Gainesville Richie Stevens Finds Spot in Quick Field

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17) -- Intense humidity made for a sticky day at Gainesville Raceway as the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals began with two rounds of qualifying action. But Team Valspar Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, who...

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 17) -- Intense humidity made for a sticky day at Gainesville Raceway as the 31st annual Mac Tools Gatornationals began with two rounds of qualifying action. But Team Valspar Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, who calls New Orleans home, shrugged off the muggy conditions and drove his sleek Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird to the No. 10 position on the qualifying ladder.

After struggling with an electrical problem in Round 1, Stevens posted a smooth 6.922-second blast at 197.83 mph in the second session to move from 18th place to the 10th spot. He'll have two chances to improve on his posted elapsed time and position in the field during Saturday's two scheduled rounds.

"It sure is nice to get in the field today," Stevens said. "It makes everybody a little more relaxed and allows us to work on the race day set-up a lot more. I hate when I have to sweat it out overnight on Fridays.

"We had some electrical problems in Round 1 and had absolutely no data to work from. The on-board computer wasn't working and neither was the shift light. We were lucky to run a 6.95 to be honest with you. Round 2 was really like a shot in the dark for [crew chief] Tommy Utt but, just like he always does, he nailed the set-up.

"The car did shake a little bit in the middle gears and never really smoothed out until I was way down the track. That tells me we have a lot more under the hood. I'd love to move up to the top half of the ladder tomorrow and have lane choice for Sunday."

Stevens is attempting to extend his streak of consecutive race day appearances to 23 national events. His current streak is the second longest in the Pro Stock class, trailing only five-time Winston champion Warren Johnson.

Qualifying highlights of the 31st annual Gatornationals will be broadcast at 8 p.m. (ET) Saturday on ESPN2. Same-day coverage of the elimination action will start at 5 p.m. (ET) Sunday, also on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson