnson and he won his first round on a disqualification so I knew he didn't have any data to work from. Things were stacking up nice for us."

In Round 2, Stevens again posted a stellar reaction time of .438-seconds, which was well ahead of Johnson's .466-second launch. But this time his opponent had too much horsepower and he caught and passed Stevens just before the finish line to take a marginal one hundredths of a second win. The final numbers showed Stevens crossing in 7.023 seconds at 193.88 mph behind Johnson's 6.985-second pass at 196.16 mph.

"It looks as though we did everything right," Stevens said. "The computer graph from the run looks good and I left on his and hit the shift points at the right time. We just flat-out didn't run the back half of the racetrack very well. It's like something was zapping our power. Tommy's (Utt, crew chief) is scratching his head on this one.

"It was frustrating because I knew I was ahead and I didn't see him until after half-track, but then he started creeping in there and he slowly pulled by. That's Kurt Johnson's No. 2 motor we have in there so it should be strong. We'll have to solve this mystery.

"I was thinking about a big move up in the points this weekend. Now, I'm just happy to stay in eighth place. We'll just have to put this behind us in a hurry and get ready for St. Louis. We'll be racing again in four days."

ESPN2 will broadcast semifinal and final-round action from 5-7 p.m. (ET) this evening. A rebroadcast of the elimination rounds will air later tonight from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) and again from 2:30-3:30 a.m. (ET) on Friday, June 23.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Allen Johnson