Bristol Richie Stevens, Team Valspar vie for Race Day Victory

BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 9) -- Thunder Valley has been rumbling for two straight days as professional qualifying for the Inaugural Winston Showdown has taken center stage at Eastern Tennessee's famous quarter-mile. With four rounds in the books, the...

BRISTOL, Tenn. (July 9) -- Thunder Valley has been rumbling for two straight days as professional qualifying for the Inaugural Winston Showdown has taken center stage at Eastern Tennessee's famous quarter-mile. With four rounds in the books, the very best drivers of the National Hot Rod Association's select all-star group now appear primed for tomorrow's winner-take-all championship battle.

Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the pilot of the Valspar Refinish Pro Stock Pontiac Firebird, is no exception. He proved worthy of his invitation to this showpiece event by qualifying his sleek machine in the No. 9 spot of the ultra-competitive Pro Stock field with a Thursday night run of 7.090 seconds at 192.77 mph. The pass earned Stevens' a first-round elimination race against "Tricky" Ricky Smith, who qualified just ahead of Stevens in the No. 8 spot with a pass of 7.087 seconds at 193.13 mph.

"This is the first all star-type race that we've qualified for and we're super excited and honored to be here," said Stevens, who is in his sophomore year on the NHRA circuit. "Maybe we'll have a little beginner's luck tomorrow and take home the trophy. At the very least I hope we're working late into the evening."

Tomorrow's sudden-death elimination racing begins at 2:30 p.m. EST.

"I wish we could have qualified a little higher up the ladder," Stevens said. "A lot of guys are running real quick and consistent here this weekend and I'd like to think we're right there with them. We had a near-perfect lap last night, which allowed us to try a brand-new motor today to see what it could do. We were hoping for a big number out of it but we missed it just a little.

"We're still optimistic that we can go some rounds tomorrow and compete for the title. The Valspar Refinish car has been very smooth over the last several races and I don't see any reason to think it will act differently tomorrow. We just need a little luck, I need to take care of my driving duties and we should have a good shot at the win."

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Series NHRA