Team Valspar vaults to No. 2 spot COMMERCE, Ga. (May 15) -- Fast becoming a crowd favorite, 20-year-old upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens emerged from the second day of qualifying for the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals as a...
Team Valspar vaults to No. 2 spot
COMMERCE, Ga. (May 15) -- Fast becoming a crowd favorite, 20-year-old upstart Richie "The Kid" Stevens emerged from the second day of qualifying for the 19th Annual Advance Auto Parts Nationals as a true title contender. Stevens' Valspar Refinish Pro Stock machine posted the most improved elapsed time of the day -- a 6.940-second lap at 198.96 mph during Round 3 -- to jump from the eighth spot into the No. 2 position on the qualifying ladder.
"Finally we went straight down the track," said Stevens, who finished as the runner-up at the NHRA's last stop in Richmond. "Running like that in the third round when the conditions are pretty much the same as we're expecting tomorrow morning in Round 1 of eliminations is a real confidence booster. Plus, being solidly in the top half of the field and knowing that we'll have lane choice tomorrow allows us to really fine tune things and get set for some real racing. The Valspar Pontiac Firebird is running great and we have a good shot at winning some rounds tomorrow."
Showing consistency and power, Stevens ran a 6.953-second lap at 198.23 mph in the day's second session, which was the fourth and final qualifying opportunity for the event. Like the rest of the Pro Stock field, Stevens' time was slightly slower in the afternoon session due to increased temperatures on the track. However, his marks were the best of the session.
"That run felt almost identical to the one in Richmond where I set the national record," Stevens said. "It was really smooth and the car just went straight down the groove. It wasn't a perfect pass, but it was darn close. Considering we were the fastest and quickest of the session even though it was in the heat of the day tells me that this Valspar car is ready for action.
"My hats off to my crew chief Tommy Utt and the rest of the guys. Every individual in this pit is working their tails off to make us competitive and the team spirit we have is becoming a big part of our success. The fans here have also been great. Everyone is yelling for us and that feels really nice. I'm so excited about tomorrow. I can't wait to get started."
Stevens, who hails from New Orleans, will open Sunday's elimination session against Mike Trumble Jr., who qualified 15th with a pass of 6.990 seconds at 198.06 mph.