ATLANTA (May 3) -- Considering his championship-caliber performance this season and the fact that he drove to the finals last year in Atlanta, Pro Stock drag racer Richie "The Kid" Stevens would have to be considered a favorite heading into this...
ATLANTA (May 3) -- Considering his championship-caliber performance this season and the fact that he drove to the finals last year in Atlanta, Pro Stock drag racer Richie "The Kid" Stevens would have to be considered a favorite heading into this weekend's 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals. But when you add in the fact that he's one of a select group of drivers to have already made laps down the refurbished quarter-mile of Atlanta Dragway, it appears Stevens has an even bigger advantage.
The 21-year-old, third-year pro from New Orleans has already accumulated enough elimination-round wins in 2000 to place his beautiful Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird solidly in the top five of the Winston championship points standings. Now, propelled by local favorite and drag racing legend Warren Johnson's horsepower, Stevens arrives in Atlanta in championship trim, anxious for his first win of the young season.
"This Valspar team is on a high right now," Stevens said. "We had a real good outing in Richmond last weekend and now we're going to have a chance to really turn it up in Atlanta. The way this track was rebuilt it's now the smoothest surface we race on. That means you can go for broke on the track because you know it will hold your power."
Stevens, along with engine supplier Johnson, his son Kurt Johnson, and fellow W.J. engine customer Mark Whisnant, make up an elite group of pros that have already raced down the new, level quarter-mile. The foursome tested at the track in early March with each driver making several passes down the strip.
"It's smooth," Stevens said. "When you finish a run and download the onboard computer data it's almost unbelievable to see it on the screen. There isn't one bump on this track. It's awesome to race on it and everyone will agree with me once they make a lap.
"I feel like it's a real advantage to have already made some laps there. Whatever data the other teams have from Atlanta in the past won't do them any good because the new track is totally different. But we already have a bunch of new information on how to set up the car for this track. We know what to throw at it right off the bat. That has to be an advantage for us.
"I'm ready to race. Warren took our primary motor back this week to look it over and freshen it up so we should have plenty of power. We need a win. I thought we had it in Richmond but it wasn't meant to be. Last year we reached the finals here. This year I want to win it all. Atlanta's been lucky for me before, I hope that streak continues."
The elimination rounds of the 20th annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals will be broadcast from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT) Sunday, on TNN. They will be rebroadcast at midnight.