Indianapolis: Stevens streaks to top-half berth

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2) -- One of the most impressive quarter-mile runs of Saturday's pro qualifying action at the 46th annual U.S. Nationals belonged to Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the Valspar Refinish camp. While the majority...

INDIANAPOLIS (Sept. 2) -- One of the most impressive quarter-mile runs of Saturday's pro qualifying action at the 46th annual U.S. Nationals belonged to Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens of the Valspar Refinish camp.

While the majority of the world's best drivers wilted in the day's record heat, Stevens stayed cool and breezed down the track in 6.999 seconds at 195.19 mph to jump from the tenuous 15th spot to the No. 3 position on the ladder. The lap, recorded during the sweltering hot early session, was so stout that it kept the young pro from New Orleans comfortably in the top half of the field even after the cooler and quicker night session.

"We had everybody out here scratching their heads," said Stevens, who finished the day in seventh place. "To be honest, I was a little surprised myself when I climbed out of the car and they told me I ran a 6.99. What a great move for us and this Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird team, especially considering that this is Indy.

"It was a case of everything falling into place at the same time. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) had the perfect clutch set-up for that run, the track was good, we had the better lane of the two, and it wasn't quite hot enough yet to slow us down. I also did a pretty good job of driving the car. I kept it straight and I hit all my shift points at the right time."

Stevens' run was one of only seven Pro Stock passes in the six-second range this weekend. Mark Osborne leads the field with a 6.976-second mark.

"It was a good hit and we definitely needed it," said Stevens, a 21-year-old from New Orleans. "You never know what's going to happen but I'd say that run will at least be good enough to keep us in the upper half of the field. If we stay in the top half we'll have lane choice on Monday and that's always a nice advantage to have. The lanes here are actually pretty similar but it's nice to be able to choose the one you like.

"Hey, this is the U.S. Nationals. Being in the top half of the field, let alone being No. 7 in the field like we are right now, is quite an accomplishment. Every drag racer in the world is here and we're holding our own against all of them. I'm pretty proud of this team."

Same-day television coverage of the elimination rounds of the 46th annual U.S. Nationals will air Labor Day on TNN. Qualifying and first-round action will be broadcast from noon-2 p.m. ET with final eliminations airing from 5-7 p.m. ET, Monday, Sept. 4.

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Series NHRA