Stevens assumes frontrunner status

SEATTLE (July 28) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens quickly became one of the early favorites to win the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals when he blazed down Seattle International Raceway's quarter-mile in...

SEATTLE (July 28) -- Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens quickly became one of the early favorites to win the 13th annual Prolong Super Lubricants Northwest Nationals when he blazed down Seattle International Raceway's quarter-mile in 6.927 seconds at 197.22 mph Friday during the opening round of qualifying. Stevens' lap placed him near the top of the extremely fast field in the No. 4 position.

"This is a great start for our Valspar Refinish team," Stevens said. "We've all been feeling a little down since the last race (where he DNQed for the first time in 33 events.) Everyone's been working their tails off to get this car back on track as quickly as possible. I'm glad to see our hard work pay off.

"The track's quick. Lot's of cars are running strong, which makes being up near the top of the ladder even better. I actually short-shifted between first and second gear and again between second and third so I think we can go even quicker tomorrow."

Stevens, a 21-year-old from New Orleans, is driving his old Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird car at this event after taking runner-up honors earlier this week at a Pro Stock match race in Woodburn, Ore. in the same car.

"We took both cars to Woodburn because we wanted to see which one was the fastest and which one we could count on the most," Stevens said. "After the DNQ in Denver we needed to be absolutely sure about everything. It turns out the old car still has some life in it. I really think the new car is a better piece but this one keeps wanting to run fast. It's so consistent. We've been to the Winner's Circle in it a couple of times so I know it's lucky. I hope this change will give us some different results this Sunday.

"We're sure off to a good start. I love it when we're fast right out of the trailer on Friday because we can relax a little and work on our race day set-up Saturday. It builds your confidence up and puts us a little bit ahead when eliminations start on Sunday. We know we have some ground to make up after Denver."

Qualifying highlights of this race will air from 10:30 p.m.-12:30 a.m. ET (7:30-9:30 p.m. PT) Saturday on ESPN2 with a repeat at 3:30 a.m.-5:30 a.m. ET (12:30-2:30 a.m. PT) Sunday. The eliminations will air from 7-9 p.m. ET (4-6 p.m. PT) Sunday on ESPN2 with a rebroadcast from 3:30-5:30 a.m. ET (12:30-2:30 a.m. PT) Monday morning.

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Series NHRA