Dallas: 'Kid' survives close call, qualifies fifth

DALLAS (May 27) -- The crazy and unpredictable weather of North Texas coupled with a rare mechanical glitch nearly cost Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens a spot in the elimination field of the fourth annual Castrol ...

DALLAS (May 27) -- The crazy and unpredictable weather of North Texas coupled with a rare mechanical glitch nearly cost Valspar Refinish Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens a spot in the elimination field of the fourth annual Castrol Nationals. But in the end the 21-year-old pro from New Orleans pulled through with a clutch 7.013-second, 196.03-mph run in the final session to move from out of contention into fifth place.

"Now we can breathe," Stevens said. "That was a little too close for all of us. I'm starting to understand why my dad is nervous all the time. Give all the credit to (crew chief) Tommy Utt. He knew what was at stake and he pulled us through. We're lucky to have him on our team. I don't know where we'd be without him."

Stevens and Co. seemed to have secured a spot in the field on Friday when they posted a competitive 7.076-second pass at 193.84 mph to earn the ninth position on the provisional ladder. But some unexpected cloud cover in Saturday's early session allowed almost every driver to improve on their times and the bump spot moved to 7.060 seconds. At the same time the Valspar car had a faulty fuel line and Stevens couldn't make a run.

"We were leaking fuel and we were worried that if we re-fired the car we could start a fire," Stevens said. "So we just decided to give up the run and play it safe. It was hard to do because the way everyone was running I thought that might be our only chance to get in."

As it turned out Stevens was the only driver to move into the field in Round 4. The move helped him extend his streak of consecutive races to 29 national events.

"We had to keep that streak alive," Stevens said. "Everyone is talking about it more and more at every event. We might have waited to the last second to get in this time but I'll take it anyway. It's really cool that we ran quick enough to get on the good side of the ladder so we have lane choice. I like the left side. It seems a little smoother.

"I know we'll have a tough race against Kenny Koretsky (7.039 at 195.99 mph) in Round 1. He was out of racing for a long time and I know he hasn't qualified for a race in several years but the guy sure knows what he's doing. Plus, he's got Rickie Smith as his crew chief so you know his car will be ready for action. I just hope we got all of the close calls and bad breaks out of the way and we can go a bunch of rounds tomorrow."

The elimination rounds of the fourth annual Castrol Nationals presented by O'Reilly Auto Parts will air from 4:30-6 p.m. (ET and PT), Sunday on TNN.

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kenny Koretsky , Rickie Smith