Topeka Richie Stevens Race Report

Stevens squanders pole with Round 1 loss TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 3) -- It took the coldest weather of the race weekend to cool No. 1 Pro Stock qualifier Richie "The Kid" Stevens. But unfortunately for Team Valspar, Sunday's frigid 40-degree ...

Stevens squanders pole with Round 1 loss

TOPEKA, Kan. (Oct. 3) -- It took the coldest weather of the race weekend to cool No. 1 Pro Stock qualifier Richie "The Kid" Stevens. But unfortunately for Team Valspar, Sunday's frigid 40-degree temperatures and a stellar lap by first-round challenger Mike Edwards combined for the biggest upset of the day when Stevens lost his opening-round race at the Advance Auto Parts Nationals by the length of a fender.

It was a disappointing finish for the 21-year-old pilot of the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird. Especially after considering that the team recorded its first National Hot Rod Association pole during qualifying, which proved they had the fastest and quickest car of the weekend. Also, the driver directly in front of Stevens in the championship points standings, Jim Yates, was defeated prior to Stevens' pass so he missed a golden opportunity to gain some ground.

"I cannot get a break," a despondent Stevens said. "I would have won almost any other race that session but I just happened to run into the one guy that had figured out the track today."

Stevens posted a slightly better time of 6.921 seconds at 197.77 mph to Edwards' 6.929-second pass at 197.42 mph. But Edwards had enough of a jump at the start of the race -- .443-second start to Stevens' .465-second launch -- to take the win by three feet. Only three out of the other 15 cars recorded a better elapsed time in the opening round.

"The track was cold and we didn't hook up very well," Stevens said. "I spun a bit at the start and the car jerked to the left. Once I got out of the groove it started spinning and shaking and bouncing all over the place. That must have hurt our time. I saw him out there and, when I finally did hook-up, I was gaining on him quick. But I ran out of track.

"I thought our luck had finally turned after the nice weekend we had in Reading (Pa.) and then coming here and getting the pole. But I guess we'll have to wait another week to get a win for Valspar."

Regardless of the outcome of today's race, Stevens will remain in fifth place in the Winston championship points standings. His next race is the 12th annual AutoZone Nationals at Memphis Motorsports, which begins Thursday and continues through Sunday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mike Edwards