Reading: Win eludes Stevens by .005 of a second

READING, Pa. (Sept. 17) – An extremely promising weekend of drag racing for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens ended abruptly in the first round of eliminations at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals. Stevens had the...

READING, Pa. (Sept. 17) – An extremely promising weekend of drag racing for Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens ended abruptly in the first round of eliminations at the 16th annual Keystone Nationals. Stevens had the superior car but lost to rival “Tricky Rickie” Smith on a holeshot by five-thousandths of a second.

The race was decided at the starting line when Smith shot off the line with a marginal .442 to .464-second advantage. Stevens then began tracking down the veteran driver and was almost dead even when the two crossed the timers. The final numbers showed Smith crossing first in 6.911 seconds at 198.67 mph ahead of Stevens’ quicker 6.894-second run at 198.17 mph.

“What a disappointing way to end a great weekend,” said Stevens, who had qualified fourth with a stellar 6.861-second pass at 198.52 mph. “I can’t blame anyone but myself. I should have been better at the tree. It’s not like I had a bad reaction time but his was better and he stole the win from me. It stinks no matter how you say it.”

As usual, Smith played games at the starting line. After both men completed their burnouts he immediately rolled forward and lit both staging lights. The action prompted starter Rick Stewart to start an official count of eight seconds in which Stevens had to completely stage his car.

“I looked down for a second and when I looked back up he had already lit both lights,” Stevens said. “Then I hurried through my procedure and went in before I was ready. Rick has warned me at the last few races about how I stage. I didn’t want to upset him and get disqualified. It just threw me off a little and that cost me.

“Whenever I lose a race like this I feel so bad because it’s like I let the team down. Obviously, the guys gave me a great car to race this weekend but I didn’t take advantage of it at all. I also messed up a good chance to make up some ground on the two guys in front of me in the points. They both lost right in front of me and I knew I had a golden opportunity to make up some ground.

“I sure hope I didn’t use up all of my luck already. We still have five races left and I want to finish on an up-note. We’ll Just have to regroup and get set for the next race.”

The elimination rounds of the 16th annual Keystone Nationals will air today from 9:30-11:30 p.m. ET, on ESPN2.

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Series NHRA