Richie Stevens Chicago Preview

Route 66 Raceway presents level playing field for young champion CHICAGO (May 28) -- Youth certainly has served Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens well during his 15 months on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. His lightening-fast...

Route 66 Raceway presents level playing field for young champion

CHICAGO (May 28) -- Youth certainly has served Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens well during his 15 months on the National Hot Rod Association circuit. His lightening-fast reflexes at the starting line have garnered him several elimination round wins and have goaded many leery opponents into drawing red-light violations for launching into a run before the green bulb is illuminated.

The 20-year-old is coming off his first win of the season (at the NHRA's last stop in Englishtown, N.J.) and third straight final round appearance. He has an impressive 13-5 elimination-round record this year and is currently in third place in the Winston points standings. Further, he now has two national event wins in four career appearances.

At the same time, the sophomore driver from New Orleans has been hampered at times by his inexperience, resulting in the occasional lack-luster appearance when guesses are substituted for raw data.

"There's no doubt that it's been tough at times," Stevens said. "Especially last year when (former team owner) Shawn and I were seeing every track for the first time. It was like we were always a little behind everyone else because, without any data, we had to learn how to tune the car to wherever we were while the actual event was going on. Except for Chicago. I really felt like that was the only race where we all had an equal shot at winning."

Stevens and the rest of the NHRA pros will have their second chance at conquering the state-of-the-art Route 66 Raceway June 3-6 during the Second Annual Fram Nationals.

"I'm really looking forward to getting back on that track," said Stevens, who drives the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird. "No one out there knows any more than we do. In fact, the way this Valspar car has been running lately, we might have the advantage over everyone else for a change. It really is anybody's race to win.

"It certainly feels good to enter a race coming off a victory of our own. Everyone on the Valspar crew is pumped up and ready to get after it. The team's on a real high note. The basic plan is to leave everything on the car how it is now and, depending on the weather and the track temperature, just make some small changes when we get there. I don't know that I've ever been this excited going into a race before. I'm ready to go right now."

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Series NHRA