Dallas:: Stevens cards another round win

DALLAS (Nov. 4) -- The 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals finally came to a close for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round. The race, which was delayed two weeks by rain, was hampered by the wet...

DALLAS (Nov. 4) -- The 15th annual O'Reilly Fall Nationals finally came to a close for Pro Stock driver Richie "The Kid" Stevens Saturday afternoon in the quarterfinal round. The race, which was delayed two weeks by rain, was hampered by the wet stuff once again during yesterday's scheduled qualifying sessions. Eventually, NHRA officials cancelled the entire day's activities outright and for the first time ever set the elimination fields solely by each driver's ranking in the Winston championship points standings.

The unusual turn of events meant Stevens, the No. 7 points earner in his class, would line his Valspar Refinish Pontiac Firebird up against local favorite Bruce Allen of Arlington, Texas, in the opening round. Allen was the No. 10 qualifier and, as such, had to yield lane choice to Stevens.

Due to the cancellation of all qualifying sessions, no driver had any information on the track and it was up to the crew chiefs to guess what the freshly washed surface would hold. Additionally, Stevens had to watch from the water box as fellow competitor Jim Yates lost control and crashed into the retaining wall just before Stevens attempted his opening round lap in the same lane.

Fortunately, Stevens and crew chief Tommy Utt had the right combination and the Valspar car streaked down the strip without incident, recording the second quickest pass of the opening session -- a 6.975 at 194.91 mph -- to get the win over Allen.

"It was a little nerve-wracking to see Jim crash but it looked like he stayed on the throttle a little too long," Stevens said. "I didn't really have much time to think about it because I had to focus on what I had to do. I never questioned Tommy's tune-up and, as usual, he had this Valspar Pontiac ready to go. We were the second quickest car out there, which says a lot about this team. The only bummer was that (second round opponent) Kurt Johnson was the quickest so he got lane choice in Round 2. That cost us the race."

Stevens, a 22-year-old from New Orleans, gave Johnson a tough run in Round 2 but the slippery right-hand lane was too much to handle and he lost by a 6.94 to 6.98 margin.

"We still ran one of the quickest laps of that session and we were in the bad lane," Stevens said. "The car just started shaking out there in the middle of the track and there was nothing I could do. I guess I should have gambled at the start and try to beat him at the tree but our thought was to make a clean pass and force him to beat us. I can't be too upset about this weekend because we did lock down our spot in the points and we won another round. All things considered, that's not a bad outing." k

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Series NHRA
Drivers Kurt Johnson , Bruce Allen