STEVENS JR. MISSES THE CUT FOR SOUTHERN NATIONALS COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2006) - For the first time in his Don Schumacher Racing two-year Pro Stock tenure, Richie Stevens Jr., has failed to qualify for an NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event....
STEVENS JR. MISSES THE CUT FOR SOUTHERN NATIONALS
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 6, 2006) - For the first time in his Don Schumacher Racing two-year Pro Stock tenure, Richie Stevens Jr., has failed to qualify for an NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series event. The driver of the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T will not compete in this Sunday's Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals at Atlanta Dragway.
His 29-race qualifying streak was snapped today after being bumped from the Pro Stock field by a mere three-thousandths of a second in today's final qualifying session at Atlanta Dragway.
After posting a 6.763-second pass at 202.88 mph in the opening session, which was good for No. 8, he was unable to take advantage of the excellent cooler conditions Friday night to improve his position. He ran an identical time of 6.763 seconds at 203.03 mph and fell to No. 15.
The third and fourth attempts today in the heat of the Atlanta sun (6.757/204.45 and 6.774/204.51) failed to move him up in the field, despite being the seventh and 11th quickest, respectively, in those rounds, resulting in his first DNQ.
"On Friday night we got caught up in the groove or something on the track," he explained. "Warren (Johnson) said there was moisture on the track, but I don't know. Something was pushing us towards the wall. We had good numbers at the start, but it was almost like when one of the Funny Cars drop a cylinder and the car pushes to one side."
Before today, Stevens had qualified in the top half of the field in five of the first six races of the season.
Crew chief David Nickens was equally dismayed by the Friday night session: "That session was about everything for the weekend, and we didn't make a good run," he said. "We might have been one of the top few cars in the other three sessions, but it wasn't good enough to get into the show. Obviously we just didn't do a good enough of a job in the right session. That's the way it goes in Pro Stock sometimes. The Friday night run can be all or nothing," said the Pro Stock veteran who holds 30 event wins as a crew chief.
"I don't know what it's going to be like being at the track tomorrow and not racing," Stevens said of his being on the sidelines on Sunday. "It's like going to your favorite restaurant and not being able to eat the food. We just got this Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T in the top 10 in points, and now we'll fall back out of it. It can happen to anybody in this class. Last week it was Dave Connolly, a few weeks before that it was Greg Stanfield, but hopefully it is my first and last of the year. I hate it; it hurts you so bad in the points.
"But, we'll be here tomorrow to root on our DSR Funny Car, Top Fuel and Pro Stock Motorcycle teammates, and hopefully one or more of them will get into the winner's circle."
Stevens will get back to action in two weeks at the NHRA Nationals at National Trail Raceway (Columbus, Ohio), May 18-21.