Houston: Stevens earns final four finish

HOUSTON (Oct. 29) - Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the decorated Valspar Refinish race team parlayed his home track advantage into a respectable semifinal finish Sunday at the fourth annual Matco Tools SuperNationals. Stevens beat...

HOUSTON (Oct. 29) - Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the decorated Valspar Refinish race team parlayed his home track advantage into a respectable semifinal finish Sunday at the fourth annual Matco Tools SuperNationals. Stevens beat 2000 NHRA champion Jeg Coughlin in the opening round and Coughlin's front-running brother Troy in the quarterfinals before being edged by Brad Jeter in Round 3.

It was a great finish to a solid weekend of racing in which Stevens logged a pair of elimination round wins - pushing his season total to 20 - while also gaining valuable Winston points on the two men he's chasing in the championship points standings, Troy Coughlin and Mark Pawuk. Stevens, who still holds the No. 7 position, now trails Troy Coughlin by just 28 points and Pawuk by 73 points. "This was a big weekend for Team Valspar for a number of reasons," said Stevens, a 22-year-old from New Orleans. "First of all we qualified great with a 6.909 at 197.71 mph. That gave us third place on the ladder, which is pretty darn good. Then we beat the world champ in the first round. Any time you can do that you've accomplished something. Plus, we gained points on Troy and Mark. It's hard to complain to much.

"On the other hand, I was looking for a win here and I think I had the car to get it done. But I ran into a weird deal in the third round and screwed up my chances. So overall it's a good weekend that could have been better." After posting a pair of mid-6.9-second runs in the first and second rounds, Stevens held lane choice heading into his semifinal race with Jeter. But at the starting tree Stevens lurched forward before the tree was activated and had to push in the clutch again to hold the car from tripping the light early. By the time he recovered from the mistake the tree had flashed the start of the race and Stevens was left in Jeter's wake with a .429 to .763-second starting line deficit, his worse effort of the year.

"Rick (Stewart, chief starter) held the tree a long time and I tried to anticipate it," Stevens said. "I started to go but realized the light still wasn't on so I pushed in the clutch. Right as I did that it turned on and he was gone. I could have outrun him easily but he had such a huge start that there was nothing I could do. This one's my fault. We'll get 'em next time." Stevens won't have to wait long for another shot. The tour returns to Dallas Friday and Saturday to make-up last weekend's rainout. The following week the season comes to an end in Pomona, Calif. "We have to make the most of our last two chances," Stevens said.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Brad Jeter , Mark Pawuk