Topeka Richie Stevens Qualifying Report

Stevens puts Valspar car on top TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 2) -- After a drastic turn in the weather that saw temperatures drop into the 40-degree range, it quickly became apparent that Saturday's opening session of professional qualifying for the ...

Stevens puts Valspar car on top

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 2) -- After a drastic turn in the weather that saw temperatures drop into the 40-degree range, it quickly became apparent that Saturday's opening session of professional qualifying for the 11th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals would be a record-setting round. By the time the final car traversed the smooth quarter-mile of Heartland Park Topeka it was the Valspar Refinish car of Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens on top of the extremely quick field, which ended up being one of the quickest groupings in the history of the sport.

Winston champ Warren Johnson seemed in control, posting a 6.891-second lap at 200.08 mph to once again reset both ends of the HRP's track marks for Pro Stock while showing Kansas it's first 200-mph pass. Then Troy Coughlin posted an impressive 6.893-second lap at 200.02 mph. But Stevens stole the glory at the end of the round with a jaw-dropping pass of 6.888 seconds at 198.44 mph, placing him in the No. 1 spot.

"Awesome, totally awesome," Stevens said. "That was pretty much a great, straight run. It did get a little crooked at the launch and I was all wiggly there for a second but once she straightened out and hooked up this Valspar car was flying.

"It would be great to hold that top spot through tonight's session. I haven't earned a pole before in the NHRA so it would be something cool to accomplish.

"My crew chief Tommy Utt made the perfect call. We were pushing the car out of the pit to go up to the starting line and Tommy came racing back on the scooter and told us to push it back in. He had been up at the starting line and wanted to make a change in the transmission. Obviously, it worked.

"The Finish Line motor we lease from Mike Thomas did all the work. My hat's off to Mike, Rocky Roberts and Jim Oliver, who built the motor. They said it was fast and they weren't kidding. No. 1 is a great place to be."

Stevens, who turned 21 Monday, has run quicker in the past. He briefly held the national elapsed time record in April after a 6.861-second, 200.08-second lap in Virginia.

Viewers can catch Stevens' awesome lap from 8-9 p.m. EST tonight on Speedvision. Opening round coverage can also be seen from 2-4 p.m. EST tomorrow on Speedvision. FOX Sports will then carry tomorrow's final two hours of elimination action from 5-7 p.m. EST.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Thomas , Troy Coughlin , Warren Johnson