Englishtown's defending champ ready to capitalize

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 6) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens stormed into Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in mid-May intent on defending his Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals title. He quickly set the agenda for the weekend by running...

ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (Sept. 6) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens stormed into Old Bridge Township Raceway Park in mid-May intent on defending his Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals title. He quickly set the agenda for the weekend by running a career-best lap of 6.840 seconds at 200.23 mph, which let the rest of the competitive class immediately know his event championship wouldn't be given up without a fight.

The incredible lap, which is just .018 seconds off the national record, awarded the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird team the No. 2 spot in the quickest field ever assembled in the NHRA's 49-year history. He will now enter the opening session of Saturday's rescheduled elimination rounds with lane choice over Bruce Allen, who qualified 15th with a 6.877-second lap at 200.80 mph.

Although he started his quest nearly four months ago, the 21-year-old, third-year pro from New Orleans hopes to continue the hot streak this weekend. He'll find out where he stands during Friday's two test-and-tune sessions, which are scheduled for at 3 and 7 p.m., and again in the final eliminations beginning at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"I'm fully expecting us to pick up right where we left off," Stevens said. "We know that track well and we've proven we can do what it takes to run quick laps there and win the race. We want to win this race again, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is my race until someone else takes it away from me and I don't plan on letting it go.

"We're coming off a great race in Indy. The Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird qualified in the top half of the field and we won a round on Monday, which was pretty decent. Since then I've looked at the computer graph of my Round 2 run several times and I realize I could have driven the car much better. If I had, we could have won that race and then who knows what might have happened after that.

"I'm anxious to pick right up where we left off Monday and get back to winning laps. We'll test a few things out on Friday and then we'll be ready to go Saturday. This is a different car then the one I qualified with and I think we're actually in better shape then we were in May. I'm excited and ready to defend my title."

Just as he did during his first trip to the Northeast, Stevens enters the race in seventh place in the Winston championship points standings. If he successfully defends his title Stevens could move as high as fifth place in the rankings.

The rescheduled 31st annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals will be broadcast Sunday from 1-3 p.m. on ESPN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Bruce Allen