Stevens locks up No. 7 finish in points

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12) -- Another Top 10 season came to a close for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens in the quarterfinal round of the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. The Round 2 finish locked up the No. 7...

POMONA, Calif. (Nov. 12) -- Another Top 10 season came to a close for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens in the quarterfinal round of the 36th annual Auto Club of Southern California NHRA Finals. The Round 2 finish locked up the No. 7 spot in the rankings and assured the 22-year-old, third-year pro his third consecutive Top 10 season.

Stevens opened the day out of the No. 3 spot and quickly used his advantage to dismiss veteran Larry Morgan in the opening session by a 6.914 to 6.939-second advantage. The race was never in question as Stevens led at every point on the racetrack.

Unfortunately, although his elapsed time was one of the best of the day, it wasn't quicker than the time his second-round opponent Kurt Johnson posted in his Round 1 win over Arturo Delgado. Johnson's slightly better 6.899 gave him lane choice in the second round against Stevens and it ended up being the difference between winning and losing as Stevens Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird broke traction in the sub-par right-hand lane and swerved toward the centerline. Johnson went on to win in 6.885 seconds to Stevens' 7-flat.

"I did everything I could but the right lane is just terrible," Stevens said. "The car got loose and it was basically over by half track. Kurt just cruised on down the other side. Part of racing at a one-lane track like this is that you have to go quick enough every round to keep lane choice. We didn't do that today but it doesn't take away from the great season we had. Considering the up-and-down stretch we had in the summer, seventh place is nice."

As a top-10 finisher, Stevens will be honored Monday night during the NHRA Winston Awards Ceremony at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles. The annual season-ending show will air at 12 p.m. (ET), Nov. 26, on ESPN2.

In total, Stevens won 22 elimination-round races this season. Last year, when he finished a career-high fifth in the Winston points, he won 23 rounds. During his rookie season of 1998 he won 17 rounds en route to a ninth place finish. He has won one national event in each of his three seasons.

"Next year will be my fourth as a pro so it's like my senior year," Stevens said. "We wanted to finish higher than we did last year but the top of the class was just too tough. What's cool is we'll have No. 7 on the car next year. Seven has always been my lucky number so maybe 2001 will be the year we break through and win the championship. We need some major funding to get it done but with my crew -- Tommy Utt, John Utt, Vincent Davis, and my dad -- I know we have all the essential pieces in place to win it all."

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