Topeka: Stevens dreaming big

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 30) -- Blustery conditions and a strong headwind that blew straight down the Heartland Park Topeka racetrack kept the Pro Stock class in check during today's final two qualifying sessions for the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts...

TOPEKA, Kan. (Sept. 30) -- Blustery conditions and a strong headwind that blew straight down the Heartland Park Topeka racetrack kept the Pro Stock class in check during today's final two qualifying sessions for the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals.

In the end, Valspar Refinish driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens couldn't improve on his impressive 6.973-second, 195.53-mph pass from Friday night and he will now enter tomorrow's elimination rounds in the No. 10 position.

"It was nothing drastic but that wind did blow us all around quite a bit at the top end," Stevens said. "The good news is that we're in the show in a great position and we're primed and ready to go tomorrow. We did try switching motors today to see what would happen but the one we had in there was actually better than the new one. The new one wasn't quite as strong. We'll put it back the way it was and be ready to battle.

"We had a little problem all weekend with a bump on the racetrack. It's in both lanes right at the transition area. I plan on getting here early tomorrow and walking every inch of the track to see if there is an area that looks better then the middle of the track does. I might try driving a different path to see if we can get over that spot without losing any speed or elapsed time."

Stevens, a 22-year-old from New Orleans, entered this race with the goal of gaining ground in the Winston championship points standings. He'll have a perfect opportunity to reward himself in that regard in tomorrow's opening session when he squares off against No. 7 qualifier Mark Pawuk, who's best pass of the weekend was a 6.962 at 196.56 mph. Pawuk is 56 points ahead of Stevens in the standings, tied with Troy Coughlin for fifth place. Stevens is currently in seventh place.

"This is another great chance to make up some serious ground in the points," Stevens said. "This time I've got my work laid out right in front of me because I'm racing one of the main guys I'm chasing. I'd love to take Mark out early. Then I'll have a win under my belt and we'll be rolling. I sure wouldn't mind winning this race. We're going to do everything we can to make that happen."

Same-day television coverage of the elimination rounds of the 12th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will air Sunday on TNN from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT).

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Series NHRA
Drivers Mark Pawuk