Baytown: Richie Stevens Jr preview

STEVENS PUTS FOCUS ON RACING IN HOUSTON, DESPITE HURRICANE KATRINA DISTRACTIONS BAYTOWN, Texas (Mar. 29, 2006) - It hasn't been an easy past seven months for NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens Jr. The New Orleans ...

STEVENS PUTS FOCUS ON RACING IN HOUSTON, DESPITE HURRICANE KATRINA DISTRACTIONS

BAYTOWN, Texas (Mar. 29, 2006) - It hasn't been an easy past seven months for NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Pro Stock driver Richie Stevens Jr. The New Orleans native has been balancing his duties as driver of the Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T with the burden of getting his family business, Stevens Collision Center, back on its feet following the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. He heads to Houston this weekend for the NHRA Spring Nationals at Houston Raceway, where he hopes to bring home a win for his family and friends, many of whom were also affected by the storm.

Since being chased out of New Orleans just prior to the U.S. Nationals last September, Stevens has found that his race car has become his sanctuary. "New Orleans is my home, but being in the car is becoming my home. It's safe and it's where I feel most comfortable now," he says. "Just to get away from New Orleans is a blessing right now. It's home and I'm never leaving. I couldn't imagine ever living somewhere else, but under the conditions right now, it's a nice escape to get my mind off of it."

Stevens has been working with his father, Richie Sr., to get the family business running again. They have been heavily involved in the clean-up process in New Orleans. Since the storm, Stevens Jr. estimates that they have recovered over 1,000 abandoned cars from the city's streets. It's a monotonous job says Stevens. "Working at home gets stressful. It's so tiring and depressing. When the weekends come I look forward to getting away and going racing."

(Check out the progress of Stevens' New Orleans recovery on his driver's blog at www.nhra.com/2006/nhrablogs.asp?blog=stevens.)

"I'm excited and ready to hit the road and get out of here," he adds, "especially this weekend because Houston is pretty much my home race. I'll have a lot of friends and family here this weekend. It's good for me to get away, and it's good for them to get away. I'm hoping to put on a good show."

Despite losing his home and having to live out of a suitcase for three months, the Team Mopar driver is keeping things in perspective. "I'm getting to do something that people would kill to do. A lot of my friends are kind of stuck here in New Orleans on the weekends, and it gets miserable for them. I'm very fortunate to have something like this to go to, and I can't wait to get to the track every weekend."

Before heading to Houston, Stevens and the entire Don Schumacher Racing Pro Stock operation heads to Belle Rose, La., (between Baton Rouge and New Orleans) for a day of testing at No Problem Raceway. "We're going testing to try some different things. I think the conditions will be similar to Houston, so hopefully we can get some data that will help us out," says Stevens.

A win at the Spring Nationals has eluded Stevens to this point in his career, but it's on his list. "I'd love to win this race because it's like home. My mom doesn't get to go to many races, and she'll be here in Houston. It's one that I've always wanted to win.

"We'll show up and try to qualify high and go late into the day on Sunday; that's our goal."

-dsr-

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Series NHRA
Drivers Don Schumacher