NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 7) -- The Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac of Richie "The Kid" Stevens will now be powered by the best motors in NHRA competition. Five-time Winston champ Warren Johnson announced an unprecedented one-year deal with the ...
NEW ORLEANS (Dec. 7) -- The Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac of Richie "The Kid" Stevens will now be powered by the best motors in NHRA competition. Five-time Winston champ Warren Johnson announced an unprecedented one-year deal with the 21-year-old driver that will see Stevens using a Johnson powerplant through the 2000 season.
Johnson, the third winningest driver of all time with 79 national event victories, says he picked Stevens as a goodwill gesture towards the sport and also because leasing a motor made sound business sense.
"I think Richie really brings something extra to the table," Johnson said. "He's the total package. Being a young, clean-cut kid means he has potential for national-level exposure. Plus, I believe the demographic group he brings to the racetrack is the future of this sport. Obviously, NHRA drag racing has been very good to me. I feel like I owe the sport. Helping a young guy like Richie reach his potential as a driver is the right thing to do.
"We've got a number of motors that can qualify at every event, more than (son) Kurt and I need, and it seems silly to let them just sit there when they can be earning money. Racing is my business. I'm not out there to pump up my ego."
Team Stevens will switch from a Mike Thomas' Finish Line motor that powered them to back-to-back top 10 finishes (ninth and fifth place) to a powerplant design Johnson has developed over 25 extremely successful years of Pro Stock racing. Aside from his five Winston championships, Johnson's resumes includes a stunning 21 top-five finishes.
"We've had some great successes using Mike Thomas' Finish Line power over the past two years," co-team owner Richie Stevens, Sr. said. "And it looks like we earned a chance to take the program up a step. It's an honor and a privilege to be affiliated with Warren's program.
"That man has had blank checks handed to him before from people wanting his horsepower but he doesn't operate that way. You have to earn his respect, not buy it. After talking with Warren I could tell that he had done some research on Richie. He talked about Richie's time in the Junior Dragster league, at Roy Hill's school, and racing in the IHRA. His point was that Richie has run a lot of laps for a 21-year-old."
The younger Stevens, who is the only pro-level driver to emerge from the ranks of Junior Dragsters, realizes the unique position in which he now finds himself. "I know this is a huge opportunity for me," Stevens Jr. said. "Warren has only selected a handful of guys to help and they've all turned out to be really successful drivers. I hope that trend continues with me.
"I'll be spending a lot of time in Atlanta helping him and Kurt test. He wants me to drive his car and Kurt's car while they watch from the starting line and he wants me to run some experimental parts. I'll do whatever I can to help him. I know this is a big break for me."