Pomona: Stevens assumes frontrunner status

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens drove into the No. 2 spot on the qualifying ladder Friday afternoon at the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals when he covered the quarter-mile of Pomona ...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 10) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens drove into the No. 2 spot on the qualifying ladder Friday afternoon at the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals when he covered the quarter-mile of Pomona Raceway in a jaw-dropping 6.918 seconds at 196.70 mph.

Stevens' Valspar Refinish Firebird is now the second quickest car at the racetrack this weekend, trailing only newly crowned Winston champ Jeg Coughlin's Olds Cutlass, which posted a pole-grabbing 6.904-second pass at 197.71 mph during the last lap of the day.

"Believe it or not we've got a lot more in this Valspar Pontiac," Stevens said. "Somehow we miscalculated some things and ended up being 15 pounds over weight. That cost us at least one hundredth of a second on the track. If you take that weight out right now we'd probably be on the pole. I guess that'll have to wait until tomorrow.

"Aside from the extra weight the run didn't even look that great on the computer. The car was bouncing around in the top end and looked a little rough from third gear on. (Crew chief) Tommy (Utt) says we definitely have a 6.8-second run with this set-up. I just need to go out there and get it done."

There are two more qualifying sessions scheduled for 10 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. tomorrow. Stevens, who won this race in 1998 -- thereby becoming the youngest Pro Stock winner of all-time -- thinks both of the remaining rounds will present great opportunities to earn his second career Top Qualifier award.

"We run early tomorrow morning and I'm sure it will be nice and cool like it has been the last few days," Stevens said. "That session will be killer. Even then, if the weather stays the way it has been then the afternoon pass will be just as good as today's was. This looks like it will be one of those rare races where all four qualifying sessions are good.

"Confidence is high in the Valspar pit. I'm pretty sure the lap we had today will be good enough to at least keep us in the top half of the field so we'll go into Sunday's eliminations knowing we have lane choice and one of the quickest cars at the race. I'd love to finish this year with a win."

ESPN2 will broadcast several hours of the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. Qualifying highlights will be broadcast tomorrow from 10:30-11:30 p.m. (PT). Same-day elimination round coverage will be divided into two segments on Sunday, Nov. 12, with the first round airing from 3-4 p.m. (PT) and the finals airing from 7-9 p.m. (PT). A repeat will follow from 10 p.m.-12 a.m. (PT), on Monday, Nov. 13.

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Series NHRA