Richie Stevens says timing is key to Topeka

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 27) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens enters this weekend's 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka with a definitive plan on how to capture his second NHRA event title of the 1999 season.

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 27) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens enters this weekend's 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals at Heartland Park Topeka with a definitive plan on how to capture his second NHRA event title of the 1999 season. The 20-year-old sophomore driver from New Orleans, who is currently fifth in the Winston points standings, says winning in Kansas will boil down to one crucial factor -- timing.

"You need to put yourself in a good position to win before Sunday's eliminations ever start," said Stevens, the youngest Pro Stock driver to ever win an NHRA event. "Topeka should be just like (the circuit's last stop in) Reading (Pa.) where most of the cars got in during one session when the conditions were just right. We need to be on our game for that round.

"We finally got our No. 1 motor back in the Valspar Refinish car in Reading. It's the motor we had when we won in New Jersey and went to three final rounds in a row earlier this year. It's all power. But in Reading we didn't have the car set right for the horsepower and we missed the one good session when most of the cars qualified. So we were fighting to make the field and we started Sunday at the bottom of the ladder. It made the climb to the top a lot harder. I want to change that in Topeka and start Sunday on a roll and I think we will."

Despite starting from the No. 13 spot, Stevens did reach the quarterfinals in Reading before losing by three-thousandths of a second to Mark Pawuk. The event marked Stevens' 16th straight race without a DNQ. He also logged his career-best 18th elimination-round win. Along the way, the team also found some damaged components on the Valspar Refinish car that might have been slowing them down.

"Some things had shaken loose on the car and the settings were off a bit," Stevens said. "They were freak things that you wouldn't think to check and we just figured they came loose in the transporter. The car bounces around quite a bit when we're hauling it around. That could have put us behind.

"The good news is that the Valspar car is all straightened out now and we're back under good power. If we can time this thing right, I might get my first win in the great state of Kansas."

Catch all the qualifying highlights from 8-9 p.m. EST Saturday on Speedvision. Then tune in to Speedvision again from 2-4 p.m. EST Sunday for two hours of opening-round coverage. FOX Sports will then carry Sunday's final two hours of elimination action from 5-7 p.m. EST.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk