Chicago Richie Stevens Finals Report

Johnson still a thorn in Stevens' side CHICAGO (June 6) -- Sophomore Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens was foiled once again by his drag racing nemesis Warren Johnson when the legendary driver dismissed his younger counterpart in the...

Johnson still a thorn in Stevens' side

CHICAGO (June 6) -- Sophomore Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens was foiled once again by his drag racing nemesis Warren Johnson when the legendary driver dismissed his younger counterpart in the first round of Sunday's elimination action at Route 66 Raceway in Joliet. Stevens' loss to Johnson nipped the 20-year-old from New Orleans quest for the championship of the Second Annual Fram Nationals and ran their 1999 head-to-head scorecard to 4-0 in Johnson's favor.

"I can't wait for the day when I beat WJ," Stevens said. "Losing to him just tears me up inside. Of all the people out here, I hate losing to him the most. It's not a personal thing, I actually like Warren and have a bunch of respect for him. I just want to be the best and right now he's the No. 1 guy in the world. That means I have to beat him to be on top."

Stevens, who captains the Valspar Refinish Firebird, did all he could against the reigning Winston champion. He left the starting line in 0.454 seconds compared to Johnson's 0.519-second start and led the race past the half-track mark. But he just couldn't hold off a late-charging Johnson at the other end. The final figures saw Johnson cross the timers in 6.985 seconds at 198.50 mph to Stevens' 7.072-second pass at 194.55 mph.

"I knew I left on him," Stevens said. "I couldn't see any part of his car at all until I was shifting from fourth gear to fifth, which is at about the one-eighth mile mark, then I started to see the front of his car sneaking in. I was mashing the gas pedal so hard my leg was throbbing, but he just crept away. His down-track horsepower blew me out of the water.

"You have to be perfect to beat WJ and I tried my best to be on. I just couldn't match him power-wise and for whatever reason, he never goofs up against me. Every single time he's beaten me he has a mistake-free run. I guess I bring out the best in him."

The first-round dismissal interrupts an incredible streak for Stevens. He had reached the finals of the last three races on the circuit and was coming off his first win of the year at the NHRA's last stop in Englishtown, N.J. His 1999 elimination record now stands at 13-6, which is second only to Johnson. Stevens still occupies the No. 3 spot in the Winston championship points standings behind Johnson and his son Kurt.

"It's hard to think of anything positive right now," Stevens said. "But we haven't got time to hang our heads. I know weekend's like this happen and I have to just put it behind me and get set for the Columbus (Ohio) race (which runs Thursday through Sunday.) At least we don't have long to feel down and I'm confident we can start another streak there."

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson