Richie Stevens maintains status quo in Las Vegas

LAS VEGAS (April 9) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens didn't hit the jackpot this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he did run well enough at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals to leave town with a smile on his ...

LAS VEGAS (April 9) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens didn't hit the jackpot this weekend at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, but he did run well enough at the inaugural NHRA SummitRacing.com Nationals to leave town with a smile on his face.

Stevens, 21, drove his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird through two rounds of elimination racing on the day, which earned him enough points to maintain his No. 6 ranking in the Winston championship points standings. Starting from the No. 5 position, Stevens dismissed first-round opponent Tom Martino in Round 1 before losing to five-time world champion Warren Johnson in the quarterfinals.

"This was a good weekend for Team Valspar," Stevens said. "We had our best qualifying session of the year, which will help us a bunch in the (qualifying) points standings. We went a round, which is what you need to do at every race if you want to contend for the championship. And we solidified our spot in the standings. I'm happy."

In today's opening session, Stevens was handed the win at the starting line when Martino jumped the green light and was disqualified. Stevens still legged out the run and posted a lap of 7.095 seconds at 194.16 mph, his fastest pass of the weekend.

Against Johnson, who rents race motors to Stevens, Team Valspar was forced to switch to its test motor due to a clause in the lease agreement with Johnson mandating the switch in any head-to-head meetings. Despite a great launch (.471 to .494), Stevens was caught and passed, eventually losing by .024 of a second or less than three feet. The numbers saw Johnson win in 7.110 seconds against Stevens' 7.157-second pass.

"I made it all the way to high gear and I still didn't see him," Stevens said. "Then he inched in there and got me at the finish line. That's 11 times in a row he's beaten me. I guess there is no shame in losing to Warren because he's one of the best drivers of all time. I'll get him one day.

"We ran pretty quick against him considering it was a total shot in the dark with that motor. We hadn't run it here and with the altitude of this track we didn't know how to jet the carburetors or set the clutch. Tommy (Utt, crew chief) did a heck of a job getting it to run as quick as it did. I think we would have won that lap if it were at any other track."

Stevens and the rest of the NHRA professionals have only three days off before the next national event begins in Houston.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Tom Martino