Columbus Richie Stevens Preview

Stevens focused on success COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- The naturally-aspirated racing engines that power the sleek machines of the National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock class have entered a unique and complicated stretch of the 22-race season.

Stevens focused on success

COLUMBUS, Ohio (June 8) -- The naturally-aspirated racing engines that power the sleek machines of the National Hot Rod Association's Pro Stock class have entered a unique and complicated stretch of the 22-race season. Gone are the cool days of spring when record elapsed times and top speeds were carded at nearly every event on the schedule. Here to stay for the next several months are long, hot summer days that have the potential to produce several "one-shot" qualifying sessions.

"We encountered this a lot last year," said second-year driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens, the pilot of the Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird. "Since we use carburetors in the Pro Stock class the cars are super-sensitive to changes in air temperature and track temperature. What ends up happening is that everyone qualifies on Friday night during the one session when it's cool outside. Qualifying turns into a one-shot deal.

"It makes it very nerve-wracking because if you get stuck in a bad lane or if you make any little mistake during that one session you could be out of luck for the weekend. There were several races when the times in the other three sessions were a full tenth of a second off the pace set on Friday night. That's a huge gap. It's too big to make up with fancy driving."

Although ever-hopeful that unusual cloud cover or time delays in the daily schedule of other classes will give the Pro Stockers more than one chance to qualify for Sunday's elimination action, Stevens is bracing for another one-shot qualifying session at this weekend's 35th Annual Pontiac Excitement Nationals at National Trail Raceway.

"I'll be focusing all my attention on Friday night," the 20-year-old said. "I'm ready for Columbus to be just as hot as it was in Chicago last weekend. We got stung there because our engine let go on Friday night and we ended up barely qualifying in the 15th spot. The other qualifying sessions were way slower and not having lane choice on Sunday really got us in the end. I'm going to do everything I can to prevent that from happening at this race."

Stevens is currently third in the Winston championship points standings. He has been to the finals in three of the last four races and has recorded one national event win. His elimination round record is a stellar 13-6 (0.684 winning percentage), which is second only to 1998 Winston champ Warren Johnson.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Warren Johnson