Phoenix: Stevens draws champ for first round battle

PHOENIX (Feb. 17) -- If the old adage is true and consistency really does win drag races then the organizers of the 17th annual Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals can award the trophy to Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens right now. The ...

PHOENIX (Feb. 17) -- If the old adage is true and consistency really does win drag races then the organizers of the 17th annual Checker-Schuck's-Kragen Nationals can award the trophy to Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens right now. The 22-year-old New Orleans native has posted four nearly identical numbers this weekend, the best of which was a 6.927-second effort at 198.73 mph, which earned him the No. 11 spot in the field.

Remarkably, Stevens and crew shrugged off changes in the weather and variances in the racetrack to not only card his official run of record but three additional 6.93-second, 198-mph passes as well. His numbers show that Stevens isn't the quickest or the fastest driver here but he definitely has a car that will get from one end to the other every time.

"You always want consistency above everything else," Stevens said. "But you also want to be consistently fast. We're close but I'd like to be a bit quicker. It'll come. I'm just glad we qualified for both races so far this year even while we're working out a new car."

Stevens will open race day against reigning Winston champ Jeg Coughlin, who finished qualifying in the No. 6 position with a 6.901 at 199.49 mph. Coughlin and Stevens have raced 13 times in their careers with Coughlin holding an 8-5 edge. Due to his slightly better elapsed time in qualifying, Coughlin will have lane choice for this encounter.

"I expect he'll put us on the left side because almost everyone else is running their best laps on the right side," Stevens said. "I guess it really doesn't matter to me because we've been running the same sort of numbers no matter what lane we're in. In fact, the 6.92 I ran was on the left side so lane choice just doesn't seem like as big a deal.

"Tomorrow against Jeggy it'll come down to driving. If I can get him at the starting line and post a good light then I'll have a real good chance of winning. Once you get past the first round it's anybody's race to win. I just need to concentrate on my job."

Today's qualifying highlights will be shown from 11 p.m. to 12 a.m. (ET), on ESPN2. Tomorrow's elimination rounds will be broadcast from 2-3 p.m. (ET), on ESPN, with additional coverage airing from 6-8 p.m. (ET), on ESPN2.

-Robert Geiger

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin