Chicago: Stevens ready to double dip

CHICAGO (May 31) -- The hot months have officially hit the NHRA tour and Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens is ready to set the quarter-mile battlefield on fire. The 21-year-old, third-year pro from New Orleans will have...

CHICAGO (May 31) -- The hot months have officially hit the NHRA tour and Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens is ready to set the quarter-mile battlefield on fire. The 21-year-old, third-year pro from New Orleans will have two chances to sizzle this weekend in Chicago. First, he'll join the rest of the NHRA pros in the quest for the title of the third annual Prestone Route 66 Nationals. He'll also have a chance to earn $50,000 during the rescheduled running of the Holley Dominator Duel on Saturday.

"If I could figure out a way to win both of these races, we could leave Chicago with a lot of money and momentum," Stevens said. "I know we have as good a chance as anyone there. It might be tough to win both events but if we could win one of the two then I'd be real happy. It would be a nice reward for the whole team. We've all be working hard."

It's been quite a season for Stevens so far. He has qualified for all nine national events, five times in the top half of the elimination field, and has been in the top 10 of the Winston championship points standings after every race except one. He has also recorded his career-best elapsed time and top speed with a pass of 6.840 seconds at 200.23 mph and has logged eight elimination-round wins including two trips to the semifinals.

"We're looking pretty good," Stevens said. "We'll be switching back from the motor we rent from Warren (Johnson) to the one we own to get ready for the Dominator Duel. My confidence in that motor is very high. We ran it for the first time in Englishtown two weeks ago and ran the quickest and fastest lap we've ever had."

Under the conditions of his engine lease agreement with five-time champ Warren Johnson, Stevens must use his own powerplant whenever he races either Warren or his son Kurt. Stevens is scheduled to race Kurt in the opening round of the Dominator Duel.

"I expect our motor to run just as good as it did in Englishtown. It will be much hotter in Chicago and the elapsed time and top speed won't be the same, but compared to everyone else, we should be one of the top cars. Racing Kurt will be tough. He's either been very strong, hitting home runs, or he's been lost out in left field. In Englishtown, he was struggling. Last week he was the top qualifier. You just never know with him. I can't worry about the other guys. I just need to concentrate on my driving, let Tommy (Utt, crew chief) get this Valspar Pontiac ready, and hold nothing back on the racetrack."

ESPN2 will broadcast four hours of the Prestone Route 66 Nationals this weekend. Qualifying highlights will air from 10 p.m.-midnight ET (5-7 p.m. PT) Saturday and same-day elimination round coverage will be broadcast from 5-7 p.m. ET (2-4 p.m. PT) Sunday. A rebroadcast of the elimination rounds will air from 4-6 a.m. ET (1-3 a.m. PT) Tuesday.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson