St Louis Night Racing Agrees with Richie Stevens

Night session agrees with Stevens ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- A hot, slow day gave way to a cool, fast evening of drag racing as professional qualifying for the Sears Craftsman Nationals began Thursday at Gateway International Raceway. Organizers ...

Night session agrees with Stevens

ST. LOUIS (June 24) -- A hot, slow day gave way to a cool, fast evening of drag racing as professional qualifying for the Sears Craftsman Nationals began Thursday at Gateway International Raceway. Organizers of the three-year-old race elected to give the fans a break from the heat this year and rescheduled all of the pro action to the late afternoon and evening. After one day, the plan seems to be working well.

Pro Stock upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens certainly played the revamped race schedule to perfection, gaining data during the day and then implementing the necessary changes to go fast under the lights. He finished the opening day with his Valspar Refinish Firebird in 11th place in the 36-car field after a nighttime pass of 7.009 seconds at 196.10 mph.

"I'd say that run was pretty close to perfect," Stevens said. "The computer graph looks real nice and I seemed to have hit my shift points right on time. That's probably the best we can get out of this motor under these conditions. We might be able to sneak a little, tiny bit more out of her tomorrow night since we have the luxury of two nighttime sessions and we can work off the information from tonight's pass.

"Just like it is every week, I have to credit Tommy (Utt, crew chief) and the rest of the gang for all of their hard work. They have this Valspar car so consistent that I never have to worry about what it's going to do. It's hard to put a value on that as a driver. It puts you in such a comfort zone that you're able to just relax and drive the car. This is an exceptional race team."

Earlier in the day, Stevens opened qualifying action with a 7.125-second lap at 194.63 mph to temporarily place his Valspar Refinish machine into the 18th spot on the ladder. The lap amounted to little more than a test session for the 20-year-old from New Orleans as his crew searched for the proper set-up for the conditions this track would present.

"We found out the starting line was bad," Stevens said of his Round 1 pass. "We had the rev-limiter set a little too high and the car spun the tires. Then it bogged a bit in second gear but, after that, it ran well enough that Tommy was able to figure out what needed to be changed before the night session. Basically, we just used the lap to get a baseline for the car at this track."

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Series NHRA