Las Vegas II: Team Mopar Saturday notes

STEVENS' STEADY IMPROVEMENT LEADS TO SIXTH IN VEGAS QUALIFYING Defending event champion Richie Stevens Jr. piloted the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T to the No. 6 position in qualifying today at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals. The...

STEVENS' STEADY IMPROVEMENT LEADS TO SIXTH IN VEGAS QUALIFYING

Defending event champion Richie Stevens Jr. piloted the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T to the No. 6 position in qualifying today at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals.

The Louisiana native steadily improved throughout each of the four qualifying sessions, posting runs of 6.788 seconds at 203.00 mph and 6.769/202.97 on Friday, and a run of 6.755/203.95 in the first Saturday session. Stevens bettered all three marks with a run of 6.747/203.31 on his final effort, moving him up into the sixth spot, where he'll face "The Professor" Warren Johnson in the first round.

"We picked up every round, which is kind of unheard of at most of the national events," said Stevens, currently ninth in the points standings. "Usually you make your best run in the morning session or the Friday night deal. We picked up better and better each round, and finally we made it into the top half of the field. The field is separated by such a little bit out there this weekend."

Stevens helped out his teammate Allen Johnson at the previous event in Richmond, defeating Kurt Johnson and ensuring A.J. a berth in the two-race Countdown to One title shootout. If Stevens can get past Warren Johnson, he may have another opportunity to knock off one of A.J.'s Countdown competitors, as well as defend his 2006 Vegas win in the fall event.

"Warren's tough. He's got good horsepower, but I've had his number this year," said Stevens. "I've run against him a few times this year and I got the better of him. Hopefully it will continue, and if I can get around him, not that I'm looking ahead, but Greg Anderson [second in the Countdown standings] is in our bracket and I could possibly face him in the second round. Hopefully I can help Allen out and take out another of the guys he is competing with in the Countdown.

"He [A.J.] has got Jeggy [Coughlin] in the first round and that's going to be a big match. They're both fighting in the Countdown. I'm out here to help AJ, but I'm out here to win the race too. We're on opposite sides of the bracket, which is probably the best thing; that way we can't meet each other until the final round. If we get there, we will have both done our jobs tomorrow, and that's what we are looking to do."

A.J. EIGHTH IN VEGAS QUALIFYING, SETS UP MONSTER MATCH-UP WITH COUGHLIN

Allen Johnson secured the No. 8 spot in qualifying with a pass of 6.750 seconds at 204.14 mph today at the ACDelco Las Vegas NHRA Nationals, and in the process set up a huge first-round battle tomorrow with his fellow NHRA Countdown to One competitor, Jeg Coughlin, the No. 9 qualifier.

Johnson recorded passes of 6.800/203.43 and 6.766/203.37 on Friday before reeling off his best qualifying effort of the weekend in the first Saturday session. A run of 6.759/203.61 in the final qualifying session couldn't move A.J. up the ladder, setting up the crucial first round match-up.

"We know exactly what we have to do now; no ifs, ands or buts about it," said Johnson, currently fourth in the Countdown to One standings, with Coughlin third. "If we win, we've probably got Dave Connolly [first in the Countdown] in the second round.

"We control our own destiny. We've got a good shot and we feel confident. I just have to have a good night and try not to get killed in a dirt track car over here [Johnson was set to race later tonight in a USAC event at The Dirt Track at Las Vegas Motor Speedway]."

About the significance of his first-round race with Coughlin, Johnson said, "I don't think it matters. I really don't pay attention to who I race. I just try to go out there and do my job."

-credit: mopar/dsr

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Richie Stevens Jr. , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson , Greg Anderson , Allen Johnson , Dave Connolly