Houston Richie Stevens; back near the top

HOUSTON (April 14) -- The Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac of Richie "The Kid" Stevens is back near the top of the qualifying ladder for the second race in a row. After earning the No. 5 spot last weekend in Las Vegas, Stevens has assumed the...

HOUSTON (April 14) -- The Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac of Richie "The Kid" Stevens is back near the top of the qualifying ladder for the second race in a row. After earning the No. 5 spot last weekend in Las Vegas, Stevens has assumed the No. 4 position here at the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil with two rounds of qualifying yet to be contested tomorrow at Houston Raceway Park.

Stevens was one of just five drivers to post a quarter-mile lap in less than 6.9 seconds today. After opening the day with a 6.916-second pass at 197.74 mph, he improved to 6.897 seconds and 197.59 mph in the evening session.

"We were killer tonight," Stevens said. "The run was almost perfect. The only thing bad that happened was right after I shifted into high gear I hit a bump or something out there that made the car lose traction for just a fraction of a second. If that hadn't happened I bet we would have been the No. 1 qualifier."

As it stands, Stevens is less than one hundredth of a second off the pace set by pole-sitter Jim Yates, who ran a 6.888 at 199.58 mph.

"(Tommy) Utt (crew chief) nailed the clutch set-up for this track and these conditions," Stevens said. "The on-board computer gave us a (data) graph that looks perfect. It's like it's right out of the textbook on how a perfect run should look.

"It's cool to run quick today because we have a bunch of friends here from New Orleans plus some of the Valspar folks are here so now everyone can eat good and have a good time tonight and we can all rest a little easier.

"When you run quick right out of the truck like this than you feel secure about having a spot in the field and you can start to work on the Sunday tune-up. It gives you a real edge over guys farther down the ladder that are worried to death about getting in the show. We know we're in, now we need to translate this to winning four rounds on Sunday. We could make a nice big move in the points with a win here."

Stevens, a 21-year-old from New Orleans, is currently sixth in the Winston championship points standings. With a win, he could move up as high as third place. If he does in fact remained qualified for Sunday's action, he will have qualified for 25 consecutive races, which is second only to five-time champ Warren Johnson.

The elimination rounds of the 13th annual O'Reilly Nationals presented by Pennzoil will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, April 16 on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson