INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 27) -- The older competitors in the National Hot Rod Association remember the days when the U.S. Nationals awarded extra championship points to its winner during a time when the racing schedule had half the amount of national...
INDIANAPOLIS (Aug. 27) -- The older competitors in the National Hot Rod Association remember the days when the U.S. Nationals awarded extra championship points to its winner during a time when the racing schedule had half the amount of national events. To say a win in Indy could make a team's season actually meant a lot more back then.
But regardless of the changes in the points system that came about in the early 1980's and the subsequent addition of several more races to the yearly schedule, the next generation of drag racers still consider a win at Indy as the ultimate drag racing achievement.
Twenty-year-old Pro Stock upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens, who pilots the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird, has been dreaming of Indy glory since long before his own fledgling racing career began. "I remember my dad talking about this race," said Stevens, referring to his father's sportsman career. "He'd always say that this is the one race where you went all-out to show the rest of the country that you were the baddest guy on the strip because this was the one event every year that everybody from coast-to-coast raced at."
As the 45th running of the annual event kicks off Wednesday at Indianapolis Raceway Park, Pro Stock's youngest national event winner is ready to stake his generation's claim to drag racing's oldest and most revered trophy.
"It would be absolutely awesome to win this race," Stevens said. "It would be a huge boost for this Valspar team and a nice way to announce to the world that we're true title contenders."
Currently in his sophomore season, Stevens has already made his mark on the Pro Stock division. He became the youngest national event winner in history last November when he captured the title of the Winston Finals at the age of 19. He has already logged 33 elimination round wins -- 16 this season -- and has qualified for and competed in the prestigious Holley Dominator Duel and the invitation-only Winston All-Star Showdown. He also reset the national elapsed time mark and joined the exclusive Speed-Pro 200 mph Club with a pass of 6.861 seconds at 200.08 mph in Virginia. During one stretch this year, Stevens reached the final round of three straight races, which helped lift him to his current fifth place standing in the points chase.
"We've had our moments already," said Stevens, who joined his father in buying their team outright in February. "For a new team, I'm pretty happy with where we are. We hope to be entering a new relationship with our title sponsor Valspar very soon and I'd love to show all of those people that investing in this team would benefit them and their company in a big way. A win in Indy at the biggest race we compete at would sure go a long way towards showing them that they made the right choice in sponsoring this team."