Gainesville Richie Stevens report

'Kid' steals Round 1 win, eyes champ GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 21) -- The youngest professional driver competing this weekend at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals used his young reflexes to gain a hole-shot win in the day's first round ...

'Kid' steals Round 1 win, eyes champ

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (March 21) -- The youngest professional driver competing this weekend at the 30th Annual Mac Tools Nationals used his young reflexes to gain a hole-shot win in the day's first round of elimination racing. Richie "The Kid" Stevens, a 20-year-old from New Orleans, drove his Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird past veteran Steve Schmidt in the opening session and thereby earned a quarterfinal date with 1998 Winston Champion Warren Johnson.

Stevens left the starting line eight-hundredths of a second before Schmidt and held on for the win despite Schmidt's better quarter-mile elapsed time. Combined with his 0.453-second start, Stevens took the win in 6.965 seconds at 197.71 mph. Schmidt's slow launch (0.530 seconds) negated a 6.939-second, 198.55 mph pass.

"I needed every bit of that good start," Stevens said. "I didn't think he'd run that fast and it was close at the other end. The car ran great. It was nice and straight all the way down the track. No spinning or shaking or any other problems for that matter.

"Even though we didn't have lane-choice it didn't seem to matter because we were the first pair up there and I don't think anyone had a real good read on the track surface. The lanes seemed pretty equal which is good because I don't need anything against me when I run Warren Johnson.

"I'll have to be perfect to beat him (Johnson.) I really need my best light of the year and then still hope he breaks something. He's that tough to beat. But it can be done and we're going to give it our best shot."

Johnson ran an incredible lap of 6.876 seconds at 200.95 mph in his first round win over John Nobile. He will have the advantage of lane choice in his race against Stevens.

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About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers John Nobile , Warren Johnson , Steve Schmidt