Richie "Kid" Stevens off to a great start in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS (June 22) – Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the powerful Valspar Refinish racing team shrugged off the excessive heat of a sun-splashed day at Gateway International Raceway and qualified his award-winning Pontiac ...

ST. LOUIS (June 22) – Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the powerful Valspar Refinish racing team shrugged off the excessive heat of a sun-splashed day at Gateway International Raceway and qualified his award-winning Pontiac Firebird in the No. 6 spot of the provisional field.

Stevens, like almost every driver in attendance, recorded his best lap in the day’s second session, which took place at night. Organizers of the fourth annual Sears Craftsman Nationals schedule all of the racing action in the late afternoon and evening in an attempt to give the drivers and fans a break from the heat.

The 21-year-old upstart driver from New Orleans opened with a 7.052-second pass at 194.69 mph but quickly improved those marks to 6.975 seconds and 195.56 mph just after the sun finally dipped over the famous Gateway Arch just west of the track.

“I think we figured out a problem that has been following us around for the last few races,” Stevens said. “That really has us fired up. We’ve had some trouble with the car slowing down on the back half of the track and we’ve been going crazy trying to figure it out. After Round 1 today we changed out the regulator on the fuel system because we thought that maybe the engine wasn’t getting enough fuel. It seemed to have worked because we picked up quite a bit in the mph department.

“This race is shaping up pretty nice for us. We’re in the field after the first day, which is always a goal, and we’re in the field pretty solidly. And, since we’re running at the exact same times tomorrow (4 and 8 p.m.) I don’t expect any big changes in the line up.

“The track is also really level. Ron (Krisher) is on the pole and he ran a 6.94 in one lane and Jeggy (Coughlin) is right behind him with a 6.95 and he was on the other side. We had two good passes ourselves, one on each side, so I’m confident we can run well from either lane.”

If Stevens does in fact remain in the field by the time the race day ladder is set tomorrow evening, he will extend his run of consecutive race day appearances to 32 races. Currently, that’s the second longest streak in the Pro Stock class.

Television coverage of the Craftsman Nationals begins with qualifying highlights on ESPN2 from 8-10 p.m. (ET) Saturday, with a repeat broadcast from 3-5 a.m. early Sunday morning. The elimination rounds will be broadcast from 10 p.m. to midnight (ET) Sunday and will re-air from 1-3 a.m. (ET) Thursday, June 29.

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Series NHRA