Richie Stevens buoyed by team''s big move in points

LAS VEGAS (March 31) -- For a few weeks early on in the season 21-year-old Pro Stock drag racer Richie "The Kid" Stevens felt out of place. It was the first time in 11 months he found himself outside the top 10 in the Winston championship...

LAS VEGAS (March 31) -- For a few weeks early on in the season 21-year-old Pro Stock drag racer Richie "The Kid" Stevens felt out of place. It was the first time in 11 months he found himself outside the top 10 in the Winston championship points standings in 11th place and the feeling just didn't sit well with the young pro from New Orleans.

Sure the 2000 season had barely begun with only a couple of races in the books. But the sport's all-time youngest professional winner, who has logged a pair of top 10 finishes in his two professional seasons -- fifth place in 1999 and ninth place in '98 -- was expecting more out of himself and his Valspar Refinish-sponsored team.

So the team attacked Gainesville Raceway in mid March and emerged with a pair of elimination-round wins, including a stunner over current points leader Jeg Coughlin who hadn't lost a race since last year. The effort catapulted Stevens and crew to the No. 6 spot. Now the Valspar group is hungry for more success and they have their collective sights set on a win April 6-9 at the Inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals in Las Vegas.

"I think we have a real edge in Las Vegas," Stevens said. "It's a brand new track so no one has any data on it. Everyone is equal. To a certain extent a new track requires you to guess a little at your set-up. I don't think there is anyone in the Pro Stock class that's better at figuring out a new track quicker than (Valspar Refinish crew chief) Tommy Utt."

Stevens, who is the sport's only pro to have graduated from the Junior Dragster ranks, has been on a remarkable tear since he moved to the Pro Stock class in 1998. In addition to his noteworthy finishes in the points, he has logged two national event victories in five final-round appearances, set the national elapsed time record, won his first career pole, competed in the elite Holley Dominator Duel, and earned a spot in the Speed-Pro 200 mph Club.

Additionally, since Stevens and his father Richie Stevens Sr. purchased their team in February of 1999, they have yet to miss a Race Day. The impressive streak has now reached 23 races, second only to five-time champion Warren Johnson, who, coincidentally, began supplying engines to Stevens this season.

"Consistency is very important," Stevens said. "That's what has helped us stay in contention for over a year now. We also just finished another testing session and we got our back-up car running as consistent as the No. 1 car. There were a lot of cars there and we were the quickest. I've got a great crew chief, awesome power from Warren and Kurt Johnson, total support from my dad, and two really consistent cars. We've got all the pieces in place."

Same-day elimination round coverage of the Inaugural SummitRacing.com Nationals will be aired from 10:30 p.m. to midnight (ET and PT), Sunday, April 9, on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Kurt Johnson , Warren Johnson