ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 14) â€“ For the second time in his young career, Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie â€œThe Kidâ€ Stevens enters a NHRA national event as the defending champion. It provides an easy and finite goal for the...
ENGLISHTOWN, N.J. (May 14) – For the second time in his young career, Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens enters a NHRA national event as the defending champion. It provides an easy and finite goal for the award-winning team - reclaim the dominance they had at Old Bridge Township Raceway Park one year ago.
Stevens’ battle for the title of the annual Matco Tools Spring SuperNationals last season was an epic one that agonizingly stretched over three days. Starting from the No. 2 qualifying position, the young pro from New Orleans easily beat NBA-star-turned-driver Larry Nance and Allen Johnson during Sunday’s first two rounds of eliminations. But then the rains came and the red-hot Stevens had to cool it for two full days before he could get back in his powerful Valspar machine and finish the job he started.
As it turns out, the wait did little to slow the 21-year-old driver. Before an empty grandstand on Tuesday, Stevens clipped a wily Jeg Coughlin in the semis before burying local favorite Tom Martino in the finals by virtue of his superior starting line reaction. Both men ran identical 6.959-second laps but Stevens’ quicker start earned the win.
“It’s a big plus to go into a race knowing we can win,” Stevens said. “We know what the track can hold and we know what we can do there. It’s a huge boost for our confidence. I wish we could have won that race on Sunday when everyone was there but it was still a win and it still earned us a bunch of points. I’d take that again in a heartbeat.”
Stevens will actually have two chances to win at this event as he has once again earned a spot in the elite eight-car field of the Holley Dominator Duel, which will be contested Saturday. The Duel invites the top eight qualifiers from the last 22 events to battle for a $50,000 grand prize. Last season Stevens reached the semifinals of the race.
“It’s an honor to have earned a spot in this race again,” Stevens said. “I’m very proud of the fact that we’ve put the Valspar Firebird in the field both times that we’ve been eligible. It’s a real credit to (crew chief) Tommy Utt and the rest of the people that work hard and support our team throughout the year. We could sure use the money also.
“I know Tommy will have us ready for both races and I’d love to have a weekend for all of us to remember. We’re switching to our new car that Don Beverly has been dialing in for us and we’ll be running a different motor to prepare for the Duel. Until someone takes the title from me, this is my race and I’m not going to give it up without a fight.”
Television coverage of this race begins with qualifying highlights from 7-9 p.m. (ET), Saturday, on ESPN2. Same-day coverage of Sunday’s elimination rounds will be broadcast from 9:30-11:30 p.m. (ET) with a rebroadcast at 3-4 a.m. (ET) on ESPN2.