RICHIE STEVENS JR., DON SCHUMACHER RACING'S TEAM MOPAR/VALSPAR DODGE STRATUS R/T: Richie Stevens Jr. blasted his way to the Pro Stock semifinals at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals today, leaving two of the series' top drivers...
RICHIE STEVENS JR., DON SCHUMACHER RACING'S TEAM MOPAR/VALSPAR DODGE STRATUS R/T:
Richie Stevens Jr. blasted his way to the Pro Stock semifinals at the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals today, leaving two of the series' top drivers in his wake.
Lane choice was critical in the hot and humid Georgia spring conditions and No. 6 qualifier Stevens and his Team Mopar/Valspar Dodge Stratus R/T team made the best of it, despite having lane choice for only the opening stanza.
In the first round, Stevens easily dismissed Jim Yates with a 6.692-second lap at 206.61 mph while Yates slowed to a 8.986/104.43. This solid pass, however, did not earn Stevens lane choice for the second-round match-up against his former teammate Jeg Coughlin. Nonetheless, Stevens was up to the task, as he nailed Coughlin with an outstanding .011 of a second reaction time (.000 is perfect) to Coughlin's .046, crossing the finish stripe first on a holeshot, winning with a 6.703/206.42 to Coughlin's quicker 6.680/207.02.
Stevens again lost lane choice by one thousandth of a second to Warren Johnson for the semifinal match-up, which, on this occasion, he was unable to overcome. Stevens took off first with a .049 reaction time to Johnson's .072, but lost traction at the hit of the throttle and coasted to a 16.106/51.47 lap to Johnson's winning 6.737/205.60.
"We needed lane choice and we lost it by a thousandth in the second round and that's what cost us," said Stevens. "If we'd have been in the right lane we'd probably be in the finals, but we probably would have lost lane choice.
"Like it always is here, it's a one-lane track on Sunday. If you don't have lane choice it's kind of hard to win. Every once in a while you can pull off one, but we did it second round and barely got by. If you don't have lane choice on Sunday, especially here and some other tracks, it's going to bite you.
"We were just a little bit too aggressive. You don't really know where to go when you have a lane like that. You don't really know where to line up the groove, it's so narrow out there. You don't want to be in the middle of it because it's really gooey out there, so we kind of got to the outside to the left side of it. We just took a chance. Sometimes you get lucky and sometimes you don't.
"We got to the semis, so at least it wasn't a bad weekend. We have the new car, it's running good, it's consistent, it's been working for us this whole week. We tested real well in St. Louis, and came out here and qualified well and went some rounds. We're back in the top 10 (ninth) and we'll move on to St. Louis."
ALLEN JOHNSON, MOPAR/J&J RACING DODGE STRATUS R/T:
No. 2 qualifier Allen Johnson and the Mopar/J&J Racing Dodge Stratus R/T team were poised for a strong performance in today's Pro Stock eliminations of the Summit Racing Equipment NHRA Southern Nationals, until a first-round foul ended Johnson's day early.
Facing local favorite Warren Johnson in the opening round, Johnson took off early with a -.006 reaction time (.000 is perfect). His 6.671-second lap at 206.48 mph was quicker than Johnson's 6.693/206.01, but the red light disqualified him.
"Of course, I'm disappointed," he said. "I'm really tickled with my driving the last three or four races. And when you're driving like that you know you're going to turn them red. I'm just right on it every time, pushing it. That's on the red side of perfect right there.
"I'll just keep doing the same thing and they'll fall the other way for a few races and we'll probably have another one one of these days.
"We're pleased with the way the car is running. It's very unfortunate that we did that, but, hey, we got it going our way, so we'll keep it going."
Next up for the Team Mopar duo is the O'Reilly NHRA Midwest Nationals May 4-6 at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Ill., just outside of St. Louis.