Seattle: Stevens tops sports' best to win

SEATTLE (July 30) -- Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the Valspar Refinish stable has won the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Seattle International Raceway. The win is the...

SEATTLE (July 30) -- Pro Stock driver Richie “The Kid” Stevens of the Valspar Refinish stable has won the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals presented by NAPA Auto Parts at Seattle International Raceway. The win is the third of the 21-year-old Stevens’ three-year career and adds to the budding legacy of the driver who was the youngest winner in the history of the NHRA’s Pro Stock class at age 19.

Stevens had to battle the biggest names in the sport to earn his win. He dispatched, in order, veteran Bruce Allen, five-time champ Warren Johnson, Winston Showdown winner Troy Coughlin, and current points leader Jeg Coughlin. All four men are in the Winston top 10.

“Everything fell into place today,” Stevens said. “We switched back to our old car at this race and we were using our own engine so it was just like old times. It’s been over a year since we won a race so we were overdue. I’m so excited for our Valspar team and all of our sponsors like Pontiac and Snap-on Tools. Everyone contributed to this win.”

The final round race against Jeg Coughlin was a nail-biter. Coughlin got the early lead by virtue of a .455 to .482 start and appeared headed to a certain victory but his car got out of shape and he had to lift off the accelerator. The mishap allowed the steady Stevens to take the win in 7.018 seconds at 195.70 mph infront of Coughlin’s 7.498 at 146.00 mph.

In the semis Stevens rocketed off the line ahead of Jeg’s brother Troy Coughlin, .451 to .480, and went on for an easy 7.019 win. Troy’s car got very loose during the run and he had to deploy his parachute well before the finish line to regain control and avoid hitting the wall.

“It’s starting to feel like today is my day,” Stevens said after the lap. “We’ve gotten a break every lap and we’ve needed them. At the same time, (crewmen) Tommy and John Utt have been giving me a very strong, consistent car. We’re all having some fun today.”

The race against Johnson was a classic. Stevens got the early jump, leaving in .453 seconds to Johnson’s .498-second launch. Then Johnson began to track Stevens down. But the starting line advantage was too much and Stevens crossed the timers 10 feet in front of Johnson. The final numbers had Stevens winning with a 7.015 to Johnson’s 7.012.

“My Valspar Pontiac went a little left and I thought he’d blow by me,” Stevens said. “He usually jumps on any little mistake you make. But I never saw him and my win light came on. He told me later his car got loose in the middle of the track and was spinning the tires.”

Stevens started from the No. 5 position and quickly recorded a win over veteran Allen. After a sluggish .514-second launch, Stevens reeled in the wildly swerving Allen and passed him before half-track. He went on to a 6.963-second, 196.47-mph win.

“(Chief starter) Rick Stewart held the (starting) tree forever and it really threw me off at the start,” Stevens said. “If Bruce hadn’t gotten loose out there he probably would have won. We got a break there but that’s the kind of luck we’ve been missing all year. We got lucky there.”

The elimination rounds of this race will air on ESPN2 from 7-9 p.m. (ET)/4-6 p.m. (PT) Sunday with a repeat from 3:30-5:30 a.m. (ET)/12:30-2:30 a.m. (PT) tomorrow morning.

Be part of something big

Write a comment
Show comments
About this article
Series NHRA
Drivers Jeg Coughlin , Troy Coughlin , Bruce Allen